Saturday, December 31, 2022
Dru's Book Musings New Releases: Coming Week of January 1, 2023
KRL: Kings River Life Magazine Update for 12/31/2022
Up on KRL this morning the last mystery catch up group of the year! We have reviews and giveaways of "Murder on the Class Trip": A Maya and Sandra Mystery by Lee Hollis, "On Spine of Death": A By the Book Mystery by Tamara Berry, and "The Secret of the Lost Pearls": A Useful Woman Mystery by Darcie Wilde https://kingsriverlife.com/12/31/end-of-year-mystery-catch-up-3/
We also have a review and giveaway of "White Lightning" by Melissa Yi along with an interesting interview with Melissa https://kingsriverlife.com/12/31/white-lightning-prohibition-and-predators-by-melissa-yi/
And the latest mystery Coming Attractions from Sunny Frazier along with a giveaway of "Bookclubbed to Death" by VM Burns https://kingsriverlife.com/12/31/january-coming-attractions-new-books-new-year/
And reviews of 3 fun mysteries on PBS-"Miss Scarlet and the Duke", "Magpie Murders", and "Annika" https://kingsriverlife.com/12/31/pbs-mystery-trifecta-three-brilliant-gems/
We also have an article about the popularity of holiday ghost parties in the past https://kingsriverlife.com/12/31/a-new-years-haunting-the-victorian-ghost-party-craze/
Up during the week we posted another special midweek guest post, this one by mystery author Lori Robbins about her series and her latest book set in the world of ballet https://kingsriverlife.com/12/28/on-pointe-fiction-nothing-but-the-truth-except-for-the-parts-i-invented/
Up on KRL News and Reviews this week we have a review and giveaway of "Devil's Delight" an Agatha Raisin mystery by M. C. Beaton/RW Green https://www.krlnews.com/2022/12/devils-delight-agatha-raisin-mystery-by.html
And a review and giveaway of the anthology "Death of a Bad Neighbor" edited by Jack Calverley https://www.krlnews.com/2022/12/death-of-bad-neighbor-revenge-is.html
Beneath the Stains of Time: Murder After Christmas (1944) by Rupert Latimer
Scott's Take: Dark Ages by Tom Taylor
Dark Ages by Tom Taylor is a Marvel Elseworlds series written by him before he signed his massive exclusive deal with DC Comics. In this universe to defeat a threat a spell was used to generate a portal to a dimension that constantly emits a powerful EMP that renders all technology useless. This is a post-apocalyptic world where ten years have passed and for most, society has been rebuilt, and the world is relatively okay. There is one major threat left.
Apocalypse has taken over Europe and teamed up with Dracula. He also now has the Purple Man under his control and is using him to make several heroes serve him. Apocalypse dispatches a team to kidnap Tony Stark. Thus, it is up to a small team of heroes to go rescue him. Wolverine (Laura), Blade, Spider-Man, Dr. Doom, Storm, The Invisible Woman, and others who have not fallen under the mind control of Apocalypse. Luckily they have a guide to this new Europe, Deadpool.
Mostly told from Spider-Man’s perspective, his life is drastically different than current canon because he has a daughter in this world. Full of action, humor, and beautiful art, this series is really fun. I wish it was longer and that more time was spent in this world. The world is interesting using lights grown from nature, Daredevil as a security system, a steampunk version of Iron Man, and more. There are some big names missing in this book like Thor. Included here is what happened during the war after the power went out, but I wish that was covered and detailed in more depth as it was so interesting.
It is also nice that as it is Elseworlds, there is a general tone of optimism. Even though the apocalypse happened, this new world is in some ways building to a better future. Former villains like Dr. Doom are now using their talents to help mankind. I hope we get to see more from this universe but since the writer is now an exclusive at DC comics, we probably won’t see any more from this universe for quite some time.
My reading copy came from the Park Forest Branch of the Dallas Public Library System.
