For me a perfect day in this summer of our discontent involves getting a new book in the mail, thinking about it all day as I bang on the keyboard at the kitchen table, and then devouring it after dinner. The pulp/noir anthology ECONOCLASH REVIEW #6 from Down & Out Books [buy it HERE] came in the mail recently, and became tonight’s after-dinner dessert reading.
J. D. Graves’ foreword included his grandma’s mantra “If YOU READ it, you Must REVIEW it” (really, J. D.? My Nana’s favorite saying was “Wish in one hand and piss in the other, and let me know which gets wet first”), so I figured I’d accept the invite. Here’s my quick take on the nine stories in this issue, which include Sci-fi, serial killers, hit men, and drug dealers (natch), batty biddies, and supernatural and all-too-human-horror tales, before ending up with a genuine “sports-car western” of the modern variety that follows the old rules.
The fun begins with Daniel Marcus’s JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTORE. Suppose now that some church lady over in Plano, TX, sees His face in her tuna casserole, setting off a local competition in Jesus-themed merchandize, theme parks, and optimized customer experiences. How do you make your own Christ complex ribbon ceremony stand out amidst that crowded Golgotha? With a Special Guest of His honor, naturally. One of the funniest stories I can remember reading.
PARTY BUS by Preston Lang begs the question: When your life is complete shit would you still trade some rando’s life to save yourself? Or wouldn’t you? The driver on the Mexican booze-bus run has to decide.
Serena Jayne demonstrates why she’s showing up in more and more top noir magazines with her CHET-SHAPED LURE. Say you exaggerated a bit–okay, LIED–on your online dating app bio, so, in return you’re willing to give your date a little wiggle room when it comes to a different set of kink than she listed. But why does she keep calling you by that other name? Creepy as fuck! Jayne’s story made me physically squirm.
THE GOON SQUAD. This next one gets pretty meta here, but…John Kojak preemptively wrote a story about the 45th president of the US putting together an extrajudicial enforcement squad to “proactively” stop people…but not just from legally protesting and not with “merely” non-lethal means. Too believable.
Daniel Jacob Uitvlugt’s sci-fi thriller THE NIGHT JAKE ADDISION SAVED THE WORLD is such an original concept, I won’t give any spoilers, save to say when two monsters meet, it’s the one that first recognizes the other for what it is that will have the edge. Great execution, so to speak…
Robb T. White’s THE CURSE OF THE TEMPLE TOPAZ is a classic heist piece with the dialog to match: “I love disgruntled employees,” Sean said. “They make everything so much easier.” Remember though, there’s only one way three men can keep a secret.
THE SEVEN FLUTES is a poetically lyrical, heart-pumping gothic horror by Paul McCabe. Sometimes a loss rips such a gaping hole in us that our grief has to pull in something else–anything else–to fill it.
Editor/author J. D. Graves’ flash piece DON’T PANIC reads like the opening to a James Crumley novel, if Crumley had started a book with a couple of crazy old biddies freaking out at the Dollar Store. Fun story!
This sixth anthology collection finishes with Chris Fortunato’s YOU WILL BE VERY HAPPY HERE, essentially a western set in modern-day Costa Rica. As Jimmy Buffet sang in “Banana Republic”:
First you learn the native customs
Soon a word of Spanish or two
You know that you cannot trust them
Because they know they can’t trust you
The best noir is eternal. Also, I gotta give a shout out to ToeKeen’s luridly wonderful cover art and Duane Crockett’s story art, which enhances every tale and is something I wish every anthology would include.
That’s it. “Buy some damn books!“