Crimewave Eleven [Ghosts], Reviewed

A baker’s dozen of atmospheric stories, half from TTA Press regulars including Nina Allan, Christopher Fowler, Cody Goodfellow, British Fantasy Award winner Joel Lane, Alison J. Littlewood and Steve Rasnic Tem, all wrapped in a haunting Ben Baldwin cover.

 

Dave Hoing is an Interzone regular from TTA’s early involvement with the magazine, but the opening –and closing- story of the anthology, ‘Plainview’ is his first crime story. The opening segment, ‘The Shoe Store’ depicts small–town America 1975; Plainview is archetypically sleepy, so quiet that the sheriff plays finger football with pieces of paper, and the most excitement to be had is that the Farm Expo was coming to the hippodrome in nearby Ridgemont in January. All the latest farm equipment would be on display. When a young girl goes missing, attention focuses on the sleazy owner of the local shoe shop. The second part, ‘The Blood Cools’ which concludes the anthology, is set thirty-four years later and has a very different tone.

 

Nina Allan’s ‘Wilkolak’ is another of her trademark South East London stories, most recently visited in ‘Silver Wind.’ Kip is an ordinary teenager living in Manor Park who photographs a man he is sure is a paedophile, and becomes increasingly fascinated by the so-called Manor Park Monster; He knew his interest in the monster was growing. He disliked this feeling, distrusted it, but was unable to let it go. He would have liked to have discussed it with Sonia, but was afraid that she might start to think he was weird, one of the lonely serial killer types who bought true crime magazines. Kip has the opportunity to report his discovery, but doesn’t. Utterly compelling.

 

In ‘The Conspirators,’ by Christopher Fowler, a meeting in one of the new super hotelsof two senior executives and an expensive whore turns deadly serious. Cynical, dryly witty and Highly Recommended.

 

From a desert to another wasteland for Mikal Trimm’s  ‘Who’s Gonna Miss You When You’re Gone?’ Desmond is a thirty-something jailbird living with his parents in abject poverty, in a metal shack in the Florida panhandle whose floor is rusting beneath the family. There are no great surprises about the revelation of Desmond’s family secrets, but Trimm handles his protagonist’s redemption with great sensitivity, and in the end uses the stereotypes in his story to work something marvellous. Outstanding.

 

As is Richard Butner’s ‘Holderhaven’ which is packed with red herrings; prestignatory former Black Panther members, the restoration of an old house built at the turn of the last century and the revelation of its secrets in a leisurely stroll through history and house alike.    

 

‘Eleven Eleven’ by Cheryl Wood Ruggiero offers a child’s eye view of the symbolism of numbers, a murder, amnesia and revelation, all wrapped in the crypto-logic of childhood: No parents were with her that day, so she assumed that she didn’t have any, which ordinary people have, which was more proof that Alsie was un-ordinary.

 

Ilsa J. Beck’s terrific ‘Where the Bodies Are’ opens in a wintry Michigan cemetery where the local Jewish population are all buried. Miriam watches from her psychiatrist’s office just across the street; Miriam wasn’t particularly morbid –or Jewish for that matter- and she wasn’t one of those sicko graveyard junkies. Just kept an eye on the place. When her old lover is assigned to the case of a young mother brought into hospital bearing signs of recent childbirth, he and Miriam clash, and they take the first steps toward revelation. Outstanding.

 

Many of the stories in the book deal with child molestation, abduction and murder. ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ by Cody Goodfellow is perhaps the only one to look at ways of stopping it. Set in a deceptively quiet suburb, the narrator is a retired security guard who, since his wife died five years before maintains a lonely vigil over his neighbours, and shows to what lengths the truly committed will go to protect the innocent.

 

O’Neil de Noux’s  ‘K Love’ is set in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina and its lesser known successor Hurricane Rita. Jodie Kintyre of the NOPD finds a ‘jumper’ who has thrown himself off a roof. The suicide note in his pocket tells of a crime he has committed. Despite the snappy dialogue and rich scene setting the story doesn’t really work, reading more as a fragment of a longer piece than a self-contained narrative.

 

Better is ‘Living Arrangements’ by Steve Rasnic Tem. Now an old man reflecting on his inadequacies as a father, Monte is invited by his daughter Lacey to move in with her family.  Monte quickly recognizes new man Pete; Monte had been a guy like Pete, pretty much. Monte guessed if he was healthier, he’d still be a guy like Pete. Pete is a mean drunk, as he demonstrates on Monte, Lacey and grandson Brian one night, but then Lacey unexpectedly offers Monte a shot at redemption.

 

Prison stories have a long and honourable tradition dating back to Dumas, although Stephen King is probably the chief reason for their resurgence. The latest addition to the sub-genre comes from Alison J. Littlewood, whose ‘4A.M., When The Walls Are Thinnest’ features men driven to seek escape, both from prison and from reality.

 

Joel Lane’s ‘The Hostess’ extends the theme of ghosts to the literal in this short but chilling tale of a horrific murder in Birmingham in the early 1980s that ends with a clever twist. Highly Recommended.

