A Case Of Noir by Paul D. Brazill

A Case Of Noir

There is a uniquely British feel to Brazill’s noir. Even when his characters are right at home in Poland there is a feel that is unmistakably tied to the way the working class traditionally (and still do in many cases) manage their weekly pay. That is to say that as soon as work finishes they head to the pub until they are tossed on to the street and wander home. This adds a vivid feel that somehow manages to evoke unpleasant smells as well as the expected sights.

This book is a series of linked stories. I’m not sure if it was a deliberate technique to throw the reader back towards the previous story but I personally found that the couple of times a phrase was repeated it knocked me out of my reading rhythm and I had to re-focus. That is about the only negative thing about this book for me. I don’t normally quote from a book in a review but I just have to in this case because this snippet stopped me dead. I thought about it for quite a while before continuing and for me it gets to the heart of Brazill’s writing.

“Anonymous hotels attract interesting peoples but only anonymous people stay in interesting hotels since they hope it will add a bit of colour to their dreary lives.”

This is a thoughtful look at the seedy underbelly of cities across Europe and is well worth a read.

Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock

Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock

Whilst looking through a second-hand book shop last week I realized that although I’d played the roleplaying game Stormbringer and read a few of the later books I’d never read the story that explains how it all started. How could I possibly resist?

Although a fairly short story there is so much story and character in every page that it feels much longer. There is no wasted space in this thoroughly enjoyable story. It made a refreshing change to read a fantasy story that I could hold in one hand.

Probably my favourite thing about Elric’s world is that all sorcery comes at a price. A bargain must be made with the elemental or demon providing the power. The more powerful the magic the more dangerous the bargain. There is one line in this story that makes the whole thing work for me. It basically says that the physical manifestations of a bargain are inversely proportional to the power of the spell. That is the insidious nature of sorcery. The powerful sorcerer thinks they are in control and so makes ever greater bargains that hasten their demise. All that from a single line. There are more lines like that too.

If you have any interest in fantasy fiction you really do need to read this book.

Dinero Del Mar by Garnett Elliott

Dinero Del Mar by Garnett Elliott

This cover perfectly sums up the washed up drifter detective Jack Laramie. Like a lot of detectives in noir stories Jack Laramie is drinking to forget. I find this frustrating in some books because there seems to be no reason and it is just a sulky response to a hard life. Portions of the back-story are scattered through this book in a way that draws you in and puts Jack’s drifting in to context. I really appreciated that.

Although there are two stories in this book they are inter-connected and this led to an ending that was completely unexpected but absolutely perfect. The first story is set at a beauty contest that is scarier and more extreme than those reality show versions on recently. Jack gets screwed in more ways than one and ends up in the cooler. This leads him nicely in to the second story. This one is set in a bohemian estate and showed that it doesn’t matter how rich or well bred people are the same impulses hold sway.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anybody that enjoys crime noir.

 

 

Burning by Joan De La Haye

Burning by Joan De La Haye

Sometimes with a novella like this the cover art is an afterthought and feels discombobulated. Not only does this cover look good and relate to the story but the back cover is the rear of the tarot card pictured on the front. Time, effort and skill went in to this cover and that made me want so see inside.

I don’t read much erotic fiction. Partly because I can feel myself blushing as I read the raunchy bits but mainly because I’d rather read about gruesome murders. The bonus for me in this book is that the sex scenes are all part of the setup for the murders. For me this story is a bit like a sparkly vampire story except instead of mooning around after abs of steel the women are making best use of those bodies and instead of a little love bite there is the whole essence sucking death thing going on. So maybe not like a sparkly vampire story. Much better than that.

This story is set in South Africa and it was interesting to see a Wicca coven portrayed in much the way I would expect over here. I don’t know if that was a deliberate affectation or whether those aspects of paganism exist in South Africa. I’ll certainly be trying to find that out later.

This book was outside my comfort zone. I try to read things that I wouldn’t normally read once in a while. This book has left me thinking that I wouldn’t mind reading horror stories with a more erotic slant in the future. This book doesn’t take long to read and it will leave you wanting more.

Potatoes edited by Stewart Hotston

Potates

This cover screams for attention. From the ludicrous name to absurdity of the cover art. Potatoes do not grow in skulls, do they? This cover should be terrible but there is something in the layering of the photography and illustration that somehow makes the reader look at it for much longer than they should. This made it the ideal cover for this book. How on earth can anybody take an anthology about and even titled potatoes seriously? It was never going to happen.

Why potatoes? You’ll have to buy the book and read the introduction to find out.

I had a pre-conception that this book would contain a series of stories that replaced an object in the story with a potato. Thankfully this was not the case. Nearly all of these stories were obviously written with potatoes as the post important thing about them. From twisting morality tales to first contact with a new sentient race this collection has a diverse array of imaginative stories to tickle those taste buds.

I found this book quite inspiring. A good story-teller can turn any story in to an enchanting tale and this is a great example of that. It is cheaper than a frothy coffee and much more interesting.

 

The Girl at the End of the World Book 2 edited by Adele Wearing

The Girl At The End of the World Part Two

The Girl At The End of the World Part Two

This is as you could probably tell from the title was the second part of the of Girl At The End of the World. It was darker than the first, had longer stories than the first and had more pages than any other Fox Spirit anthology so far. I usually have to think quite hard about my favourite story in a collection like this but for me there was a clear favourite. The Sharks of Market Street by Michael Ezell had me enthralled from start to finish. In my head it was like Waterworld meets Sharkanado with a plot and characters added in. There were plenty of other stories that I enjoyed and there were moments that despite the darkness I laughed. Alec McQuay’s Bunker Buster took the BGF from DOOM to another level and I liked it. There wasn’t a single story I disliked in this book.

The book was broken down in to three sections. Each had a different feel. Moving from fantasy through urban apocalypse and science fiction to the finale at the end of time this book had a flow and a rhythm that somehow managed to tie such diverse stories in to an almost seamless narrative. When I had a flick through before reading it I wasn’t sure about the ending having two much shorter stories after all the longer ones but it worked really well and there was a sense of a conclusion that is rarely as clear in an anthology.

This was a dark and at times gritty collection that really made me think about what the end of the world really means. For a publisher that has always avoided the pitfalls of the misogynistic side of disasters this book twists and turned through  a myriad ways that that women could avoid that and in one story flipped the situation to expertly show that it was the acts themselves regardless of the gender in control that are to be feared and avoided.

I’m off to pack my go-bag now.

Worms edited by Alex Davis

Worms edited by Alex Davis

I have never seen worms as being at all scary before. Tonight I really don’t fancy opening the composter in case there are worms on the surface. I’m still not sure about the cover of this book. Is that a single worm with two mouths or two worms. If two are they going to fight for their food? It is the kind of cover that makes me stop and look again and that is a good thing.

This anthology starts off with possibly the best title short story I’ve ever read. How can you beat Zombie Worms Ate My Hamster? On one hand it is really simple but there is as just something about the way that the words hang together that makes me want to say it again. Zombie Worms Ate My Hamster. After reading that title I had high hopes for that story and K.T. Davies did not disappoint. It was fun and disturbing in equal measure and a real pleasure to read. It was a great way to start a book and was my favourite story.

Each story within this collection feels different. They interpret how worms can be scary in very different ways and yet there is a nice flow between the stories. For less than the price of a frothy coffee it is a great way to spend a lunchtime or two.