Reviewing short story collections, and especially anthologies, can be difficult. Beyond the length of the story which means the review of it has to be short as one does not want to inadvertently reveal too much, there is the problem of what to include in the review. Just mention two or three of the works involved and those that were not mentioned have reason to feel slighted.  Cover every single story and occasionally a reader will complain about the length and having to read all those words. I err on the side of covering everybody in an anthology, so if you are looking for a three or four sentence review that tells you nothing more than the person liked whatever (the kind of meaningless review that seems to be all the rage these days) you really should look elsewhere.

 

After an introduction to this second collection by Sophie Littlefield that discusses some of the authors and their works as well as those little things that serve as inspiration, it is on to the stories. Beat To A Pulp-Round 2 features 29 solidly good–and occasionally disturbing–tales.

 

The book opens with an out of this world tale by Bill Pronzini titled “The Space Killers.”  Two Terrans walk into a bar for some local food and drinks on Outpost 14 somewhere in the asteroid Belt. They are not there to be a joke, but to settle some business as a contract is a contract.

 

It is back to Earth in “Far From Home” by Vin Packer. Gil has a jerk for a father and it wasn’t just because dear old dad never finished High School. The booze certainly doesn’t help his dad’s attitude, but Gil never thought this would happen.

 

Mary Crowley has a reputation of being the crazy pigeon lady in “King” by Dave Zeltserman.  What happens when there are no pigeons to feed is quite the surprise in this disturbing story.

 

All Georgie Martin had to do was take the twelve your old boy back to his parents. Took him three weeks to do it, but he got the job done. Now Oscar has questions and Georgie has few answers in the increasingly complicated story “Missed Flight” by Steve Weddle.

 

If you are a married man and going to cheat it isn’t a good idea if your mistress and wife meet.  Things got even worse if you bought both women the same robe in two different sizes. Somebody is going to start thinking bad thoughts and does in “Purrz, Baby” by Vickie Hendricks.

 

“The Little Boy Inside” by Glenn Gray comes next. Greg thought he was choking to death. That is until he coughed up on to his desk a very small and very alive boy. What to do now?

 

It wasn’t smart to go mess around in the old Amalgamated Paper Mill that was abandoned seventy years ago. But, Simon had gotten the idea from watching various shows on TV where average guys chased spirits using high tech equipment. Besides, he was bored with his life and wanted a little excitement. That wasn’t smart either and figures that out and more in “An Open Door” by Chris F. Holm.

 

“The Shadow Line” by Charles Ardai comes next with a tale of deceit and treachery in Mexico.  It is Tijuana and trouble lurks everywhere. Senor Mendoza is the subject of Fletcher’s search down mean streets and dark alleys in this twisting tale.

 

Pirates and more are at work in “Ransom and Red Fingers” by Garnett Elliot. Lorenzo and Michaud have a serious problem and looting the British Worship is the last thing on their minds.

 

 “Pillow Talk” by Jodi MacArthur features Henrietta who can’t sleep and Charlie who can. She has things to say and Charlie really should listen.

 

When your friend and landlord in this case, Mr. Skyler Hobbs, thinks he is a reincarnated Sherlock Holmes and you are Watson, sometimes it is best to indulge him. Such is the situation here in this tale titled “Skyler Hobbs and the Cottingley Fairies” by Evan Lewis. Everyone knows fairies are trouble thanks to the original Sherlock Holmes and what happened back in 1917. They still are in this tale that explains so much.

 

Obie knew he should not have done what he did.  But, he did and now he is in prison in “The King of Mardi Gras” by Anthony Neil Smith. Obie has Mardi Gras plans and folks better cooperate even if it is December in Minnesota.

 

Wayne D. Dundee is up next with “The Lake Bottom Bones: A Joe Hannibal Story” that begins simply enough with a missing body. Thanks to the drought Lake McConaughy in Nebraska in way down. The twelve year old boy and Joe Hannibal know what they saw. Not only is the lake nearly gone so is the body. The answers will be complicated in this engrossing mystery.

 

He hadn’t meant to spend the night. Now that she woke him up by screaming in her sleep scaring him half to death in “Night Terrors” by Jake Hinkson it seems to be an excellent time to get dressed and leave. He should have paid more attention.

 

You never know what you will find in the wilderness especially in the “Lost Valley of the Skoocoom: A Maple Jack Tale” by Matthew P. Mayo. There are things out there that few have seen and lived to tell about.

