Edited by Chris Gabrysch
Twit Publishing LLC
I make no bones about loving anthologies as I’m a huge fan of the short story format. And with pulp anthologies of this kind you are bound to find some really amazing nuggets as well as an assortment of lesser quality entries. Overall, if the number of excellent, fun tales outweighs the bad, you’re in good hands. Which is why it is easy for me to recommend this book edited by Chris Gabrysch as the majority of the twelve included within are truly worth your perusal.
My favorite was easily “A Shot in the Dark” by Peter Michael Rosenberg which features a marvelous protagonist in Cairo based Chief Inspector Walaa Yousesef. This Egyptian Hercules Poirot won me over from his first appearance revolving around the body of an English photojournalist found crammed in an old cabinet in her hotel room. I hope Rosenberg writes many more cases for this unique detective.
Another enjoyable entry was “Balalaika” by Jennifer Loring. It deals with vengeful vampire stalking the citizens of an isolated Russian village. It is well written and haunting in its depiction of rural Russian settlement and the horror visited upon it. Whereas “The Schitzel Connection” by Cyril C. Young Jr. had me in stitches. It’s a cautionary tale wherein we are warned evolution can easily go backwards instead of forward depending on how much pretzels and beer one consumes. If you can’t chuckle after reading this, there’s something totally wrong with you.
“Install” by Drew Wilcox is a scary tale of a cable guy’s visit to a very bad address. Horror shorts are hard to do but Wilcox pulls it off and this one really had me flipping pages to get to the end. Noire crime stories were also well represented with two nifty yarns. “Smooth as Sharkskin,” by Slade Grayson is a classic crime pulp story and delivers as neatly as its title portents while “My Date with Red,” by Tom Swoffer, is an oddball, highly readable story of a drug dealer scared witless done in a Quentin Tarrentino style.
As this collection is eclectic in subject matter, I was pleased to find “Montana Jack” by Dave P. Fisher, a no-frills classic western tale; truly superb writing. Another contender for my favorite in this book. Fisher really should stretch his writing muscles and try a full length western novel. He’s that good.
And finally there is the fantasy comedy “Whatever Happened to the Dark Lord?” by Frank R. Sjodin that has some really hilarious moments and twists nicely on its own logic.
The remaining four stories did nothing for me at all; obviously not my cup of tea. One, a long crime piece, “Double Take,” by Chris O’Grady was competently written, but in his attempt to mimic other successful hard boiled writers, he completely homogenized his tale so that it comes across bland and spiritless. Even the toughest, most cynical writers of this genre know you need to inject some melodrama to grease the plot wheels.
So eight out of twelve gives this collection a big thumbs up in my accounting. Try a copy and let me know if you agree with me. Or not?