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Where Is Noir Now? by Gabino Iglesias

December 18, 2012 by  •
I am pleased to welcome author (Gutmouth, Eraserhead Press) and reviewer Gabino Iglesias to the blog today for an interesting essay about noir and its first cousin, neo-noir.

Gabino IglesiasDuring my early teens, I subsisted on a steady diet of noir. Apparently that’s what happens when you never get into video games. I knew where it came from and, more importantly, thought I knew what it was all about: gritty settings, hard stories, down-and-out characters, witty dialogue, cool guys in fedoras, and a dash of violence. Tough, hard-drinking men who punched hard, didn’t take lip from anyone, and weren’t afraid to pull their gun out were a sine qua non element of the books I devoured. A few years later, I didn’t know what noir was anymore. That’s when things got interesting.

Fast-forward fifteen years. My ARC of Akashic’s Boston Noir 2: The Classics, arrived in the mail. I cracked it open and read the intro. “What is noir and what is not inhabits a similarly gray area,” wrote editors Dennis Lehane, Mary Cotton and Jaime Clarke. “Its definition is continually expanding from the previous generation’s agreed-upon notion that noir involves men in fedoras smoking cigarettes on street corners. Noir alludes to crime, sure, but it also evokes bleak elements, danger, tragedy, sleaze, all of which is best represented by its root French definition: black.”

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The Storm Giants by Pearce Hansen

December 12, 2012 by  •
The Storm Giants by Pearce Hansen“Until the blood starts to flow, it’s always a people situation.” – Everett

For someone who’d just assume never interact with anyone again except his wife and young son if he didn’t have to, former gang enforcer Everett is actually quite adept at reading and manipulating people.

Of course, back in the day a lot of his manipulation was of the hands-on variety, and he was damn effective. Legendarily effective, actually, in large part because of his connection with the storm giants, the name Everett associates with a deep, dark place within himself he’s capable of tapping into.

But those days are behind him. At least he thought they were. Living a peaceful if not exactly relaxed – he finds it difficult to ever truly let his guard down, even years out of the game – existence in upstate California, Everett’s past comes calling in the guise of The Widow.

The last time Everett saw The Widow was at his dentist’s office, where she worked as Doctor Dauffenbach’s assistant and receptionist, in addition to being his wife. Everett didn’t exactly understand it at the time, but there was definitely something…off about old Doctor Dauffenbach. Something a bit sadistic.

Turns out Doctor Dauffenbach had an impressive résumé to back up his penchant for causing pain; he was formerly a Nazi who worked at one of the death camps. When he escaped at the end of the war, one step ahead of the war crimes tribunals, Dauffenbach was able to smuggle a significant amount of ill-gotten Nazi gold into the U.S. with him when he ran. The Mossad, however, never sleeps, and when they finally caught up with Dauffenbach he killed himself rather than face extradition and trial. Now, it seems the remainder of Dauffenbach’s gold has been stolen, and The Widow wants Everett to get it back for her – and kill the person who took it.

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The Neighbors by Ania Ahlborn

December 12, 2012 by  •
The Neighbors by Ania Ahlborn“Have you ever wanted to burn down your own home?”
- Harlow Ward

Actually, it’s a thought that has crossed the mind of Andrew Morrison more than a few times over the previous 13 years, ever since his father walked out on him and his mother. After his father left, Andrew’s mom went into a downward spiral of alcoholism and agoraphobia, eventually reaching the point where she wouldn’t even leave the house to walk to the mailbox.

At first sympathetic, Andrew finally tires of sacrificing his life for someone who shows neither appreciation nor any desire to get better. So, now twenty-three, Andrew gets back in touch with a childhood friend, Mickey, via Facebook and makes arrangements to move in with him across town. Unfortunately, it looks like Andrew may well have jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire.