Scott A. Tipple ©2022
Friday, December 30, 2022
Lit Reactor: "Madam Tomahawk" and the Thrill of Writing in Someone Else’s Universe by Nick Kolakowski
Lit Reactor: "Madam Tomahawk" and the Thrill of Writing in Someone Else’s Universe by Nick Kolakowski
Lesa's Book Critiques: FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2022
Bookblog of the Bristol Library: A Man and His Cat by Umi Sakurai
Patti Abbott: FFB: THE HUSBAND'S SECRET, Lianne Moriarity
Jerry's House of Everything: FORGOTTEN BOOK: MAN DROWNING
Happiness Is A Book: FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOK: MURDER AFTER CHRISTMAS BY RUPERT LATIMER
The Year That Was 2022
It is that time of year when folks write blog posts touting their successes and accomplishments over the year. It boggles the mind how much some folks have done over the 12 months. This is not one of those posts. Unlike some, I don’t have a lot to show for 2022.
As I have said before, I remain very slow reading wise. Everything I do now is way slower and takes a lot more effort than it seemed to be just a few years ago when I had to juggle so much more as a husband, caregiver, dad, etc. The grief is stronger than ever. Keeping this blog going is becoming far more difficult and increasingly seems a fruitless task.
I said last January after the blog and everyone involved won the award as the Best Review Site once again, that I would not enter the Preditors and Editors contest this year. The site won it three years in a row and I am very grateful for that fact. I thought then that enough was enough. I still think that now. One has to know when to walk away, while on top, and not keep pushing when the moment in the sun is over.
2022 saw me resume the Presidency of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. It was not a post I wanted again, but I was also not going to let the group fold up. There seemed a real danger of that a few months ago. So, I am back doing a lot for SMFS and that takes up quite a lot of time.
I read at a couple of the Noir at the Bar Dallas events at The Wild Detectives this year. Those readings seemed to go well. There is some talk there will be another one sometime in the Spring, but whether it really will happen, let alone involve anything with me, remains to be seen.
Paying editing work is not happening. I had a little bit the previous year, but nothing much at all this year.
I am also not writing at all as that part of me seems to be gone. I did have one story published, The Beetle’s Last Fifty Grand, appeared in the anthology, Back Road Bobby and His Friends. Solicted by direct invite that had a specific set of guidelines, I was able to finally create something that worked. But, it was a brutal process, and did not come easy. The folks that have read it, seemed to think it was a good short story.
For me, 2022 was not much of anything, professionally or personally. I am still here and hanging in despite worsening health, a bank account headed rapidly to zero and that will mean I will have to sell this place just a few years after moving back home, and a world that seemingly is increasingly mad. I continue to escape the real world, as often as I can, via various tv shows and books.
It is what it is.
Thursday, December 29, 2022
Lesa's Book Critiques: WHAT ARE YOU READING?
Jerry's House of Everything: SPEED GIBSON OF THE INTERNATIONAL SECRET POLICE
Favorite Books of 2022
Back in July, I told you of my five favorite books of the year to that point. Today as the year winds to a close, I give you more favorites.
As I have said before, I remain very slow reading wise. The books selected refer my personal tastes, biases, and all that jazz. I am not saying that these are the best books. I am stating that they were my favorites during the past year.
An Unforgiving Place: A National Park Mystery by Claire Kells picks up a few weeks after Vanishing Edge. On assignment in Denali National Park, Investigative Service Branch Special Agent Felicity Harland is sent to the Gates of the Artic National Park to investigate the discovery of two bodies.
It is mid December 1935 as Funeral
Train: A Dust Bowl Mystery by Laurie Loewenstein begins and life has
been brutal in the panhandle of Oklahoma with the ongoing Dust Bowl and the
Great Depression. The good people of Vermillion, Oklahoma, and the surrounding
area are facing adversity on a daily basis and hanging on by their fingernails.
A train derailment, a murder, and much more has a huge impact on all in this
excellent sequel to Death
of A Rainmaker: A Dust Bowl Mystery.
Murder at the Jubilee Rally: A Samuel Craddock Mystery by Terry Shames opens with many of the locals less than thrilled with the coming event featuring motorcycle folks from all over. They won’t be happy about the murder either.
Anyone who really knows me knows that I
love a good western. Larry D. Sweazy always makes that happen and did with Lost
Mountain Pass. It is May 1988 and Judge Gordon Hadesworth and U.S.
Deputy Marshall Sam “Trusty” Dawson plan to get out of town fast now that the
three Darby brothers, Cleatus, Horace, and Rascal, are swinging slowly from the
gallows and are most assuredly dead.
A Hard Day for a Hangover by Darynda Jones is the third book in the series that began with A Bad Day For Sunshine. This is a series that must be read in order. Along with some personal stuff that has just happened here in book three, Sheriff Sunshine Vicram and her team have two missing people to find and the case of a critically injured woman out at Copper Canyon. Rescuing her and then finding out what happened to her drives the novel forward alongside several complicated secondary story lines that have been playing out this entire series.
