A weak hand grabs at my ankle. I look down and his face is turned to look at me, all pleading eyes and bleeding nose. Why does he think I’d help him? – “Keeping It Real”
Why indeed, as it quickly becomes apparent that the folks in the eighteen blistering stories in Julie Morrigan’s collection, Gone Bad, are far from a warm, fuzzy, altruistic bunch.
No, Morrigan has chosen instead to write a wickedly good group of stories which all revolve around some of the worst behavior and emotions which people are capable of. Greed, deceit, torture, murder, jealousy, lust, rape? Step right up, Gone Bad‘s got you covered.
The stories in the collection range in length from true “flash fiction” to a couple that are quite meaty, and though there is honestly not a dud in the group – no mean feat with as many stories as are included – there were a few that I found especially enjoyable.
“Searching” starts the collection off on a decidedly creepy note as a young boy joins in the search for a missing neighborhood girl. It’s not the first time he’s participated in such a search, his sister having gone missing recently as well, and it’s soon clear that’s not the only thing it isn’t his first time doing.
“Keeping It Real” is a particularly timely story given the current state of the publishing industry. In this short but brutal number an aspiring author shows just how far they’re willing to go to ensure their writing is as authentic as possible. After all, you need every edge you can to break into the business these days, right?
“Easy Money” is anything but when the old man two young thugs target for a home invasion robbery turns out not to be the easy mark they thought he was. Things quickly go sideways and the punks learn hands-on which is more powerful, the lure of money or the fear of death?
“Watching” was nominated for a Spinetingler Award and it’s easy to see why. This absolute gem cuts to the bone in its depiction of the way pride, jealousy, and assumptions can twist and distort people’s perceptions of reality. Think you’re sure you know what’s going on with someone? Think again.
“Local Hero” is simply one of the most deliciously ironic stories I’ve ever read. I don’t want to reveal too much about it, so suffice it to say this twist of fate stunner shows that sometimes karma is willing to get a little proactive on your ass if needed.
Some of the people in Gone Bad were born bad, others are knowingly and enthusiastically headed that way, and a few are simply caught up in bad circumstances fueled by powerful emotions. All of them, however, are disturbingly realistically portrayed. Funny how something Gone Bad is actually so damn good. — EAW