 

Larry D. Sweazy takes readers to Texas in 1933 in “Shadow of the Crow.” Bonnie and Clyde are doing their thing and Texas Ranger Lyle “Sonny” Wolfe is not happy they are running from him or that Bonnie is shooting at him. Sonny is alone and in the middle of nowhere in the Texas Panhandle without backup. That means he has his hands full in this one.

 

Next up is one of those stories in this good book that starts one way and then turns and heads off in another totally unexpected way. “A World You Don’t Know” by James Reasoner starts off with a military guy coming to the rescue of a boy being victimized by a group of small town punks. Gradually readers realize there is far more going on than the typical small town bad sheriff type deal. Like a lot of these stories, to say more would ruin the read. 

 

While Bud works the night shift at the plant, his wife, Lynn, entertains Ron in a way no married woman should. The fact that he is ex-military seems to fill a need she has in “State Road 53” by Alec Cizak. Though Bud knows what is going on he hasn’t tried to put a stop to it. Maybe because things are getting worse at work and he is more worried about that than home.

 

Good stuff by Patricia Abbot seems to be everywhere these days and is present here in “The Hand that Feeds Him.” Frye hates drink coasters and for good reason. He also isn’t too happy with Butcher who is holding forth a few stools down the bar.

 

Paige doesn’t like being called “Honey.” She also doesn’t like the fact, thanks to the therapist, that her husband thinks a certain fantasy he has can be fulfilled outside of their marriage in “A Special Kind of Hell” by Hilary Davidson. Thanks to Dr. Shapiro, Derek is being encouraged in his stupidity and she isn’t happy.

 

It may be a movie set but the flying bullets are very real in “A Good Kill is Worth Repeating” by C. Courtney Joyner. It might help if Jimmy and Richard could take out the klieg lights. This was so not the way movie filming was supposed to go today.

 

The newest migrant worker is attracting attention in “Drifter from Wenatchee” by John D. Nesbitt and not always in the best way. He may be looking for trouble and he isn’t the only one.  When the attentions of Roxanne are at stake action is necessary.

 

“Giving Dad the Finger” by Keith Rawsom comes next. Drugs, booze, unfulfilled dreams and a harsh reality collide in this one where Jeb has a plan. He isn’t the only one with a plan.

 

Howard Hopkins follows with “Ghost Of A Chance” where Georg Chance is magician, a detective, and maybe something else. Angel de la Ruse was beautiful in life and still is in death.  Who did it and why is at work here along with a few other things.

 

If you have read the excellent Sheriff Rhodes series by Bill Crider you may think you know the kind of story Bill Crider would have here. You would be very wrong. In the very creepy “The Quick . . . And The Dead” Bill Crider weaves a complicated tale of one woman seeking justice and revenge.

 

He didn’t really want to rob the guy, but he had to do it in “Rift” by Nik Korpon. Why he has to do it is not the normal reason you would expect.

 

Outside or inside the joint things can easily go wrong. Such is the case here in “Big Darlene The Sex Machine” by Matthew J. McBride. Yes, she is. Yes, she is trouble.  So are the real world and the joint.

 

While the memory is a good one it tortures him in “Maybe Someday” by Scan Chercover. What could be and would be special is not now.

 

“The Old Ways” by Ed Gorman takes readers to San Francisco in 1903. Gunfights, casino bars, and crooked card games are present here. There is a lot more to it than that, but you’ll have to read the story to find out.

 

The last piece in the book is titled “Pulp Art: An Appreciation” by Cullen Gallagher. This essay includes footnotes and details the history of pulp art in magazines and books.

 

The book concludes with author bios and an ad for other titles available on the Kindle.

 

Reviewing a collection or anthology of short stories is always more difficult than reviewing a novel because one does not want to give away too much. That is especially the case here as with most of the stories in the book one can only say very little without revealing spoilers and plot points.

 

One can safely say these tales are good ones, show variety and versatility in style, tone, and topics, while all a where to the pulp standard one would expect. Whether off planet or on, in neighborhoods familiar or not, these tales will prove the point that things are not anywhere near what they seem in nearly every case. Beat To A Pulp-Round 2 features 29 solidly good–and occasionally disturbing–tales and each one is well worth your time.

 

Beat To A Pulp-Round 2

David Cranmer

http://www.davidcranmer.com

http://www.beattoapulp.com

June 2012

ASIN: B008ACC6A2

Kindle Edition (Paperback edition available)

387 Pages (estimated)

$2.99

 

Material was downloaded during a free read promotion for my use in an objective review.

 

 

Kevin R. Tipple ©2013

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