What Happens in Reno is a Happening Book

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Someone really needs to tell me what the hell is in the water at All Due Respect Books! Every book they publish kicks ass and this book shows that not only do they publish kick ass books, the publishers write them too!

What Happens in Reno by Mike Monson is classic noir. A main character that has plans of grandeur but is destined for disaster, a dame with no allegiances other than to herself, a criminal recently released from prison, and a financial windfall that everyone wants to get their hands on.

When Matt gets money from selling the dilapidated home he inherited after the death of his mother, he intendeds to give some money to his wife to pay for her cosmetic surgery and pay down their ever expanding debt. But once the money is in his hands, those ideas go by the wayside. He quickly decides that a trip to Reno is a better plan of action.

Soon he has everyone looking for him to get their hands on his money. Lydia, who has been supporting Matt through his long stretches of unemployment, wants him to give her the money he has promised to her. Lydia’s new lover, Hunter who was recently released from prison, needs the money to pay off the IRS, and his stepson Tanner, who is simply looking to impress Hunter and repaying him for the attention he has been lavishing on his.

If Matt wants to make it out of Reno with any money at all he has to keep his wits about him to stay one step ahead of his pursuers. But nothing is as easy as it seems in the world created by Monson. This is a fun, quick read that shows great noir is still being published (or re-released in this case).

Highly Recommended

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The Kind of Friends is my Kind of Book

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“Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.”

Never has this quote seem more prophetic than in Chris Rhatigan’s The Kind of Friends Who Murder Each Other. Three people share their secrets and all three are willing to kill to keep them secrets.

When Simon, Mackey, and Slade set to drinking one night at the local bowling alley, their conversation follows the typical bar banter; taxes, the high cost of cigarettes, etc. This typical bar banter takes a dark turn when the friends each share a dark secret about themselves. The secrets range in depravity, from breaking into homes to watch people sleep, to being the driver in a hit and run accident and finally to admitting being guilty of murder, the friends each share a piece of their soul without thinking of the consequences.

The problem with their indiscretions become apparent when they each become paranoid that the others now have a bargaining chip over them. They each realize that the only way to rectify their mistake is through the elimination of the other two. Each friend sets out to put their own plan of self-preservation into action, while also watching their own backs.

One of the highlights of this book is the manner in which Rhatigan portrays the decomposition of the narrator’s mind and soul. At the beginning of the book, Simon seems like a stable, hard working man, but as the story progresses we start to see all the cracks that exist within him and we know this story won’t end well for him.

This is noir just the way I like it…a quick hit that leaves a mark. I am very glad to see this book getting re-released and it is apparent that All Due Respect has another winner of their hands. This book is a noir lovers dream and is best consumed in one sitting so you can truly appreciate Rhatigan’s genius.

Highly Recommended

Noir Like It’s Meant to Be

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All Due Respect Issue 7 has arrived and if that doesn’t quicken your pulse you may be dead. The release of the All Due Respect quarterly publication is one of the greatest events that happen in the noir realm. Every issue has been jam packed with great noir stories, great interviews, and awesome book reviews and this issue continues that trend.

The issue opens with the story Wet City by Ray Zacek and it is a great slice of noir with 2 men looking to take what belongs to a local drug dealer. They believe this will be an easy robbery, but as in any great noir story, things aren’t always as they appear. This story sets the bar pretty high for the stories that follow, but as a reader of all the ADR quarterly issues, I knew the other stories could, and would, hold their own.

Shoot the Dog by Joe L. Murr demonstrates the most deadly thing in a noir story just might be a woman who is out to make sure she gets what she wants. This story leaves you wondering why any man would trust any woman. Great story with an awesome ending that leaves you racing onto the next story like a fiend who needs their next hit.

Well that next hit satisfies even the most hardened noir lover! Histories of the Dead by Math Bird is like noir crack for the reader. I loved this story and really enjoyed the notion that sometimes revenge may take a long time to come around, but it always comes around. Great tale that proves revenge is best served cold…as long as it is served in spades.

Dead Dogs and Boomsticks by Matthew J. Hockey mixes family loyalty with drugs and murder. I loved the manner in which Hockey uses his words to paint a picture of absolute revolution. “Yellow hooded sweatshirt open over his distended stomach, tar black blood pooled solid in the lines of where his gym-sculpted abs would have been if they hadn’t dissolved away”. Beautiful imagery…absolutely beautiful.

