Here’s’ about 20 crime stories written or published from the 1950’s through the 1980’s. The stories range from deep and dark to short and sweet, well, sweet for a crime story. At one point I had to take a break from the book as one of the stories was really dark. Twisted dark. Hopeless. When I picked it back up again, I read the first line of the next story. “At twenty-five minutes past midnight on 51st Street, the wind-chill factor was so sharp it could carve you a new asshole.” That story was dark to, but not hopeless, and by one of the best short story writers around, Harlan Ellison. There were several stories here that I enjoyed. I have a soft spot for the hard boiled detective. There was I time when I read all the Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler I could get my hands on. Heck, I wanted to be Hammett: writer, Pinkerton agent, bad-ass. So those stories were good. I liked “Soft Monkey,” Ellison’s story with the great opening line. I liked “This World, Then the Fireworks,” the story that influenced me to give the book a rest. I told myself I’d read that story again just to be sure it was a creepy as it seemed (the depravity in that one was subtle). I even liked the over-the-top story of the men forced to fight to the death in a pit by crazy snake-handling Appalachian hillbillies. (Not so subtle that one.)
One thing I would do differently next time I come across a book of short stories in my to-read pile is not read it straight through. That doesn’t give me enough time to digest the gems or forget the dogs, and they get a bit mixed in my head. Instead I’ll make it my Monday night treat (or whatever day), something to be savored and enjoyed rather than hurried through like a novel.