At first elated to see the picturesque houses in Mickey’s neighborhood, Andrew’s elation turns to shock and embarrassment when he discovers Mickey’s house is a run-down blight on the otherwise perfect Magnolia Lane. Mickey isn’t exactly how Andrew remembers him either. Once gregarious and outgoing, Mickey is now withdrawn and borderline uncommunicative—almost like he doesn’t even want Andrew there, despite the invitation. The neighbors, however…

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Choice Cuts by Joe Clifford

December 4, 2012 by  •
Choice Cuts by Joe CliffordThe work of Joe Clifford shouldn’t be new to anyone who does much poking around in the online crime fiction community. In addition to his short stories routinely showing up places like Shotgun Honey, Thuglit, and A Twist of Noir, Joe is also the editor of the The Flash Fiction Offensive.

Even the most dedicated crime fiction/noir reader can miss a story here and there, however, so it was nice to see Joe’s work rounded up and released, with a couple of previously unpublished stories to boot, as the collection Choice Cuts. As I always do with collections, only a handful of stories will be highlighted in order to leave plenty of undiscovered territory for those new to Joe’s work.

“The Meat” is heavy on atmosphere, both physical and psychological. Accused by the Bolsheviks of being an enemy of the Revolution, an unassuming bookseller is banished to a prison on the edge of the Arctic Circle. He bides his time, doing everything possible to stay fit while planning an escape. A plan finally in place, he takes a fellow prisoner, a doctor, into his confidence and they make the final preparations. There’s only one obstacle they can’t figure out how to overcome: food. How can they have enough food to survive the long, grueling trek they face in subfreezing temperatures? Their solution is shocking, even more so when it doesn’t go quite as planned.


Free Agent by Joe Clifford

December 3, 2012 by  •
It makes Mondays so much easier to deal with when they can be met head-on with a kick-ass guest post, which is why I am so pleased to welcome the incredibly talented – and busy – Joe Clifford to the blog. Joe already has one release out this year, Choice Cuts, has another on the way before the ball drops in Times Square, and yet a third lined up for 2013. And you know what? He still wants more. I sure hope he gets it.

Joe Clifford2012 was a pretty good writing year for me. I saw three books accepted for publication: Choice Cuts, my short story collection, which was released in August (to better-than-expected sales and reviews); Wake the Undertaker, an old-school, comic-book detective novel, slated for later this year; and Junkie Love, the darling the trifecta, my autobiographical drug novel and a book very dear to my heart (for obvious reasons), which will be coming out in 2013.

The first two are with the upstart home for noir/hardboiled authors, Snubnose Press, that last one with Vagabondage Press. Both publishers have been supportive, making me and my work feel welcome, wanted, and loved; and I feel fortunate to be associated with the other terrific writers at these houses: Court Merrigan, J.A. Kazimer, Ryan Sayles, Heath Lowrance, Eric Beetner, C.S. DeWildt, to name a few, and of course my former partner in crime (literally) and current co-editor of The Flash Fiction Offensive, Tom Pitts. Still, I want more.

I don’t think that’s selfish. That’s what we’re all in this game for, right? Yes, there’s the love of reading and writing, the prerequisite to even suit up and take the field, but the drive for success dictates that we continually strive for the greatest heights, make attempts to reach the greatest audience; it’s natural to want to more.

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Slaughter’s Hound by Declan Burke

November 29, 2012 by  •
Potential Spoiler: As Slaughter’s Hound is the sequel to 2004′s Eightball Boogie, an important plot point from Eightball Boogie is mentioned in my review, as well as in the book itself.

Slaughter's Hound by Declan BurkeOnce a man finds himself out in the badlands, out beyond rule and law and custom, who knows what anyone might do?

Back in Sligo after spending four years in a psychiatric hospital in Dundrum for shooting his brother, former private investigator Harry Rigby now finds himself driving a cab in order to make a meager living. He also acts as the middle man for drug deals, which is how Rigby comes to be at the Port Authority building where his former roommate in Dundrum, Finn Hamilton, broadcasts a pirate radio station.

Finn’s ordered up a tidy delivery of dope, enough to cause Rigby to wonder if Finn’s selling it on. Finn assures him it’s for personal use, that he’s laying in stock because he and his fianceé are running off to Cyprus. It may sound like a pipe dream coming from some, but Finn’s from a very wealthy family, even if their property empire has taken a hit of late in the bottomed out real estate market. Finn, it seems, is on top of the world.