Next up is Night Driver by Brian Haycock. This shows the life you subscribe to if you choose to be a call girl or a pimp. A quick, but hard hitting story that shows an economy of words is not a detriment to a great story.

Six-Inch Valley by Frank Byrns is a love story with a noir twist. This shows that even criminals long for love…but we all know it is out of reach. I found this story to be a great one and closed the short story section with a bang.

This issue contains interviews with the publisher of 280 Steps Publishing (check out some of my older reviews for an idea of the great books they are publishing) and Patricia Abbott. I have not read Abbott’s Concrete Angel and this interview put it right at the top of my TBR pile.

Add all this goodness to 6 book reviews and a preview of the ADR book, Nine Toes in the Grave by Eric Beetner and you have an issue that is begging to be bought and enjoyed in a sitting.

Highly Recommended

Beat the Heat with Dead Heat

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Who doesn’t love a great noir book release during the long days of summer? A chance to lose yourself in a tale of violence and retribution while the kids play in the pool is just what the doctor ordered. All Due Respect Books must have gotten word that I needed some great summer reading materials, because they delivered a 2 for 1 special that could cure anyone’s summer boredom.

All Due Respect Books’ latest release is Dead Heat with the Reaper by William E. Wallace and it contains two novellas. I was immediately grabbed by the spectacular cover art supplied by Eric Beetner. I couldn’t wait to dig into the stories and I am pleased to say that I was not disappointed once I did.

The first story is entitled Legacy and is a beautifully written piece that is about just that, leaving a legacy behind.

Frank Trask, preparing to celebrate his 67th birthday, collapses in front of his apartment complex and is rushed to the hospital. There he learns that he should get his affairs in order because he has cirrhosis of the liver and is too far-gone to have any hope of recovery. He returns to his home and is unsure of his next step. Frank, a simple living man, realizes that all the money he has put aside throughout his life has added up to more than 400K. Being that he has no spouse or children, he must come up with a way to put the money to good use before he dies.

Frank has become a gentle man in his old age, but Wallace allows us glimpses into Frank’s past where we see he is more than willing to resort to severe violence when the situation calls for violence. Many years prior, two street thugs murdered his older sister and Frank extracts a violent and brutal retribution on the two men. This flashback is a great indication of where Frank is willing to go when pushed and foreshadows events to come later in the story.

Frank is a popular man in his neighborhood. He has the respect of his friends, the young men who live in the community, and his fellow tenants in his apartment building. One of those tenants is Natalie Hatfield, a young mother with a six-month-old baby and a jealous husband. Natalie has learned to keep her interactions with others to a minimum, as her husband’s jealousy manifests with swift beatings if he believes she is being unfaithful. When Natalie’s baby gets sick one night and she must turn to Frank for help, the wheels are set in motion in what will play out to be Frank’s final stand and will determine what type of legacy he will leave behind.

Next up is The Creep. This tale is violent, bloody, and brutally written,

Centered on the Claymore apartment buildings, this story shows the intersections of the lives of a young nurse, a gang-leader, and an American war hero, Alan Baldocchi.

Baldocchi carries many scars with him from his time on the Afghanistan battlefields. A roadside bomb killed his entire platoon, but he was left with thick scars that make his entire body appear to be made from wax. His psyche is fragile, as he blames himself for the death of his comrades. He finds solace in alcohol and solitude. He desires no contact with the outside world, but when gang leader Marcel begins to target him and Susan, the young nurse, with his actions, Baldocchi finds he must engage this battle head-on.

The dénouement of this tale is dark, violent, and just what I love to read. This is one of the better novellas I have read in a long while. Stories like this are the type that put an author on my radar and although I have read Wallace many times in the past, I feel he is at his best with this tale.

Overall, I think this offering from ADR Books is a great addition to any noir lovers’ library. The two stories work nicely together as a collection, but are great stand-alone reads as well. I love new releases from All Due Respect Books and this book continues their tradition of outstanding noir books. I have come to expect no less than the best from them and they continue to raise the bar for themselves with each new release. This book is violent, yet fun and addictive….just what a summer book should be.

Highly Recommended.

Monson Strikes Gold

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What do you get when you mix a man with a habit of drinking cough syrup to get high, a double murder, a horny as hell old lady, a cop who only thinks with one of his heads, and the creativity of Mike Monson? If you guessed a book that is wild, fun, and addictive, you hit the nail on the head!