There you have it. Five in July and five more now. Enjoy the reads.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2022
Wednesday, December 28, 2022
Lesa's Book Critiques: HIDE BY TRACY CLARK
Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Nevermore: Dying of Politeness, New Jersey Turnpike, Romeo Catchers, Vanishing Half
Beneath the Stains of Time: Hymn to Murder (2020) by Paul Doherty
Jerry's House of Everything: SHORT STORY WEDNESDAY: THE FLORENTINE DANTE
Bitter Tea and Mystery: Short Story Wednesday: Two Stories by Marcia Muller
Patti Abbott: Short Story Wednesday: I CANNOT TELL A LIE, EXACTLY, Mary Ladd Gavell
Little Big Crimes Review: The Sounds of Silence by Gabriel Valjan
Short Story Wednesday Review: What Are You Doing New Year's Eve? by Gail Farrelly
With word from Jay Harman of Untreed Reads that this short story would be free at Untreed Reads until January 2 of the coming new year, it seemed like a sign I should remind you of it for this final Short Story Wednesday review of 2022.
8 pm and working on a broken sink in “Carl’s Car Repair Shop” isn’t a lot of fun. It is New Year’s Eve which makes the job on the industrial sink a little bit harder. At the same time with a little girl and a spouse waiting at home at least the hefty fee makes it all worth it.
Everything is okay until Police Chief Rob “The Rat” Ratner shows up. It has been 20 years, but one does not forget what happens to one during the teen years. Payback is a dish best served cold. It is also one heck of a way to start the New Year.
Gail Farrelly’s short story, What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? is another good one from this talented author. Much like her tale, The Jurors Who Knew Too Much, readers are teased here with couple of clues and a twist or two until the tale reaches a satisfying conclusion. Released by Untreed Reads, the story is well worth your time no matter the season of the year.
Material was recently supplied by the publisher in exchange for my objective review.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2015, 2022
Tuesday, December 27, 2022
The Rap Sheet: Revue of Reviewers: 12-27-22
Lesa's Book Critiques: KEVIN’S CORNER ANNEX – A HARD DAY FOR A HANGOVER BY DARYNDA JONES
Jeanne Reviews: Death Perception by Victoria Laurie
Psychic Abby Cooper and her boyfriend, Dutch, are in a good place now—mainly because Dutch has finally accepted Abby’s psychic gifts. They’re going to need them when Dutch gets a call that his cousin Chase has disappeared, apparently kidnapped with a client for whom he was acting as a bodyguard. A lot of blood found at the scene, but even more worrisome is that there has been no ransom demand. Abby and Dutch hop a plane to Las Vegas to try to find out what happened, with Dutch being more than a little close-mouthed about some aspects of Chase’s disappearance. While Abby’s powers aren’t going to pinpoint where he is, she is sure that he’s still alive—at least for now.
This is the sixth in the Psychic Eye Mystery series and while I have read one or two previous entries, I don’t feel this is one that you need to read in order. One of the series’ strengths is in the way it tries to convey what it’s like to have a psychic vision, at least for Abby: much symbolism which can be open to interpretation and how a psychic’s own emotional involvement can make things more difficult. Since Laurie herself professes to be a psychic, I assume she’s drawing on personal experience.
This entry had more international intrigue than I had expected and while some plot elements had been touched on in other books, I didn’t have any trouble following because the author did a good job of filling in the backstory without dragging things out. The story was well-paced and while I had figured a few things out, there were still some surprises.
While the story is serious, there are some madcap moments when Abby’s sister and friend show up in Vegas to help out. This section was a lot of fun, despite the stakes being very high.
I’ll be dipping back into this series again, and maybe try one of her other series as well.
