After a short introduction by Cullen Gallagher as to how the anthology “Noir Riot” came into being it is on to the reads. There are sixteen authors in the book representing twenty-three works of short stories and poetry. The works are presented in alphabetic order of the authors led by Ken Bruen.
“I almost had it together.
Man, I came as close to having it sweet as it gets.
I’d like to blame Texas, just lay it all on the home star, let me off the
hook, throw my hands up, go
“Weren’t for this goddamn state, I’d be in clover.” (Page 1)
Our narrator isn’t happy and that is despite the fact he loves mysteries and is currently working through the C. J. Box cannon. He has been in Houston for five days waiting for Ray to have a good score set up for them. But, things are not working out right in a dark tale that, in just a few short pages, manages to set the tone for everything to follow in the book. A highlight of “Trophy Hunt” by Ken Bruen is the numerous references to various figures in the mystery community.
James is back in town in “Workman’s Comp” by James Campbell and barely hanging on. James is also is looking for a big score and Kenny has a plan. If things go right the two could make a very nice payday in this story set in 1962.
“A Visit to the One-Eyed Man” by Bill Crider comes next. Ralph Merchant is well known as the “One-Eyed Man” and he does not care that the narrator wants to finish his bowl of chili. When the man’s enforcers show up you do as you are told.
Two poems “Dark Harvest” and “Homicide Duty Ain’t For The Lonely” by Thomas A Crowell, Esq., followed by the poem “Frankford Avenue” by Melanie Dante.
Then it is back to the stories with “Rothko’s Daughter” by Richard Godwin. Two addicts find each other on a London street one night in a tale of art, deceit, and more.
Deceit is also part of the imagery in the next piece titled “The Other Man’s Wife” also by Richard Godwin.
Miceli’s is never crowded at lunch despite its legendary status in “Let’s Do Lunch” by Joseph Goodrich. Larry Wynman likes to work on scripts there white eating lunch. Normally he is left alone, but on this day Rick Turnbull shows up to pitch an idea to he has for an upcoming film.
The poems “Echo Park, 1949” and “The Curfew affair” (for Ross MacDonald) by Joseph Goodrich are next.
It was just supposed to be a fun personal ad in “Casual Encounter” by Jake Hinkson. It was a way to blow off steam. Yet it gave the married man with a nearly dead marriage quite the adrenalin jolt to put the ad out there. Then he got a response and the ad suddenly became very real.
While many tales in the book are set out in California, like Ken Bruen, Paul Krueger set his tale in Texas. The notorious “last outlaw” One-Step Grimes is just days away from his execution in “One-Step’s Last Meal.” He wants beer and chili for his last meal which is easy enough. But, he wants to go one step further and make the chili himself using the family’s secret recipe.
BV Lawson contributes the poems “Hidden Dance” and “Waiting.”
Natasha came back to David’s place in “Sometimes the Devil” by Daniel Moses Luft. Entranced by her east European accent, long black hair, and a few other things about her, David has had a very good time. The bill is about to come due in a very big way.
Poetry returns in a big way for the rest of the book. The cheap Saturday night special is the “Bad Fun” as author Suzanne Lummis reminds readers before considering the idea of “Wonder Woman, Private Eye.”
Next is “Kept In the Dark” by Charles Rammelkamp who also offers “The Silent Scream.”
It is a very short poem that Stephen D. Rogers offers with “My Dolls Hate Chicken Nuggets” but by far the most disturbing.
The poems “On Furlough” by John Ryan and “A Definition of Noir” by Gerald So are the final two pieces of the book.
A seven page section of short bios titled “Who’s Who” regarding the authors, editors, and graphic designer brings the 165 page book to a close.
According to the introduction, the title is Noir Riot because,
“Noir is the riot. It always has and always will be.” (Page VII)
It certainly is in this case where all the tales feature chaos and bedlam, gunfire, and the smell and sight of blood on the ground, streets, and floors of the homes of these characters. The blood is warm, cold, and everything in between in tales where the characters sometimes have an idea things are going to get nasty and at other times not a clue.
This is not a read where you end up feeling good about yourself and things are tied off in a nice neat and positive way. No, this is a read where it is kill or be killed, we are all doomed, and what can appear to be a lucky break is more likely a doorway to a personally made hell on this mortal coil.
Edited by Lou Boxer, Cullen Gallagher, and Mathew Louis
Cover Graphic Designer Jeff Wong
Noir Con/Out Of The Gutter Online
Material supplied by Lou Boxer and Cullen Gallagher in exchange for my objective review.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2015