Saturday, November 26, 2011
Pulp Ink, edited by Nigel Bird and Chris Rhatigan (Needle Publishing)
The editors of Pulp Ink had a great idea: take little snippets of dialogue from Pulp Fiction the movie, send them to a host of writers working the same groove and ask them to write short stories based on the ideas. The result is this tome, a book with an edge every thousand words. I'm no Tarantino scholar (are there any?), but I do feel the vibe of his 90's classic funneled through these stories.
I will warn any potential reader that most of these tales are from the dark side. There's not to many people in them to be admired. So if you are looking for stirring stories of inspiration, look elsewhere. If you are looking for demons of the inner mind, you'll find plenty in this collection. Typical is "Zed's Dead, Baby" written by Eric Beetner. It's from the point-of-view of a loan shark enforcer who reminisces over the sound of broken bones when he'd found a reluctant payee.
Reed Coleman's "Requiem for Spider" leads the pack. It's the story of a Jewish gangster named Moe who's hired by his boyhood Italian friend Spider to help broker a deal with Russian Jewish mobsters. Spider wants his old friend to supply back-up because he's of the same persuasion. But as Moe tries to explain to his buddy:
“Oy, Spider,” I said. “These guys aren't Jews the way you know Jews. They pretty much grew up godless, without religion like you know it. I may be as lapsed a Jew as there is, but I’m the chief rabbi of Jerusalem compared to them."
Of course the meeting doesn't quite turn out as everyone planned.
"Jack Rabbit Slim's Cellar" by Jodi MacArthur is one of the few stories that ties in directly with the movie. It seems that while Uma Thurman and John Travolta were dancing up stairs at the 50's theme restaurant, somebody was being interrogated in the basement. I did learn a lot about the history of bubble gum from this story.
"Padre" by A J Hayes is one tale which will stick with you for a long time. A renegade priest is meets with a Russian gangster who holds a precious cargo. I highly recommend this one, but to tell more would ruin the conclusion. Easily the one story which would make a great Drive-In movie.
"Creation of Ice" by Sandra Seamans heads out to the rural part of America. A viscous woman finds herself tied to a chair after killing an old man. It's told from her POV as she tries to figure a way out of her mess. Good ending, which did surprise me.
Alan Guthrie's "Your Mother Should Know" is another story which remains in the rural part of the USA. It's also told from the POV of the main character, a ripe young woman with a very religious mother. Her father had died years ago from a lighting blast, which momma had attributed to the wrath of God. Lighting does strike twice in this one, with deadly results.
"You Never Can Tell" by Matthew Funk continues into the hinterlands. A young man named Junior with a wife and kid are hunting down the men he believed murdered his sadistic father. But the real killer may be closer than he could imagine.
"A Whole Lotta Rosie" by Nigel Bird, had me confused. A rough and tumble women in New Zealand shears sheep and arm-wrestles on the side. I'm not sure about what else happens. It's still a great story.
"The Lady And The Gimp: A Peter Ord Investigation", by Paul Brazill, is amusing in a twisted sort of way. A private detective is hired to find a missing woman who may be living in a caravan (mobile home for us yanks; the story takes place in the UK). A burial neatly captures the mood of the story:
“There comes a time in every young man’s life,” he said, his long arms stretched wide, “when he knows that he will never be The Fonz. Shortly after that realization it becomes clear that he won’t even be Richie Cunningham. And, so, then, he has to make a choice. Will he be Ralph Malph or Potsie Weber?"
"A Night at the Royale" by Chris Holm is a very tight little tale that takes place in Amsterdam. Three American hipster tourists make the mistake of getting noisy at a retrospective showing of Foxy Brown, Death Race 2000, and Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS. But the idle man sitting in front is there to enjoy the movies and is in no mood to deal with loud chumps. One for those of us who've had to endure audience participation one time too many.
"Clouds in a Bunker" by David Cranmer is the saddest story here. An old man with an advanced case of senility has locked himself in a backyard fallout shelter with his wheelchair-bound wife. The police and his daughter are trying to talk him out, but he's lost the ability to identify objects directly. What he's planned is far worse than anyone imagines.
"The Wife of Gregory Bell" by Patricia Abbot would fit into a book of supernatural stories. You're never quite sure if the effects of the lead character's thefts are real or a product of his own imagination. Another side of the gentleman thief so beloved in European fiction.
"If Love is a Red Dress – Hang Me in Rags" by Michael Solender is a prison confession. It's one of the shorter works in here, but still effective.
"A Corpse by Any Other Name" by Naomi Johnson is another hilarious tale. Two boobs are hired by a Mr. Big in the hinterland to take out one Frank Murray. But they get the wrong Frank Murray and now Mr. Big has a problem on his hands. They decide to dispose of the unwanted body in a cemetery, but things go from bad to worse.
In "Surf Rider", by Ian Ayris, a couple of Brits decide to steal a valuable surf board from a homeless surfer. The surfer hasn't been right in the head for years (too many drugs), but the board is the one thing he holds dear. And he'll defend it to the death.
"The Slicers’ Serenade of Steel" by Gary Phillips is another supernatural themed story. A small time thug is trying to run from a hit man with the power of death. Just when you think it's over the story turns into a martial arts duel straight out of a 70's Shaw Brothers movie. This one would make a good anime subject. "The October 17 Economic Development Committee Meeting" by Chris Rhatigan has a vengeful reporter taking out a bunch of corporate types with a gun. But what saves it from being another revenge number is the final confrontation with the one older reporter the assailant did admire. I see in the bio that "Chris Rhatigan made it out of the newspaper industry alive". Not too surprised.
"Threshold Woman" by Richard Godwin, sings with sensuality. A gangster is in love with the sister of his boss. His boss is a dangerous man. Much tension results.
"Redlining" by Jim Harrington is dark humor with from the Joe Lansdale school. A hold-up man is talked into taking along a relative by his sister. But his new sidekick is an incompetent oaf who may get them both arrested. And the hold-up man needs the money for medical treatment. Time is running out for both of them. "Jungle Boogie by Kate Horsley is another tale of deception and theft, but with erotic overtones. A man is duped into stealing a statue of the Jaguar god from a museum. However, the gods of the jungle are not known to deal with sacrilege lightly.
How someone could tell a sweet story like "The Little Piggy", when it involves a foot fetish, is beyond me. But Hilary Davidson manages to do it and for that I am impressed. Did I mention it also involves gangsters? More fetish material emerges from "Comanche", by Jason Duke. It's a viscous tale of a mobster who likes to abuse his wife. His wife has another plan, involving the mobster's fortune, and a boyfriend her husband doesn't know about.
More gangsters become involved in "Misirlou" by Jimmy Callaway. A Greek restaurateur known as "Cheeseburger" is murdered by persons unknown. The numbers runner he worked for brings in "Funk" to find the culprit and sends him off with two of his men. In an amusing scene, Funk tells the other gunsels they are playing a game of Dungeons and Dragons and "another adventure in an open-ended campaign".
"The Only One Who Could Ever Reach Me" by Matt Lavin is particularly viscous. A keeper in a secret prison takes a liking to a prisoner just before the torturer comes to do his business. Another one for "The Road to Hell Paved" category.
All stories of exceptional quality which will keep you turning to the next page. If nothing else, Pulp Ink demonstrates the high caliber of writers working in the new "pulp" field.