Titles in the Psychic Eye Mysteries are:
Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye
Better Read Than Dead
A Vision of Murder
A Doom with a View
A Glimpse of Evil
A Sense of Deception
A Grave Prediction
A Panicked Premonition
Fated for Felony
Monday, December 26, 2022
Lesa's Book Critiques: MURDER SHE WROTE: DEATH ON THE EMERALD ISLE BY JESSICA FLETCHER & TERRIE FARLEY MORAN
Lesa's Book Critiques: MURDER SHE WROTE: DEATH ON THE EMERALD ISLE BY JESSICA FLETCHER & TERRIE FARLEY MORAN
Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Dead and Gondola: A Christie Bookshop Mystery by Ann Claire
Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: 92 Calls for Submissions in January 2023 - Paying Markets
Markets and Jobs for Writers for 12/25/2022
Aubrey Nye Hamilton Reviews: The Killer in the Snow by Alex Pine
Alex Pine is one of the pseudonyms of British journalist James Raven, who also writes crime fiction under his own name and the names Jaime Raven, JP Carter, and Ali Blood. As Alex Pine, he’s written three books about Detective Inspector James Walker, who moved from London to a village in Cumbria to escape the vengeance of a career criminal that Walker had put behind bars.
The second book in the series The Killer in the Snow (Avon, 2022) finds Walker returning to work after his second Boxing Day in his new home. What he expected to be a slow week kicked off with the discovery of three bodies on a remote farm in the county. Robert and Mary Bateman and their daughter Charlotte were found dead; Charlotte had been stabbed and her parents shot sometime on Christmas Eve. The Batemans were in financial difficulty, as many small farmers in the region were, but Robert had unfortunately taken up gambling, which stressed their finances even more.
Initially Walker suspected that someone decided to collect on gambling debts the old-fashioned way but then his attention was turned to Charlotte’s associates, who were known drug users. The fact that the previous owners of the farm had been killed on-site 20 years previously crops up often, as Walker and his colleagues repeatedly wonder what it is about the farm to attract so much violence. The news from a London colleague that the crime boss Walker had moved north to avoid was out of prison and suspected of another killing adds a layer of worry and distraction to Walker’s days.
This is a whale of a story, with plenty of suspects and just as many surprises. It’s obvious the author is a former journalist, as the writing focuses on the facts and the action without much attention to the setting and similar intangibles. Walker talks about the beauty of the countryside but the glowing description of the area that I’ve seen from other writers such as E.C.R. Lorac is missing. In addition, a strong edit would have reduced page count and tightened the action, making it all move faster. Unfortunately the book drags in a few places.
Despite Pine’s literary shortcomings, he can certainly plot a mystery. The misdirection and cases for possible culprits are well structured as is the reveal of the perpetrator. The motive was suggested more than once but I read past it. I see why this book is rated so highly by Amazon readers. A good read for the winter holidays.
· Publisher: Avon (February 1, 2022)
· Language: English
· Paperback: 400 pages
· ISBN-10: 0008453381
· ISBN-13: 978-0008453381
Aubrey Nye Hamilton ©2022
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.
Sunday, December 25, 2022
Lesa's Book Critiques: CHRISTMAS THOUGHTS
Dru's Book Musings: Coming soon ~ January 2023 Releases
Beneath the Stains of Time: Murder in Retrospect: The Best and Worst of 2022
Bitter Tea and Mystery: Smoke Without Fire: E.X. Ferrars
Dru's Book Musings New Releases: Week of December 25, 2022
Saturday, December 24, 2022
It Is True
Some folks know that I was in FB jail from mid morning yesterday to mid morning today over a joke. FB Bots declared I was "inciting violence" and locked my account. There was no appeal to a human due to all the layoffs at FB. All I could do was wait for the lockout to end.
In reaction to the news I had been freed, Mark Best posted the pic to the right. Made me laugh so you get to see it here. It is true.
JustJoshin Publishing, Inc.: Advent Calendar Day 24
Lesa's Book Critiques: 25 DAYS ‘TIL CHRISTMAS BY POPPY ALEXANDER
Scott's Take: Moon Knight Vol. 2: Too Tough To Die by Jed Mackay
Moon Knight Vol. 2: Too Tough To Die by Jed Mackay is a tough volume to review since it is a set up volume. Moon Knight continues to investigate Zodiac, he faces off with a sentient house, and in The Devil’s Reign tie in he is imprisoned in a prison full of people he helped lock up.
The art is good and there is plenty of violence. Moon Knight is his usual violent, dark self. If you enjoyed the first volume you should enjoy this one. I think my favorite part was The Devil’s Reign tie in issue since what happens in it is basically the plot of a b-movie of the week. I am eagerly looking forward to volume 3.
My review of Volume 1 can be found here and is from back in June.
My reading copy came via the Hoopla App of the Dallas Public Library System.
