Eve Gaal’s Loser’s Ledge focuses on Viola, a woman of a certain age standing on the roof of a twenty-story building, ready to jump to her death because she can’t forgive herself for all the things that went wrong in her life, particularly one fateful day when “a simple but massive blunder…fogg(ed) up all of her good intentions and all her judgment by clouding her brain with self-pity and loathing,” all because of a lottery ticket. If there’s a moral to this poignant, tense drama, it would be: “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself!”
Joanne Dobson is renowned for her popular mystery book series about Professor Karen Pelletier, but I’ll admit I was particularly eager to read Dobson’s story Hey, Girlie because I grew up primarily in the Bronx myself, including being an alumna of Fordham University, where Dobson has taught. The emotions and the setting of the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx after World War 2 really rang true for me, having had family members who’d fought overseas as well. My heart went out to Rachel Cohen, the unfortunate poet and concentration camp survivor who has to face her tormentor from the camps regularly now that the creep is the building’s new super. Rachel’s account of wearing her white linen dress in hopes that “if I looked nice, they’d know I was a nice girl” broke my heart—which also went out to our bewildered, apprehensive young heroine, and her rude awakening about terrible truths that she’s not quite ready to comprehend. Rachel gets her well-deserved revenge, but at a terrible cost. If Stephen King/Richard Bachman’s Thinner made you think twice about eating strawberry pie, you might never think about cherry-topped coconut cake quite the same way again after reading Hey, Girlie.
|Alfred Hitchcock by Rick Geary|
Fiction Noir meets Food Noir in author and radio host Amy Beth Arkawy’s elegantly cheeky murder tale Dangerous Appetites! Pity the artist who doesn’t have the opportunity to take part in his/her craft, like Stella, Arkawy’s frustrated chef/heroine/narrator, whose medium happens to be food. Stella curses the day her ruthless, high-powered attorney husband decided to lose weight, contributing to their crumbling marriage: “It’s been nine months since Leo first appeared on cable TV as the defense attorney in the high profile Dillinger murder case. The day after he saw his bloated visage float across the screen like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon, Leo started ordering those vile diet dinners.” That’s not the postman ringing twice, nor the pizza guy; it’s gourmet murder to go. As in Joanne Dobson’s Hey, Girlie, coconut cake is enticingly mentioned here. Suddenly I’m getting hungry; must be Arkawy’s great sensory details and deliciously witty dialogue!
|Raymond Chandler by Rick Geary|
|Grim Reaper by JWilliams|
Dennis Brock’s The Vinegar of the Seven Thieves is a tale of desperate, hungry people who find themselves running afoul of spies during World War 2, including the draft-dodger narrator. No glamorous James Bond-type spies in this brooding, gritty tale. To me, it’s the most deeply steeped in the noir style, with its no-way-out fatalism.
|Art by Rick Geary|
We love Lucy—Lucy Gordon, that is! Lucy is a young local newspaper reporter by day and, in today’s tough economy, a janitor by night in Murder Brokers by Jennifer Leeper. One of her cleaning clients, Arrow Property Group, is quite neat—too neat, as if nobody uses their chairs and desks at all. And what connection does it all have with the recent spate of pretty cleaning ladies turning up dead? As a writer and editor, I could relate to heroine Lucy Gordon’s annoyance about “the drastic surgery performed on my county commission stories by our copy editor.” Another great line: “It’s a voice that commands, it doesn’t request.” In addition to Lucy, I also found the other characters memorable and engaging, as was the depiction of small-town life and its newspaper reporters.
“Did you eat a fox sandwich to become so smart?”
Bernard Schaffer’s When the Man Comes Around is another standout, a suspenseful story harkening back to a shameful chapter of medical history. In 1935, Dr. Antonio Egas Moniz devised the lobotomy, convincing other doctors and the public that it was a surefire cure for any and all mental disorders. The 1940s and 1950s were the lobotomy’s heyday until people wised up and antidepressants were invented to make all those pesky emotional problems go away. New York City Police Detective Jimmy O’Leary is horrified to discover that a certain Dr. Freid is performing lobotomies the no-frills way: with a spike and a mallet and a life of being a virtual vegetable—if the patient lives. And Jimmy’s troubled ten-year-old nephew is next, despite his having responded well after spending time with Uncle Jimmy! The kid’s all-but-neglectful parents just seem to want the quick fix promised by Dr. Freid. But Jimmy has his own prescription for the “good doctor”…. Great dialogue, including this passage at the station house:
“Hey, what’s a nice way to say I was dealing with an ass…and he wouldn’t shut his yap?”
One of the older detectives said, “The subject was belligerent despite my repeated attempts to coerce him otherwise.”
|Cornell Woolrich by Rick Geary|
The anthology ends on a moody yet playful note with Ivan Jenson’s poem Love Noir, crystallizing the classic film noir tropes beautifully. Fiction Noir’s fabulous smorgasbord of noir tales are the book equivalent of a Thanksgiving feast!
Find more terrific Hen House Press books at http://loveandpublishing.com/henhouse.htm
|Fiction Noir is perfect for light reading....|
|...so give Fiction Noir a shot!|
|Would Dashiell Hammett steer you wrong? (Art by Rick Geary.)|
|Art by Eric Bowman|
Step into your local bookstore and get ahold of Fiction Noir today! Available at Barnes & Noble Nook, Amazon Kindle, and the Google eBookstore, as well as in paperback. (Holiday gift-giving season is just around the corner!)