Superstition holds that the number 13 is an unlucky one, however, the publishers at Number Thirteen Press are looking to turn the number 13 into a lucky one for lovers of noir and pulp novellas. Their first offering, Of Blondes and Bullets, by Michael Young, suggests that the number 13 just may become a noir lover’s best friend.
This novella is a sharp as a glass shard. From the opening scene, all the way to the denouement, the reader is treated to a book that has them rushing through the plot as if they were on a runaway train. This book has me excited to see the rest of the offerings from this publisher, who has the unique idea of publishing a new novella on the 13th of every month.
I am not one for plot summaries, as I feel they can contain spoilers of plot twists that are better experienced by the reader as they enter the world created by an author. I can say that this book features a damsel in distress, a main character who does what comes naturally when he comes upon said damsel, and the aftermath of his actions that take him from “everyman” and thrusts him into a world of shadowy figures and danger at every turn.
I believe that the key to the “everyman thrust into the unknown” plot is to have the main character behave in a manner that the reader can relate to and have the character think thoughts that the reader can accept and relate to. Without that connection between the main character’s actions and thoughts and the reader, the plot tends to become unbelievable and can leave the reader shaking their head in disbelief. This story never went in that direction. The main character is believable, he is not a tough guy, buy a guy who can be tough when the situation demands it of him. He shows fear, but fights against his fear when he recognizes doing so is the only option he has.
As the main character, Frank, finds himself in a bad way and faced with only violence as an answer, the author allows us into his thoughts and we feel his conflict as he thinks “At one and the same time, he felt and wished to be the kind of man who could pull the trigger and the kind of man who could not”. I loved the author’s ability to bring the character’s inner turmoil to us and allow us to see him as a man with his back to the wall with no alternatives but to reach inside himself to the dark places we would prefer to think we don’t possess.
All in all, this is a strong offering from Michael Young and a great start to the Number Thirteen Press offerings. I can hardly wait to read the next offering. If there is something bad to be said about this novella, it would be that it has set the bar extremely high for the novellas that will follow. Here’s to the hope that the next twelve novellas live up to this one!