Scott A. Tipple ©2002
Friday, December 23, 2022
Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Christmas Reading Beyond A Christmas Carol and A Visit From St. Nicholas
The Reading Room: Mother Daughter Traitor Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal: Reading Room Review
Beneath the Stains of Time: Murder in Blue (1937) by Clifford Witting
Bitter Tea and Mystery: Not a Creature Was Stirring: Jane Haddam
Happiness Is A Book: FRIDAY’S FORGOTTEN BOOK: THE CHRISTMAS TREE MURDERS BY JOEL Y. DANE
Barry Ergang's FFB Review: Murder On The Aisle by Ed Gorman
From the massively magnificent archive …
Tobin is a short man—five-foot-five—with a far from admirable past and an even shorter temper at times. His stature, among other traits, has been known to get him into trouble, as it already has when the novel opens. He’s trying to dodge the newspaper reporters and columnists camped out in front of Emory Communications, the company that syndicates Peeps, the movie review program on which he co-stars with his former college roommate and former best friend, Richard Dunphy. Why? Among a number of other reasons, at the night before, at a trendy restaurant, Tobin slugged Dunphy.
Dunphy’s contract with the broadcaster expires after tonight’s program, and rumor has it that he’s thinking about not re-signing. If he doesn’t renew, Tobin could be out of work.
Peeps is notable as “the only movie-review TV show with a live audience,” an audience frequently full of film students, among whom some are able to respond to the two critics during the program’s final segment. “Sometimes the result resembled a brawl.” A vehement disagreement about a film erupts into an actual brawl between Tobin and Dunphy during the taping of the latest show, requiring stagehands to pull the two apart—but not until they’ve inflicted noticeable damage on one another.
When, a little later on, Dunphy knocks on Tobin’s dressing room door and, upon being admitted, falls into Tobin’s arms, a knife sticking out of his back, Tobin becomes the prime suspect in the investigation being conducted by no-nonsense NYPD Detective Huggins, who “reminded him of Frog Face McGraw, the eighth grade’s most notorious bully.” As far as Huggins and others are concerned, Tobin has more murderous motives than anyone else connected to Dunphy, but as Huggins explains when Tobin asks if he’s going to be arrested, “You’ve got a newspaper column and you’ve got a TV show. And you’ve got a lot of friends. So you’re not on your way to the lockup, are you?”
“I guess not.”
“But that doesn’t mean that you won’t be real soon now, Mr. Tobin.”
“I didn’t kill him,” Tobin says repeatedly, but Huggins isn’t buying it. Thus, in a familiar murder-mystery manner, Tobin sets out to find the real killer himself. In the process, he encounters a variety of people he’s dealt with before and others he encounters for the first time. Some seem harmless, others seem—or are—genuinely dangerous, and still others reveal things to him about his late partner that he didn’t know. He also gains some insights into himself, painful though they often are.
Lest I ruin others’ enjoyment, I won’t reveal much more about this brief, quick read of a whodunit beyond that it’s very amusing and loaded with wry commentary about popular music, film, TV, and some of the celebrities therein, and that it’s threaded with mordant humor that spurs its pace. For instance: “He was halfway to the bathroom (he was planning on removing his liver and taking it downstairs to the laundry room and putting it in the drier) when the living-room phone rang.” There are also some semi-serious, semi-humorous descriptive moments: “He stood there as if frozen—feeling at the moment completely isolated from the rest of humanity (no man is an island but some are peninsulas)….”
Murder on the Aisle is a long way from a literary masterpiece, but it’s a fast entertaining novel likely to provide good reading to mystery fans who like amateur detective stories with hard-edges melded with some comedic moments.
Caveat: though it doesn’t abound, there is some raw language in this novel.
Barry Ergang © 2016, 2022
Among his other works, Derringer Award-winner Barry Ergang’s locked-room novelette, The Play of Light and Shadow, can be found in e-book formats at Smashwords.com and Amazon.com
Thursday, December 22, 2022
Lesa's Book Critiques: DEATH IN THE MARGINS BY VICTORIA GILBERT
ANGELA CRIDER NEARY, AUTHOR: BILL CRIDER'S YEARS BEHIND BARS
In Reference To Murder: Mystery Melange - Holiday Edition
Lesa's Book Critiques: WHAT ARE YOU READING?
