Previous reviews are at Mack Pitches Up

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Review: Damn Near Dead: an Anthology of Geezer Noir, Duane Swiercznski ed.

Busted Flush Press, 2006. ISBN 0-9767157-5-9. 384 pages. Guest introduction by James Crumley.

Having achieved a certain age, the title of this anthology both intrigued and made me a bit anxious. Twenty-six reminders of getting older. But it is edited by Duane Swiercznski whose writing I enjoy and Busted Flush Press put out the Hell of a Woman anthology on of my favorite short story anthologies so I had to have it.

The stories are grouped in five parts: Twilight and Goodnights, Duffers and Bachelors, Killers and Cons, Guns and Geezers,and Felons and Friends. Duane added another level of organization; the stories appear in reverse chronological order of the birth year of the authors. Dave White's (b. 1979) "My Father's Gun" leads off the collection and John Harvey's (b. 1938) "Just Friends" closes it.

All of the stories are excellent making it difficult to select ones to feature in this review but here are four I picked out from the table of contents.

"Cranked" by Bill Crider (b.1941). "Cranked was nominated for a 2007 Edgar Award. It picks up after the story "Raining Willis" and tells us what happened to Karla after the meth lab exploded. I haven't read that story yet but it doesn't get in the way of enjoying "Cranked." It is the story of 76 year old ex-con Lloyd who breaks out of The Home, steals his daughter's car, meets Karla, and shows some young thugs that the old guy still has some moves. Bill has the most excellent Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine blog.

"Policy" by Megan Abbott (b. 1971). Two sentences into this story and I was thinking "wait a minute" I recognize this setting. It turns out that "Policy" is the short story that became Megan's Edgar Award winning Queenpin, a novel that made me a Megan Abbott fan. It is the story of a young woman who goes from being the bookkeeper for a strip club to the protege of an older mob connected woman. One isn't better than the other, I think of them as companion pieces. "Policy" works well as a short story and Megan said that "the story's kinda nastier--I didn't think I could maintain that for a whole book!" both "Policy" and Queenpin will remind you of Jim Thompson's The Grifters. Megan has a new novel coming out soon, Bury Me Deep. I love the cover.

Duan'e (b. 1972) contribution, "Say Goodnight to the Bad Man" looks at the consequences when a young fan of the pulps tracks down an author who published one brilliant novel then disappeared.

Stuart MacBride's (b. 1969) "Daphne McAndrews and the Smack-Headed Junkies" is one of my favorite stories in the anthology. Think cozy noir. Daphne is a terrific character and it is a nice, tightly written, darkly humorous story.

"Last Right" by Zoe Sharp (b. 1966). This is a story about reconciling past events. A young man returns to see his dying, domineering father.
I only know Zoe's work from short stories but I'm excited that Busted Flush Press will be bringing her previously unavailable Charlie Fox novels to the U.S. in 2010.

This is an excellent anthology and I highly recommend it. You might see a different side to authors you only know from novels and you may find new authors to read. Both are true in my case.

I would also like full marks for not using the word poignant.