FAVORITE KILLS: The Best from 12 Masters of the Genre edited by Dave Zeltserman (2012, Top Suspense)
The Top Suspense Group has unleashed on the public their latest anthology. In a collection which would do Jim Thompson proud, this is a hard-boiled collection for fans of the genre. There is also a brief mention of each author’s current work between stories so as to allow the reader the opportunity to further sample the writings. As I encounter more and more of these collections, I become increasingly convinced we are in a golden age of genre writing not seen since the 1930’s pulp era.
The collection begins with Dave Zeltserman’s “Archie’s Been Framed”. Archie is the narrator of the story and personal assistant to Julius Katz, a private investigator who hates to leave his house. Archie is also a secret computer program of immense sophistication which resides in Katz’s tie clasp. The story is told from Archie’s POV. In this tale, someone has managed to frame Archie for a murder he didn’t commit. Since Archie lacks corporal form, this could never have happened. And it’s up to Archie to give Katz all the information he needs to find the real killer.
Next is “Night Nurse” by Harry Shannon. A sick man is admitted to a hospital and starts wondering why he isn’t getting any better. The only person who seems to care about him is the night nurse. A gripping ending.
“Solomon and Lord Drop Anchor” by Paul Levine concerns the adventures of Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord, two Miami lawyers who spend more time arguing than solving cases. The two find themselves on a fishing boat owned by a man who’s trying to get out of paying Solomon’s mentor what he owes her. The story reminded me of The Thin Man series.
Naomi Hirahara’s “Number 19” is a bitter tale with a depressing ending. A tired waitress tries to strike up a friendship with a Korean masseuse. But there are rules to be followed at the Salon. Rules the client will never understand.
“Sweet Dreams” by Vicki Hendricks is hilarious. Two elderly pothead women spend their golden years dreaming about Hawaii. When a local homeless man tries to movie in on them, one of the women hatches a plan to make some cash. Another great tale inspired by true life events.
“House Rules” by Libby Hellman has a married couple trying to salvage their marriage in a Nevada casino when they find a box hidden in the desert sand. What’s in the box brings at least one of them bliss.
“Angie” by Ed Gorman is a tale of dark suspense with a wicked ending. A small time bank robber plots to kill his only son. But the boy may have a savior in the form of his dad’s ex-prostitute girl friend. Easily the most vicious story in the collection.
Joel Goldman’s “Knife Fight” is told from the viewpoint of a black convict awaiting trial for murder. His only possibility of being cleared is in the form of his lesbian lawyer. Plus points for a surprise ending.
“Jack Webb’s Star” by Lee Goldberg manages to combine, humor sexual obsession and crime in one tale. A washed-up Hollywood screen writer tries to kick-start his relationship with his wife. But she only gets her motor running when Dragnet is on TV. How he meets the challenge drives the story.
“Restraint” by Stephen Gallagher begins with a woman in a hospital having just left the scene of an accident. But what really concerns her is the body of her ex-husband in the trunk. A genuine creepy piece.
Bill Crider’s “Top of the World” has a mechanic being hired out as the getaway driver for a rural bank robber. But he gets involved with the hold-up man’s partner, leading to his downfall.
“A Matter of Principal” by Max Allan Collins brings his mobster hit man Quarry into play. Quarry is relaxing in the rural American Midwest when he stumbles across two of his former business associates. What they’re involved with presents the hit man with all kinds of opportunities. A wicked and humorous ending caps the tale.
Favourite Kills 2 is due to be released in the next few months. It should be interesting to see what noir it will contain.