Publishing ... and Other Forms of Insanity: 54 Writing Contests in January 2023 - No entry fees
Joan Leotta Reviews: Death of a Scholar: A Father Gabriel Mystery by Fiorella De Maria
Death of a Scholar: A Father Gabriel Mystery
By Fiorella De Maria
Publisher St. Ignatius Books
· Paperback : 262 pages
· ISBN-10 : 1621645177
· ISBN-13 : 978-1621645177
Slowly. The book begins slowly. I was fifty pages into it before the “action” began. Be prepared that this is a book to read on afternoons when you are ready to relax with your novel, ready for a long chat over tea. This more old-fashioned sort of beginning for a mystery novel than today’s slam bang way of starting a tale might have put me off, but the idea of following the path of Father Gabriel, a man who shares my father’s name, and who is a formerly married priest, well, that was too intriguing. I persisted and am glad I did.
In postwar England, the time period of Chesterton’s priest, Gabriel brings that added sensibility of a widowed man, (now celibate for God). His extensive “lived” insights into human relationships and sharp observational skills are what make him a great detective and confidant to those who seek his counsel.
De Maria, by forcing me to slow down, did make me “smell the roses” more closely terms of better appreciating her excellent plotting and intricate physiological character assessments. This is the fourth installment of the series, and the first chapter takes us into Gabriel’s mind and allows us to catch up with who he is and where he is. Gabriel’s inner self is central to the book—to all of them, I imagine. We meet him as he sits in the rooms of his old university friend, an academic, at their alma mater.
On page 46 the action of murder mystery begins—“something has happened” Arthur, another key character in this novel, tells Gabriel and off the two of them go to discover the dead body, a woman holding a nitrogen canister.
-Yet, even with the action starting, De Maria, is not in a hurry. The case and Gabriel’s insights unfold with the precious care of a rosebud on a partly sunny day. Along the way, De Maria carefully plants the bits and pieces we and Gabriel need to solve the mystery—"who dunnit” as they say.
Because of my impatience with such pacing, I can only give this mystery a four star, but it is outstanding, and pacing is not all. Although I wish she had moved Father Gabriel along more quickly, I must say, which descriptions would I have consigned to the bin? Which interactions with other characters? Which musings of Gabriel either on the case and about his background? No, I cannot really fault her for lagging “behind” my preferred reading pace—thanks to the beauty of her language, the intimacy of the dialogue she conjures up between Gabriel and the other characters and his own musings.
Will I read more of these if they come out? Yes, and I plan to read the previous three—because now that I’ve put the book down, I miss Father Gabriel. I want to know him better. I’m looking forward to the next one in the series. Definitely the resolution of the mystery is important—that woman, the cannister, what happened, the moral minefield that faces scientists whose work contributes to weapons, but there is more to life than that. De Maria does not bow to the current trend of rapid-fire action, instead giving reads time to see the broader picture of life. Like the mysteries of the classical age. A mystery to be savored.
My reading copy came from the publisher with no expectation of a review.
Joan Leotta ©2022
Joan Leotta plays with words on page and stage. Her poetry, essays, cnf, short stories, and articles are widely published. Mysteries are favorite things to read.. short and long.. and to write.
Wednesday, December 21, 2022
Lesa's Book Critiques: BOOKCLUBBED TO DEATH BY V.M. BURNS
Bookblog of the Bristol Library: Nevermore: 81 Days Below Zero, Salt Path, Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, Paul Newman
MAKE MINE MYSTERY: Christmas, Greenhouses and Life
Patti Abbott: Ten Favorite Books of 2022/Short Story Wednesday
George Kelly: WEDNESDAY’S SHORT STORIES #104: AMONG STRANGERS By Robert Silverberg
Bitter Tea and Mystery: Short Story Wednesday: More from Mistletoe Mysteries
Short Story Wednesday Review: Thuglit Presents Cruel Yule
In honor of the season, I remind you of this one …
Known for their very good bimonthly magazine of crime fiction (often very dark and twisted), the Thuglit folks put together their first themed holiday collection. Thuglit Presents Cruel Yule is an anthology of 11 twisted stories set during the holiday season. If you have ever considered the idea that Santa Claus was a peeping tom pervert who stalked people long before the NSA decided to track everyone, this is the book for you.
