If you enjoy gritty stories about desperate people driven to commit crimes and do horrible things, then this anthology is for you. All Due Respect is consistently one of the greatest crime/noir online lit journals (Seriously. If you’re unfamiliar with them, you won’t be for long. Check out some of the great, free fiction on their site) and their first anthology, which is also the first publication of FULL DARK CITY PRESS is wonderful. This is a showcase of the best submissions to the publication, a gritty examination of human kind and just how far we’re willing to push the envelope when we’re on the edge. I won’t review every story, but I will highlight some of the wonderful fiction you have to look forward to.
(Full Disclosure: I was given a free Advanced Reader’s Copy of All Due Respect: The Anthology for this review. While I personally know a few of the authors and the publisher, this has in no way biased my review in their favor.)
The ADR Anthology starts off strong with fiction that grabs you and shakes you by the shirt collar. Joe Clifford‘s “Day Tripper” is an experiment in desperation and unreliable narrators that will make sure you don’t hire day laborers to move your furniture. He doesn’t shy away from grit and Clifford’s characters shine in all of their grimy filth.
Scotch Rutherford’s “Let’s Make a Deal” is one of those rare stories that knocks the air out of you. Where some authors dive headlong into the criminal lives of their characters, he gives you a long glance of his protagonist’s crappy trailer-park life, turning him into a real human before you get to the heist. Like all great heist stories, it’s pulled off without a hitch, at least at first. But once some enforcers come looking for the thief, the reader is treated to a hold-your-breath conclusion that will make your stomach turn. I felt genuinely uncomfortable reading this story (especially its final pages) and that’s what makes it stand out so much in my mind.
It’s not all drug heists and poverty though. Patricia Abbott‘s “Wheels on the Bus” expertly tells the story of a girl running away from her oppressive, conservative college. Sure, there are some stolen drugs and dark strangers on the Greyhound, but what really shines is how skillfully Abbott weaves reflections on the past into present actions. This is something as a palate cleanser, an introspective story before bullets start to fly.
What’s a crime anthology without some backwoods Appalachia stories? “Hoodwinked” by Nigel Bird tells the story of two poor brothers and the movie idol who got out of their hometown when he still had the chance to. I won’t spoil this one, but it involves an eagle, blackmail, autographs, and a plot twist that will leave a smile on your face.
I may consider Alec Cizak (editor of No Moral Center and Pulp Modern) a friend, but I’ll be damned if “Methamphetamine and a Shotgun” isn’t one of the best stories I’ve read in a long time. Brace yourself for this one – it’s a hellish trip into the meth-soaked mind of a man trying to track down his main squeeze. It’s gritty and filled with language that twists reality into shapes you never thought you’d see. You’ll look up from the page when you’re finished, try to catch your breath, and stare in the mirror for a while. It is THAT good.
“Three Sisters” by Jack Bates is another of those rare pieces that sets you up to be blown away. We all know how daughters vie for daddy’s love, but this story takes it to levels you’ll be surprised to read. There’s a tenderness to the prose which makes the final punch hit that much harder. Bates is a sadistic storyteller, but a great one.
After that, it’s back to meth-fueled desperation and strippers in Ryan Sayles‘ “Formula and Meth.” You can literally feel the body glitter and smell the shame as dancers blow rails of crank before grinding chrome onstage to pay for their babies’ food. Their exotic names and the dim lighting doesn’t hide their scars or stretchmarks, and neither does Sayles’ writing. Be sure to read this one closely – the con that takes place is genius, and will make you think twice before cashing your paycheck in dollar bills.
While several of the stories in this anthology made me chuckle, Richard Godwin‘s “Donald Duck and the Avian Snitch” made me guffaw loud enough to wake up the dog. The story order of this anthology is great, as the funny or introspective pieces break up some of the violence. Godwin’s duo of thieves pull off a heist, drink, discuss the vagaries of women shoving birds up their ass, and drink some more. You may think the narrator is crazy, but parrots do have a way of picking up on repeated phrases.
Overall, this is one of the best anthologies I’ve read. While my ARC was not formatted for layout, only for review of content, I am told that their book formatter has laid the words out beautifully. There are 29 wonderfully gritty stories waiting for you, and All Due Respect: The Anthology is available in e-book form today.