This book opens with a boom…well actually the aftereffects of the booms of a double gauge shotgun as a drug-fueled double murder has occurred. The murder nets Miranda and Logan almost a million dollars in heroin, but leaves them with the problem of who to pin the murders on. As luck would have it, they have Miranda’s Uncle Paul, a divorcee with a cough syrup addiction, at their disposal. Even more convenient is the fact one of the murder victims is Paul’s ex-wife and he threatened both her and the other victim, who was the man she left Paul for. They set their plan into motion by planting the murder weapon on Paul and making certain that all signs point to him.

Paul’s mother, Mavis, is a funny and memorable character. She is a pot smoking, sex addicted GILF (Grandmother I’d Like to F***). When she meets Detective Fagan, who is investigating the double murder, she is more interested in being desirable than being helpful to Paul and trying to prove he is innocent.

Overall this is one of the best books I have read in a while. The story matter is serious, but Monson makes it a light, engaging read that had me laughing aloud and enjoying every chapter. Monson strikes gold with any book he pens or publishes and this book is no exception.

Highly Recommended.

Best Noir Book I’ve Read in Ages

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“After a while it came to me. The hunger I felt was the overwhelming urge to kill the rest of them. That was it. Only their deaths would satisfy my deepest-felt need”- Selena by Greg Barth

The latest release from All Due Respect Books is by Greg Barth and it is the most flat out, kick-ass, balls-to-the-wall book I have read in the longest time. It contains two novellas that were previously self-published in two separate volumes and a previously unreleased novella. I had read the first novella just prior to it being removed from circulation and was anxiously awaiting the release of this collection. I am happy to say it was more than worth the wait.

Selena has got to be the toughest, grittiest, and most noir female lead I’ve ever encountered in any series I have read. She describes herself as “five-feet, four-inches tall and 98 pounds, (and) I can make little noise when I need to. I can also make a hell of a lot of noise when I want to”. In a recent chat I had with Barth, he summed up Selena in a manner that I cannot improve upon. He said, “The thing I would like to highlight is the spirit of Selena’s character- she seeks pleasure, an easy fun life, is almost completely amoral, and bent on self destruction. Yet, she handles pain well, refuses to roll over and die when she is wronged, and is willing to do the nasty things required to take down the worst men.”

Barth’s ability to allow her to grow and flourish as a character as his stories develop is one of the strongest points of this series. Selena is a tough-as-nails, down-on-her-luck, take-no-crap kind of lady and in the opening of the book she illegally gains possession of what she believes to be a music CD. As any lover of noir would guess the disc is not a music CD and the owners of the CD extract a heavy revenge on Selena for the theft, leaving her assaulted and near death. Selena regroups and swears revenge, and the book takes off like a bat out of hell at that point.

Being that the original publications were in novella form, this collection has three great storylines and three great dénouements. The stories run seamlessly and I loved how Selena gets more rugged, tougher, and more dedicated to destruction and self-preservation as the stories unfolded.

In my opinion, some of the keys to having a successful series are having a main character that develops and grows throughout the series, a storyline that grows with the character, secondary characters that allow the main character a chance to develop through growing relationships, and the ability to end each part of the series with an ending that is satisfying to the story, yet leaves the reader wondering when the next addition to the series will be forthcoming.

Well Barth must have had this checklist next to him as he wrote these novellas. Everything in the stories added to the growing tension, both internally within Selena and externally in the world Barth created for her. The bad guys were hard-core and vicious, yet the friends Selena makes on her journey were able to help Selena be seen through the lens of being sympathetic yet still maintain her semblance of being an independent bad ass. She developed skills that should certainly help her maintain her edge throughout future books. She learned how to handle two shotguns at once, how to become deadly with a bow and arrow, how to field dress deer for outdoor survival, and also how not to care who she kills when extracting revenge.

Selena is a must read for all fans of noir. It has darkness, depth, and depravity in spades. This book will put Greg Barth on every noir fans must read list and will help get All Due Respect Books the respect they deserve for being a publisher who is putting out some of the most insane and most noir books available today. I would go so far as to say I am begging you to pick up a copy. This offering deserves a wide audience and, in my opinion, is going to be one of the most talked about books of 2015 in the noir community. I kid you not…it is that great. So before you embarrass yourself when your friends start talking about the book and you haven’t read it, grab a copy and sink your teeth into a slice of noir pie….it’s hot, hot, hot.

Highly recommended.

Crooked Roads Goes Straight to your Heart

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If one publisher could be said to be responsible for my renewed interest in the short story collection, it would have to be All Due Respect Books. They have been publishing some ass-kicking collections lately and their newest release, Crooked Roads by Alec Cizak, shows they are on top of their publishing game.

