August 28, 2012

Rabid Reads: "Top Suspense: 13 Classic Stories by 12 Masters of the Genre"

Top Suspense: 13 Classic Stories by 12 Masters of the Genre
by the Top Suspense Group
published in 2011

With the rise of e-books, a consortium like Top Suspense is a new side-effect, and a pleasant one at that. A group of accomplished authors band together to publish their own books under a new label, rather than submitting to a publisher or convincing old publishers to reprint existing works. With this particular anthology, Top Suspense have brought together previously published stories by 12 authors, and thrown in a bonus story authored by all twelve of them.

While a couple of the stories were originally published over a decade ago, most are from the last five years or so. And despite a couple of creative deviations from straight crime and suspense stories, including a science fiction story from Ed Gorman, the gritty criminals in each story really pop off the page.

I enjoyed most of the stories and recognized quite a few names like Lee Goldberg, Dave Zeltserman, and Harry Shannon, but it wound up being the authors whose work I hadn't read before that wound up being the real treat.

"Fire in the Sky" by Joel Goldman had a great puppy love poisoned vibe. Bobby and his friend, Terry, are sweating it out in Electric Park and ogling the fountain girls who are putting on a show for the locals and tourists alike. Bobby has eyes for a gal named Elisabeth in particular, dreaming of a day when he could get out of Kansas and run away with her, and he almost gets his wish when an explosion at the park sends everyone in a frenzy and Bobby finds himself following after Elisabeth.

Another standout for me was "The Big O" by Vicki Hendricks and the tale of an abused woman looking to get away from her ex-boyfriend, Merle, only to wind up stranded with her baby in a rundown trailer park run by another cretinous bastard named Jimmy. She is a pretty piece of poison herself and plots to put an end to both men after a time, but has to work fast when a storm threatens to blow the trailer park and everyone in to kingdom come.

I think if this anthology was set up as a way to entice readers to seek out more work from these authors, I dare say it worked, because I've since added a few more names to my wish list. I wasn't a big fan of the 250-words-at-a-time collaboration by all 12 authors, but the premise for that story was impressive enough. Top Suspense has another anthology out called Favorite Kills, which I have on my to-be-read pile. If that one can manage to entertain me as well as this one did, all the better.

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