Which is why Rigby is stunned to see Finn take a dive out the building’s ninth floor window as Rigby’s in the parking lot taking a call from his son. Thankfully, Rigby chose to wander around while on the call instead of sitting in his cab, as Finn’s graceful dive is brutally interrupted by the cab’s roof, the impact of which ruptures the gas tank and causes an explosion. After calling the authorities, Rigby heads out to inform Finn’s mother, feeling he owes it to her as both Finn’s friend and the only witness.

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A Kind of Distraction…or Self-Preservation by Declan Burke

November 26, 2012 by  •
Getting around that Mondays suck thing by welcoming the wonderful Declan Burke back to the blog. The last time he was here, in support of the phenomenal Absolute Zero Cool, Declan was ruminating on violence in crime fiction and the author’s “right” to write about it. Today Declan’s here in support of his latest, Slaughter’s Hound, and, after a very busy past two years, he’s contemplating whether it’s time for a little break from writing.

Declan BurkeI have become extraordinarily busy in recent weeks. Honestly, there just isn’t enough hours in the day. I’ve had to rearrange my filing cabinet, sort out my tax receipts, catalogue my new collection of classical music (chronologically, since you ask), and give the office carpet its annual vacuum.

Outside, there has been the year’s final mowing of the lawns (back and front), winter’s logs to be chopped, gravel to be raked, drains to be cleared. Meanwhile, the jobs keep on piling up. Only this morning I realised that the back of the PC hasn’t been dusted in ages, and that I haven’t sifted the no-hopers out of my TBR pile in over a month. And on and on it goes …

You’ll understand, no doubt, what’s going on here. It’s a kind of nesting, in one sense, such was when parents-to-be get into a frenzy of preparation for the new arrival, much of it pointless. It’s also a kind of distraction, of self-diversion. Or self-preservation, perhaps.

Because there’s a book coming. A book that will – as always – need me to be a better writer than I am in order to do it justice. A book that will soak up more time than I can afford to give. A book that will in all probability find me revealed as the arm-chancing hack I know myself to be.

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My New Orleans Heart by Claudia McGarry

November 23, 2012 by  •
Pleased to welcome Claudia McGarry to the blog today. I’ve previously reviewed two books in her astrology thriller series, My Scorpio Soul and My Aries Secrets, but today Claudia’s here to talk about her newest release, something a little bit different, but near and dear to her heart.

My New Orleans Heart by Claudia McGarryThis short novel, Beignet and Grandpa Au Lait, is told in first person by two dogs. It is actually very autobiographical, but was written in a fictional manner.

I was born in New Orleans and spent my childhood there. Although I haven’t resided there in years, I was devastated in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit.

At that time, my cousin Carol and her family were living in Metarie. Katrina resurfaced colorful memories of time spent with my immediate family when we all lived there together.

My New Orleans Heart by Claudia McGarryThe memories brought with them a host of southern belles.

Beignet and Au Lait’s stories are my New Orleans roots. Their names, Beignet and Au Lait, came from the Café Du Monde desserts and coffee that I have enjoyed when revisiting New Orleans. And since this type of oddly shaped, powdered, sugary, fried donut with the accompanying café au lait was made famous at the French Quarter’s flagship outdoor café, it made perfect sense to give my two narrators these names.

The hurricane, some colorful memories and our family pet, all created a desire write this story.

My New Orleans Heart by Claudia McGarryI had written several screenplays through the years, then I began my astrology series of thrillers (My Scorpio Soul and My Aries Secrets). I acquired my daughter’s puppy by default, and soon I was writing this little adventure, slice of life story from his point of view.

My own recollections are emboldened with smells of fried chicken, gumbo and jambalaya, ornamented with Southern-styled accessories for dresses and pant suits like pearls and matching pearl earrings.

I still can hear the distant hum of jazz resonating through that balmy breeze, and as the saints continue marching, I wouldn’t trade my New Orleans heart for anything.