Crooked Roads is a collection of 15 short stories that have been previously published in some of the most well regarded noir magazines and collections available on the market. The beauty of this publication is they are all in an easily accessible volume that allows you the distinct pleasure of reading Cizak’s offerings in one sitting without hassle.

There is not a single story in this collection that didn’t leave me racing to the next story. Cizak has a style of writing that brings the everyday man to life on the page before you and he sucks you into each story line. To have 15 stories in a collection and have all of them be this high quality is a testament to the writing chops Cizak possesses.

Some of my favorites in this collection:

The Space Between: A great piece of flash fiction that shows us the instability of the narrator and hints at a breakdown that is just around the bend. Loved it!

No Hard Feelings: A great piece that shows the best-laid plans of men don’t always come to fruition. The ending to this one made me laugh and really tied the story together.

Katy Too: I loved the rawness to this story. A classic example of “Be careful what you wish for”. A young girl wants revenge on the boyfriend who cheated on her and doesn’t quite realize the potentially deadly plans which she has set in motion, until it may be too late. Gritty and awesome!

A Matter of Time: This story shows the old adage “Honor among thieves” can be a very good thing for the rest of us that live in a decent world. A meth dealer stumbles across a crime in waiting that offends his senses (as it should) and sets out to make things right with the world. Another brilliant piece.

My Kind of Town: Without giving too much away, this story is the ultimate “Watch your back” tale. Cizak just keeps pouring it on with this piece. I found this to be one of my favorite stories in the collection.

But without a doubt, the story that left the biggest impression on me, and it was my favorite of the collection, was the short story entitled Patience. I can’t give any synopsis of this one without ruining the brilliance of this story, so I will leave my comment at WOW! This one will stay with me for a long time and will be the story I measure other stories against. I LOVED THIS ONE!

This is a short story collection that is great for train commuters, beach goers, weekend readers, and anyone who will have a duration of time where they can lose themselves in the micro-worlds that Cizak has so brilliantly brought to life. This amasses collection will surely increase Cizak’s audience and bring his name to more noir readers.

Highly recommended.

A Collection of Beauty

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Reading short story collections can be a mixed bag of nuts. You can get a few good stories and a bunch of duds. Or you can get a majority of good stories with only a few lesser quality stories. The beauty of The Deepening Shade by Jake Hinkson is that it contains only great stories. The fact is that Hinkson seems to only write great literature. I have yet to read anything by him that is less than stellar.

Most of the stories in this collection have been previously published in various magazines and collections, but there are 5 new ones within this collection. It is a treat to have them all collected in one work and be able to sit down and enjoy them in one sitting. Some of my favorites from this 15-story collection (stories numbered by their appearance in the collection):

#1: Maker’s and Coke

A tight little tale of a police officer that lets his inhibitions run wild after a breakup and ends up in a situation he could not have foreseen. I enjoyed this story, as it kicked off this collection with an introduction to the fact Hinkson puts typical people into typical situations with less than typical results.

#6: The Empty Sky

I loved that this story shows us that even preachers in training are tempted by the flesh and can find themselves in situations beyond their capability to accept or rectify. Told in a flashback, this story gives you a peek at the ending right off the bat, but the ride that gets you there is nothing you would expect.

#7: Cold City

A story about a cop that is in deep to a bookie to the tune of 30G? A story with a cop looking beyond the law to get himself back to even? A cop that is smarter than he seems and a willingness to use others to even the score? Sign me up pronto! This was a sure-fire winner!

# 9: Good Cover

Perspective is in the eye of the beholder. This tale allows you the beauty of seeing a killer, but depending on the light you see him in, your perspective of him as a man can, and will, change. Another story that I loved from a collection that was full of great stories.

#13: Casual Encounters

What happens when life doesn’t pan out the way you thought it would and you look outside your comfort zone for a way to bring some excitement to your life? Well if you are part of a Hinkerson short story, the answer is nothing but misery and heartache. This was probably my favorite story in this collection!

Don’t be misled that I only listed 5 stories in this recap. Every story in the collection is great on its own merit. The stories are all tight, well-written stories that leave you marveling at Hinkerson’s ability to paint pictures of beauty using only words. This was a pleasure to read and showcases Hinkerson’s ability to write works of wonder, regardless of the word-count. Another winner from All Due Respect Books, but at this point, I expect no less from them.