 

Luke Sholer’s ‘We Are two Lions’ an assassin agrees to teach his lover his trade, until the pupil begins to eclipse his master; full of twists and double-crosses, it’s clear why Sholer has been Edgar-nominated. The story is as cold and unforgiving as each man’s heart.

 

Crimewave has established a reputation for high quality crime fiction, sometimes with a hint of the macabre. The ghosts in volume eleven are sometimes symbolic, sometimes literal, but always present. The stories are atmospheric, the settings memorable and the characterization acute. They help make Crimewave Eleven a five-star experience.

 

• July 1st, 2011 • Posted in Reviews • Comments: 0

Displacement Reviewed at Innsmouth Free Press

In which our author celebrates an excellent review of a book that in internet terms has been out about a million years, and explains why.

About eighteen months ago Swimming Kangaroo Books published my debut collection Displacement. Unfortunately, despite several attempts to reshedule it, it ended up coming out less than two weeks after publication of Winter Song

It’s difficult -verging on impossible- to adequately promote two books simultaneously.  Anything less than a six month gap between them risks leaving one or both inadequately promoted. 

And because one was a break-out novel from a major house, versus a small press collection, unsurprisingly Displacement’s publication was lost in the blizzard of noise about Winter Song, and the subsequent shenanigans about the restructuring of Angry Robot.

By the time I got a chance to focus on Displacement, in the ephemeral nature of modern publishing, it was old news, and reviewers prepared to review small press collections are in any event, limited.

Which is why when it does get a nice review, I want to celebrate it.

Author, editor and critic Paula R Stiles has given Displacement a  thorough, considered, and generally favourable review over at Innsmouth Free Press. Which is not to say that she hasn’t pointed what she felt I could have done better, but when that happens the words of praise feel as if they’ve been rather more earned than a more gushing review.

I’m hoping to make a couple more posts about older books over the next couple of weeks, while continuing to look forward.

• June 8th, 2011 • Posted in Reviews • Comments: 0

Updates

News of new reviews, interviews and A Sekrit Project.

This morning seems a good time to round up some on-going stuff, some of which I’ve mentioned in passing recently.

First up, I’ve guest-blogged over at Alathea Kontis’ Genre Chick Interview, which was fun; there are some clues within as to when the interview took place, for the mildly curious.

Secondly, Ian Whates’ anthology Further Conflicts has received its first review, and Warpcore SF had some kind things to say about ‘Occupation,’ my contribution.

Finally, still on the subject of reviews and interviews, I’ve received my first commission from a ‘general’ (as opposed to genre) magazine to interview a fellow writer. Unfortunately, I can’t yet identify them, partly because I’m not sure of the etiquette of announcing thecommission, but also for fear of jinxing it. Let’s just say that I’m absolutely ecstatic at actually getting my first journalism commission! (I’ll reveal all nearer the time – honest)

Until next time.

C

• May 26th, 2011 • Posted in News • Comments: 0

Time Flying

I had so many plans for this morning; read the paper, then blog, before knuckling down to assembling Transtories.

I managed to get the paper read (it’s not as self-indulgent as it sounds; I find newspapers helpful for generating ideas, not for what they write, but how they write it, with less immediacy and more analysis) but then I remembered a couple of jobs that needed to be done. A couple of pitches later, and three and a half hours have gone by.

Partly it’s in the nature of the job – facts need to be checked, sources tracked down, websites lock up and machines crash, but it all adds to the sense of dislocation. I feel as if I’m aboard Poul Anderson’s Leonora Christian - with the elapsed time, in my head it’s barely eight o’clock, but in the universe outside, it’s ten past eleven…

• May 17th, 2011 • Posted in Writing • Comments: 1

Monday Morning Anthology Update

Another Monday has rolled around, but I don’t have to be on campus on 1pm, so with the last assignment finished, I’m free to turn my attention back to writing and editing.

I have a feeling that I rather buried the appearance of my story ‘Dark’ in Fearology when I posted Saturday’s blog. So, to repeat — I have a new story out!

I know a couple of the other contributors, having reviewed Gustavo Bondoni’s excellent but off-beat work in Albedo One, and Camille Alexa is another name I’m familiar  with, so I’m looking forward – now I have some time- to reading it.

And on the subject of Aeon Press, (as well as publishing Transtories, my latest anthology, they also publish Albedo One) I’ve been pulling together bios and chasing overdue revisions, so I’m hoping to post an update about Transtories, very soon. Who knows, maybe even some cover art….

• May 16th, 2011 • Posted in Books • Comments: 0

Synchronicity

I’m onto the last section of the first draft of my Text Analysis  for Genre – just crime left to do now. The downside is that I’m already 400 words over target, despite cutting the SF section down to the bone (I cut it from 1300 to 900 words, barely enough to cover all the points, one of Anthony’s priorities). I’ve spent close to 30 hours on this damned paper…

But I had a nice surprise this morning; by a lovely piece of synchronicity, as I was working on the horror section, the postman came. Kate put a parcel on the table, which I opened…to reveal…(drum roll)

A new horror anthology.