After a very brief introduction from Editor Todd Robinson it is on to the stories. “The Santa Con” by Rob Hart gets things going by way of having some Santas in full costume rob a bank. The robbery has been timed to coincide with SantaCon in New York City where hundreds of folks show up dressed like Saint Nick. A perfect plan destined to fail because this is a Thuglit production. The real question is how spectacularly wrong will it go?
Sometimes one can get nitrous oxide outside of going to the dentist and needing a procedure. If you were lucky and at a certain concert out west--- usually some sort of hippie jam or electronic dance festival---- you might have come across a certain van. Led by a normal seeming guy by the name of Chris who was clearly psycho the more time you spent around him he had connections that would get the nitrous. The group would sell the balloon hits that would give you a buzz. In “Christmas Morning Coming Down” by Jordan Harper things were okay until Jimmy got stabbed and everything went wrong out in the desert that Christmas.
Sexual harassment is the backdrop to “Mistletoe” by Hilary Davidson. The holiday party is just an excuse for Ian Wainwright to go after Sadie. She knew almost from her first day of work what kind of guy he was and had managed to avoid things until now. With few options and no help by way of HR Sadie is a millennial that will have to learn a new life skill.
A child of divorce learns mad skills. Some of those skills in negotiation can make one a very good arbitrator. Such a job can be lucrative as noted early on in “Letters to Santa” by Thomas Puck. There are also consequences in a story that has a touch of the Halloween season in it.
It is Christmas day in 1837 as “Okeechobee” by Ed Kurtz begins. In a swamp of the same name, the 4th infantry regiment of a 1000 men has come to quell the Creek and Seminole. While most of the men have the killing of Indians on their mind, a soldier by the name of Parker Getts has a more personal target in mind. Finally, after eleven long years, Parker Getts is going to get payback. His annual Christmas Day prayer has apparently finally been answered.
Discovered by Johnny Shaw, “Feliz Navidead” by Brace Godfrey tells the tale of the world’s deadliest Mexican. He is also the world’s greatest Mexican lover and a few other things. His name is Chingón and men who go up against him die the most gruesome deaths. He loves grenades. Women love him and can’t keep their hands off of him. A former member of an elite team known as the Explosioners that had battled and defeated numerous foes including Dr. Pervert’s mutant army of sex ogres, Chingón has determined that it is time to go to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to see the old gang again. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for Chingón, sex and death are on the menu at the reunion.
The usual poker game is in play as “The Brass Coin” by Justin Porter begins. Dre, a writer, is having a hard time of things. His money situation is not helpful to the goal of buying a nice present for his son. Desperate times call for desperate measures including giving up a very special coin.
When a bodyguard by the name of “Krampus” is driving somebody by the name of “Krissy Kringle” around in her Geo Tracker as a story starts, you know things are going to be weird. In “A Very Blacky Christmas” by Angel Luis Colón, Krissy wants a guy named Black Jaguar dead. Christmas, Florida is her small town and Blacky must die. The problem is he is crazier than she is. The town is going to be a war zone when everything is said, burned, fried, blown up, dead, and done.
For the children of Joseph Ketler a hard life is made worse by an abusive father. Kids playing around just before dinner has consequences in “Fork” by Jan Conley. For some of us, this very well done story brings back some hard memories.
No one will hear Roger Cobb sing “O Holy Night” on Christmas morning in “Unholy Night” by Terrence McCauley. There is no one for miles around the abandoned resort deep in the jungle. That also means nobody is around to hear his prisoner scream. It is time for negations to begin.
The cellar was supposed to have a band for Christmas Eve. But, there is no music and the man known to all as “Boo” is not a happy man. He is less happy when Caleb shows up with a lady Boo vaguely knows. Her name is Darla and she should have way better taste in men. Things are about to get messy in “’Twas The Night Before….” by editor and contributor Todd Robinson.
The 11 tales included in Thuglit Presents Cruel Yule are all dark ones that have virtually nothing in common with the idea of goodwill to all men. Instead, bad will to all is often the theme though there are occasional moments of humor. Dark and twisted as one would expect from Thuglit with some mighty good noir style holiday tales.
Hopefully, this is not the last of the themed holiday collections. After all, Valentine’s Day is coming up which is good for a massacre or two. Then after that somebody has to slaughter all those rabbits for Easter. Not to mention the fact that the Fourth of July demands somebody to take an explosive firework up the rear. Heck of a way to rob a bank. There is a lot of dark potential in holidays for Thuglit to mine.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2015, 2022