Saturday, February 25, 2006

Flesh & Blood: Guilty As Sin, edited by Max Allan Collins & Jeff Gelb

(pb; 2003: story anthology)

Overall review:

Excellent third entry in the Flesh & Blood anthology series, whose titles include Flesh & Blood and Flesh & Blood: Dark Desires.

Reviews, story by story:

Low Tide” – Dick Lochte: Twisty tale about bank robbers, a bank teller and a disgraced security guard. Solid, with an anything-could-happen ending.

Back O’ Town Blues” – David Fulmer: Named after a Louis Armstrong song that’s playing on the juke at the beginning of the story... Predictable offering, to those familiar with the genre. Fun read, with some great lines (“Imagine a prime Tuesday Weld on crank”).

Dalliance At Sunnydale” – Barbara Collins: Marital ennui, murder and betrayal in a nursing home. Collins’s tale is a fresh take on that familiar noir set-up, with a fitting, blackly humorous finish. Highly enjoyable, this.

The Iberville Mistress” – O’Neil DeNoux: A PI, Lucien Caye, finds himself in the middle of an intricate divorce-blackmail case, with unexpected results. Gleefully steamy, sleazy story, this.

Service” – Gary Lovisi: Original, entertaining tale about an accountant who becomes enthralled with an evil-minded 300-pound stripper named Clarise, and her criminal intentions. Given the story’s set-up, the ending’s disappointing at best. Still worth reading, though.

The Last Reel” – Gary R. Bush: A porn writer-director with a love of noir films (particularly Out of the Past and Double Indemnity) tries to make an erotic noir film to rival the aforementioned classics. But will it cost him his life? Structurally modeled after Double Indemnity, this is easily one of the best tales in this collection. A memorable, loving homage to the noir genre.

A Delicate Mission” – Michael Collins & Gayle Lynds: Solid tale about two CIA agents who get sexually involved with the ‘targets’ of their related mission. Long – perhaps too long – on sex, short on plot, it’s one of the lesser stories in this collection, reminiscent of something put out by a fledgling smut writer.

Perfection” – Jeff Gelb: Predictable, given the narrow focus of the prose, tale about two gym sluts – one of whom may or may not be a serial killer. Mercifully brief, this.

Walking To Paris” – Rex Miller: Breezy, amusing fluff about a stewardess named Britney who cheerfully gets revenge on her cheating husband. Not memorable, but fun.

Feel The Pain” – Michael Bracken: One of my favorite tales in this collection. A bounty hunter rescues an abused rich bitch from her husband, only to wind up a suspect in a murder case. Lots of twists and cynical turns, with a droll sense of humor. Excellent.

Sex Crimes” – Michael Garrett: Perverse, clever tale with a wicked, unexpected twist at the end. One of the best stories in this collection.

Money-Back Guarantee” – Marthayn Pelegrimas & Robert J. Randisi: Well-written tale about two bar buddies and sexual fidelity. The end-line, a double- or triple-entendre, is priceless, enviable.

A Hatful Of Ralph” – Loren D. Estleman: Ralph Poteet, a perennial f**k-up, finds himself in a dangerous, possibly fatal, situation after discovering the dead body of the store manager who just fired him. Hilarious in a Billy Bob Thornton-Bad Santa way, this sports inspired crudity and a fitting finish. Superb, this.

Bank Job” – Thomas S. Roche: Normally lesbian sex scenes bore me. However, in this Resevoir Dogs-esque story, where two lesbian bank robbers torture and rape a cop, Roche’s go-for-broke prose is ably intermingled with some risibly nasty dialogue, and a furthering of plot. Again, one of the best entries in this collection.

The Windsor Ballet” – Deborah Morgan: Fast-moving piece about a woman who disappears at a strip club-bachelorette party. Engaging characters and plot, satisfying and funny (if melancholy) finish.

Good Career Moves” – Robert S. Levinson: A studio gofer gets caught up in a web of deceit involving an aspiring pop singer, a bastard of a record producer (who’s possibly been murdered) and other L.A. types. Some of its predictable, but it’s well-written, with characters that ring true, and has a strong ambiguous ending.

Dicks Are Blind” – James L. Traylor: So-so story about a PI who’s hired to investigate a woman who might be cheating on his client. Solid, but blah.

Lie Beside Me” – Max Allan Collins & Matthew V. Clemens: A bored former spy and his Texas wife encounter a perverse, sexually-charged situation, born of the spy’s dangerous past. Amusing, action-oriented tale.

Mirror, Mirror” – Catherine Dain: A woman stares at herself in the mirror of a strange bedroom, wondering how she got there... Odd, didn’t-quite-grab-me tale, with some admirably nasty elements.

A Dick And Jane Story” – Jack Kelly: Aimless piece about a missing dog, and the titular odd neighbors. Booooring.

The Raiders” – Gary Phillips: Too-convoluted tale about a blackmailed congresswoman and the PI helping her. Otherwise, well-written.

The Daffodil” – Annette Meyers & Martin Meyers: Set in New York, this tale about a murdered gangster sports a lot of colorful, distinctive characters. Good read!

Nighthawks” – John Lutz: The title, inspired by the famous Edward Hopper painting (which is shown in the story) is also the name of the bar where Amy meets Jerry, who, it seems, may be the ideal lover for her. Great story, with plenty of atmosphere (loneliness is a theme) and stunning (if sad) finish. One of the best entries in this collection.

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