And I’m in it. I write very little horror, but I do like to keep my hand in. And I’m second on the Table of Contents, with ‘Dark, which is rather nice.’ You can obtain copies from here.

• May 13th, 2011 • Posted in Books • Comments: 0

Guest Interview at EC Ambrose’s Blog

Some months ago, a group of us writerly types on the net formed the Codex Blog Tour to cross-promote each other’s work. Codex is a group that’s open to writers with a promotional sale, or who have attended qualifying workshops such as Clarion, Odyssey or Viable Paradise. Many of us have blogs such as this one, and you may have read my interviews with Aliette de Bodard and Brad Beaulieu.

 One of the bonuses of this sort of activity is that it brings us into contact with writers who we wouldn’t normally meet.

Such an author is the mysterious Dark Historical author E.C. Ambrose, who has posted an interview with me on their website, in which I talk about Dark Spires at some length. That gives me an excuse to put up Andy’s lovely dirigible fuelling station again!

• May 10th, 2011 • Posted in Interviews • Comments: 0

Breathlessly Back to Acadamie

The alarm rang at 5.30 this morning - yes, it’s Summer term. Having done a 58-hour week last week (some holiday) it’s hard to notice any difference.

I left the house at 7.30, and caught the train into Bath, where a charming gentleman at the station refused to sell me the Plusbus part of the ticket I caught for uni, on the principle that I should have bought it in Keynsham. My argument that the station can’t actually issue PlusBus tickets cut little ice with him. Finally, he relented after consulting his supervisor– and I just about caught the orange bus into campus in time for the lecture. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, since missing this one might have affected my mark…

After much more rushing around I managed to get home at about 2.30, and even now I’m still catching my breath…

I shall return -hopefully less out of breath than today- tomorrow!

• May 9th, 2011 • Posted in Interviews • Comments: 0

The Sixty at Eastercon

One of the things I’m most looking forward to at Eastercon this year is getting my hands on a copy of  The Sixty: Arts of Andy Bigwood .

In case you’re unfamiliar with his name, Andy has done the artwork for my two of my three previous anthologies, so I freely admit to a tinge of nepotism. But more pertinently, he’s has been a finalist for the BSFA award in three of the last four years, and has won twice, for his cover for Ian Whates’ Subterfuge, and the year before for Cracked World for Whates’ previous anthology DisLocations. (sigh, I knew them both before they were famous…) So the BSFA think he’s good as well. 

One of the things I love about Andy’s work is that with its spaceships and other SF tropes it’s reminiscent of the cover art from the early 1970s, by artists like Bruce Pennington and Eddie Jones; but while Andy’s work is tech-heavy, there are hints that he’s beginning to experiment, to play with other form.

As I said last time, I’ll be signing both books, as will lots of other authors, such as Gareth L Powell and Andy Remic; The Sixty includes all the aforementioned, plus my own Displacement, Sam Stones’ Killing Kiss, and many, many others. All illustrations are accompanied by short passages from the texts illustrated, and Andy may have an original short story or two in there from various authors.

It promises to be a wonderful book.

• April 10th, 2011 • Posted in Books • Comments: 0

Anthology Update

This is the stage of editing Transtories that is proving most difficult, and most instructive.

It’s the first time that I’ve had to deal with the consequences of an open call for subs -Killers, Future Bristol and Dark Spires were all invitation only.

One practical effect is that there are far more stories to read for an open sub anthology than for one with an invitation only policy, which of course takes up more time. 

Unsurprisingly, stories fit into three roughly equal categories; the ones that are easy to accept, the ones that are easy to reject, and the last ones, which are almost there, but not quite. These are the ones that call for multiple readings.

I’ve asked for a couple of rewrites for my preferred ones, but in some instances there seems to be something of a communication gap, and I now have the dilemma of how much more time I spend trying to nudge these stories toward the quality I’m looking for.

Meanwhile, I’ve posted a couple of acceptances, and I’m intending to add more at the rate of about one a day; it might not be exactly that, but I need to have the line up completed by Eastercon.

Which is where I’ll be attending a launch party for not one but two books containing my work at the same time.  (I’m not the only person claiming this singular honour, so you have even more reason to turn up and buy both books!)

First up is Further Conflicts, Ian Whates’ sequel to his 2010 anthology.

It has a fine BSFA nominated cover by Andy Bigwood, and I get to share to Table of Contents with my stunt double Tony Ballantyne, fellow Angry Robots Lauren Beukes, Andy Remic and Dan Abnett, as well as Gareth L Powell, Eric Brown, Kim Lakin-Smith, Adam Roberts and others.

I’ll talk about -the other title- The Sixty: Arts of Andy Bigwood next time. 

Before I go, you’ll notice that I’ve posted links to all the books here; in the interests of full disclosure, I get a small fee if you buy through the site, and you get to save money – so it’s win-win. :)

• April 6th, 2011 • Posted in Appearances, Books • Comments: 0