This week, I review three more stories from the current issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and one from a newly released horror anthology.
AHMM is known for variety, and stretching the boundaries. Fair Game, by Max Gersh, is a creepy story. The setting is a mostly abandoned roadside carnival with poorly cobbled together side show attractions. Jack and Beth, rather unsavory characters themselves, are lured into a rather horrifying tent. As with many short stories, if I say too much, I'll ruin the read for you. Fair Game reinforces every suspicion you've ever had about those fly-by-night carnivals that sprout like mushrooms in obscure parking lots.
Another confirmation of your instinctive fears is Blue Sludge Blues, by Shannon Lawrence, appearing in the collection of her horror short stories by the same name. This time, the focus of the horror is, rightfully, the public port-a-potty. Who hasn't reluctantly taken a seat over that peculiar blue-colored muck with serious misgivings? My granddaughter and I read this together, emitting the requisite "euws" and groans at the really scary and/or icky parts.
Moving back to more traditional mystery stories in AHMM, I read Walking on Water, by Michael A. Black. The friend for whom Brad served as a pallbearer shows up in his Private Investigator office, fleeing the Witness Protection Program. Brad faces what seems to be an impossible task, to hide his friend from gangsters determined to make sure they kill him this time. There is plenty of action, and a few unexpected twists, in this fun story.
Shauna Washington offers insight into her AHMM story, Knockoffs, here. Stacey Deshay is a personal shopper and stylist for the rich and famous. She flies to Las Vegas to deliver a jewel encrusted designer dress to a singer about to make her comeback after a stay in rehab. I felt like I was behind the scenes with Stacey, who was generally ignored during the big drama, giving a fly on the wall feel to her narration. A fun read with great characters.
I may have mentioned my suspicion that my subscription to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine is delivered via Pony Express. Because that delivery system went out of business in 1861, that pony is very old and very tired. I'm certain the magazine has been read cover to cover by all interested parties by now, but rather than give up entirely, I decided to carry on with my reviews, including links to three author's comments on their stories.
The first story I read was Off-Off-Off Broadway by Dara Carr. Tessa is an animal photographer, shooting pet portraits in her garage studio. Her attempt to coax a pose out of an aging English bulldog is interrupted by the dog owner's wife Amber, a has-been actress. Tessa becomes entangled in what she suspects is a plot by Amber to hire a hit man to kill her philandering husband. The ending is one of those "how is she going to get out of this" situations, which was set up nicely by the author.
The story Mourning Man by Michael Bracken is a touching tale wrapped up in a dangerous game. Cab driver Johnny Devlin is pressured into driving for a robbery when he can't pay a loan shark back for the money he borrowed to pay for his wife's funeral. You can read about the author's inspiration for this story here.
Robert Lopresti's entry in this issue of AHMM is Nobody Gets Killed. I am impressed by how this author handles both humor and serious subjects with equal skill. This story is one of the serious variety. You can read about the author's inspiration and the writing process here. This story proves that AHMM publishes variety. This is not a standard mystery story. Instead, during a routine traffic stop, tension builds to the conclusion of a piece that reads more like literary fiction. Nicely done.
Next, R. T. Lawton wrote another in his Paris Underworld series set in medieval France, The Left Hand of Leonard, starring an inept orphan boy pickpocket. This time, he is pressed into service to help steal religious relics from a cathedral. You can read the historical background for this story here. Having read one of the million biographies of Joan of Arc within recent memory, I found this story particularly fun. In typical Lawton style, there is skillfully delivered action, tension, and humor.
Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine is available in both hardcopy and by electronic subscription. Maybe one day I'll nab a subscription for my Kindle, but for now I'll stick to hardcopy. Maybe I like a little of that Pony Express speed in my life.
When I was a child, my grandparents had a rustic home at a South Dakota lake that was equipped with a functioning outhouse. A two-seater. I have never understood what intestinal emergency would necessitate sharing that intimate space with another human. Using the outhouse was always a little frightening.
Apparently I'm not the only person whose thoughts have strayed to the horrors of outhouses. Author Shannon Lawrence features one on the cover of her new short story anthology, Blue Sludge Blues & Other Abominations. This book is brand spanking new, released TODAY!
Lawrence describes the anthology as a collection of frights, from the psychological to the monstrous. These tales are a reminder of how much we have to fear: a creature lurking in the blue, sludgy depths of a rest area toilet; a friendly neighbor with a dark secret hidden in his basement; a woman with nothing more to lose hellbent on vengeance; a hike gone terribly wrong for three friends; a man cursed to clean up the bodies left behind by an inhuman force. These and other stories prowl the pages of this short story collection.
So, how about that port-a-potty story? Here's an except:
"He'd never been a fan of port-a-potties, not even these rest stop ones that were disguised as little wooden cabins, less port-a-potty than hole-in-the-middle-of-a-room. They housed a vacant space anything could move into, hiding away inside until some unsuspecting fool revealed a full moon."
A fan of all things fantastical and frightening, Shannon Lawrence writes primarily horror and fantasy. Her stories can be found in magazines and anthologies, including Space and Time Magazine, Dark Moon Digest, and Spinetingler. Though she often misses the ocean, the majestic and rugged Rockies are a sight she could never part with. Besides, in Colorado there's always a place to hide a body or birth a monster. What more could she ask for?
Available for sale at the following locations:
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079WKB7PW
Amazon Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B079WKB7PW
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blue-sludge-blues-other-abominations-shannon-lawrence/1128000342?ean=2940155139850
Also available from Apple and other countries through Amazon.
Social Media Links:
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Shannon-Lawrence/e/B00TDKPOAO/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1519445371&sr=8-2
Smashwords Author Page: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/thewarriormuse
Rafflecopter Link (HTML) : www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e851df742/
May 1st is the release date for the short story anthology Blood and Gasoline. My story Do Over is included, and is a darker, grittier tale than is typical for me. Still, it will probably be mild compared to the rest of the stories!
Do-Over is a story of vengeance, and a survivor’s hope that enacting justice can erase a painful past.
Editor Mario Acevedo describes Blood and Gasoline as Mad Max meets Sons of Anarchy.
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