“Cinnamon’s Solace” by Joseph Walker. In and out of orphanages, foster homes, and juvenile hall since before they were teens, four boys and one girl, the titular Cinnamon, survived by following two rules, the most important of which was “bone-deep loyalty to each other and nothing else.” When one of the group betrays that loyalty shortly after their eighteenth birthdays -and their first attempt at a major score- it sends the group members reeling in different directions for five years. The four who were betrayed neither forgave nor forgot during that time, however, and “Cinnamon’s Solace” is a gritty, unflinching story about betrayal and revenge.
“You’re Welcome” by Chris Rhatigan is a hard-hitting look at what stress, resentment, and a touch of madness can do to a person. Pushed to the limit by all the free-loading bums he sees around him everyday, the lead in Rhatigan’s taut tale finally decides that a man has to draw the line somewhere, so he sets his sights on one “Section 8 welfare bear” loser in particular. The story ends with a twist that will have you immediately going back and reading again from the beginning to see if Rhatigan actually did what you think he did, whereupon you’ll be giving a hat tip and a huge “Thank You” to Rhatigan for the cleverness that is “You’re Welcome”.
“White Light, White Heat” by W.P. Johnson finds college students Zack, Katy, and Chris trapped in Chris’s North Philly apartment as the world descends into a zombie apocalypse. Initially they distract themselves with movie marathons, drinking PBR and snorting crushed up Adderall, and making up various pop culture Top 10 lists. As both the power and food disappear, however, the three are forced to make some tough decisions. Though about zombies in the sense that’s the setup which allows Johnson to isolate his characters, “White Light, White Heat” is actually an exploration of the human psyche, in particular the extremes that infatuation will cause a person to go to even under the most unlikely of circumstances.
“Bikers” by Ron Scheer. When a group of monklike people who ride those newfangled bicycles rolls into Prairie Creek the residents aren’t entirely sure what to make of them. The editor of the town’s newspaper is of the mind to give the group the benefit of the doubt, even if the rest of the populace isn’t so sure. I’m not a big reader of Westerns in general, but “Bikers” is a wonderfully off-kilter story that throws the Old West, biker gangs, and religious cults into a blender to come up with a decidedly original and highly entertaining story.
Pulp Modern is published quarterly and you can learn more about it, including submission guidelines, at their website. The complete lineup for this issue includes stories from Amy Bloom, Garnett Elliott, Matthew C. Funk, Richard Godwin, Edward A. Grainger and Chuck Tyrell, W.P. Johnson, William Dylan Powell, Chris Rhatigan, Stanley Rutgers, Ron Scheer, Jared Yates Sexton, Wendy Velasquez, and Joseph S. Walker.
Pulp Modern 3 is available from Uncle B. Publications (ISBN: 978-1477626016).