Claudia McGarry is a New Orleans native, but presently lives in California and teaches writing. She has three adult children. Her husband is a musician and college professor. In addition to Beignet and Grandpa Au Lait, Claudia is also the author of My Aries Secrets and My Scorpio Soul, and is currently hard at work on her next book, My Gemini Ghost. To learn more about Claudia, visit her website.

One Day in the Life of Jason Dean by Ian Ayris

November 20, 2012 by  •
One Day in the Life of Jason Dean by Ian AyrisI knew today was gonna be bad, but I never got close to this. – Jason Dean

It’s a cold, dreary morning the day we meet Jason Dean. He wakes in the predawn hours loath to get out of bed, but he has a special date with his daughter, Sophie, waiting for him after work, so he forces himself to brave the sure to be ugly day, one which finds him with a few pieces of business to attend to for his boss, Mickey Archer, before he can keep his date with Sophie.

Mickey’s a right nasty piece of work, one who makes his living in all manner of criminal ways, not the least of which is loan sharking. And though god knows Mickey’s not above getting his hands dirty (Sliced one geezer in half once with an electric bread knife. I was there. I saw it. It weren’t pleasant, I can fuckin tell you.), a guy can only do so much himself. That’s where Jason comes in.

Jason’s one of Mickey’s oldest mates, the one Mickey sends out to knock on doors, and heads. Jason’s three tasks for the day: two collections and, well, one thing a little more extreme. The thing is, Jason’s enthusiasm for the job is fading fast. Like fading by the hour fast.


The Day I met Jason Dean by Ian Ayris

November 19, 2012 by  •
So incredibly pleased to welcome Ian Ayris back to the blog. Earlier this year he stopped by for a guest post in conjunction with his release Abide With Me, a book that you’ll be hearing me mention again come Top 10 Reads of 2012 time. Today he’s back with a fantastic post that explains how he met his novels’ characters, both those in Abide With Me as well as the star of his latest, One Day in the Life of Jason Dean.

IanAyrisAlmost exactly a year ago today, I met Jason Dean. I didn’t know it. Not at the time. But I know it now.

It happened like this . . .

In mid 2011, my writing pal – Luca Veste – asked me to write a story for a charity anthology he was planning. Of course, I agreed straight away. Luca is such a gentleman, and the cause so worthy, how could I not? As always, I had no idea what to write. The story ended up becoming – Down in the Tube Station at Midnight – the protagonist an unnamed hitman with a penchant for poetry, philosophy, and high-faluting literature. An odd mix. And, like I said, he had no name. He just wouldn’t tell me. The hit man thing was odd, but it was just a job to him. And he had a daughter he loved very, very, much. Sophie.

I wrote the story, and I moved on. My debut novel – ABIDE WITH ME – was due out in a few months, and I had loads to do on the promotional side of things. My head, it was going at a million miles an hour.

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The Rendition by Albert Ashforth

November 19, 2012 by  •
The Rendition by Albert Ashforth“My friends would hate me if they knew some of the things I’ve done to make a living.” – Alex Klear

That statement may sound a bit extreme, but then Alex Klear isn’t talking about having engaged in aggressive telemarketing or selling door-to-door. No, Klear is one of those people who works in the shadows conducting operations of questionable legality on behalf of the government.

The opening of Albert Ashforth’s The Rendition finds Klear in the Balkans on just such a mission. He and two other operatives are there on a rendition, which is really just a euphemism for a government sanctioned kidnapping of a foreign national.

Having been thrown together at the last minute by those higher up the chain – and severely undermanned in Klear’s opinion – conditions are ripe for the mission to fail. How spectacularly it would fail, however, Klear couldn’t possibly have anticipated, as he ends up captured by the very person his team was sent to extract.

He’s tortured for two days by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) before finally being sprung by a hastily arranged rescue team, at which point he decides his days as a covert operative are officially over. Except, of course, they’re not. Nearly a year later he’s lured back for another mission with the promise that it will allow him a measure of redemption, and revenge. Turns out a U.S. operative is being held on suspicion of murder in a high security prison in Germany, and Klear is assured that it is somehow related to his failed rendition.