June 2, 2014

Pulp Is a Dish Best Served Hard-Boiled: a review of "BEAT to a PULP: Hardboiled" edited by David Cramner and Scott D. Parker

BEAT to a PULP: Hardboiled
edited by David Cramner and Scott D. Parker
published in 2011
180 pages

Sometimes, when you're not expecting it, an anthology can sneak up and curb-stomp your brain. That's kind of what happened with Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled, as I downloaded it as a freebie from the Kindle Store some time ago, just one of those impulse grabs because I recognized a couple names from the ToC. Well, by the time I got around to reading it, I had become aware of a few other writers featured in its pages and walked away thoroughly entertained by a book chockful of pulpy goodness.

If you're not familiar with hard-boiled fiction, Ron Scheer offers a helpful introduction that works as a brief "for Dummies" orientation into the genre. From there, we're off to the races.

Amy Grech was one of the original names that lured me to download this ebook, with her story, "".38 Special." A man gets talked into a game of Russian roulette with the married woman after they finish having sex inside her house while her husband's away. Things go disastrously wrong from the get-go and it only gets worse for the man from there. Amy has a knack for lean and lurid prose, with this story as no exception. Fun and grizzly stuff.

The second name that caught my eye in the beginning was John Hornor Jacobs, whose story "The Death Fantastique" that has a runner caught up with a hooker and her pimp in a podunk town. Sex and violence ring loud and clear, just with Amy's did, but there's a little more sinister edge to this story, as there really aren't any sympathetic characters to be found. It's rough, raw, and really good.

From there, I tried out the other stories. Patti Abbott is a name I have come to recognize as one to depend on for quality short crime fiction, and "Ric with No K" was no exception. Thomas Pluck's "Black-Eyed Susan" also served up a nasty little revenge tale that I liked a lot. Plus there was a standout story from Ron Earl Phillips called "The Janitor" about a cleaning service that handles messes most maids would never touch.

There's really no bad story in the bunch, but not all of them are as memorable as the ones mentioned. If you want to dip your toes in the grittier side of crime fiction with some up-and-coming authors, you really can't go wrong with this anthology. And there's a second one already released by Beat to a Pulp Press that I downloaded recently, which I'll have to get to in quicker fashion than I did with this one. I have a hunch it's as good or better than this one.


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