WILD JUSTICE – Edited by Ellen Datlow

I’m due to start below another of my gradual real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt. All my other real-time reviews, during the last three and half years, are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

As is customary with my real-time reviews,  I shall not read any introductions, story-notes or any other ‘extraneity-creep’, until  after I have completed the review of all the fiction, i.e. in accordance with my guiding interest in ‘The Intentional Fallacy’ since first encountering it during the 1960s.

I recently purchased this anthology as a customer from Amazon UK and downloaded it in a Kindle format to my ipad.  (None of my real-time reviews have been based on review copies.)

Wild Justice – Edited by Ellen Datlow

Ash Tree Press : 2012

First published as ‘Lethal Kisses’ by Orion Paperbacks, 1996.

There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years.

CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.

Authors included: A. R. Morlan, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Thomas Tessier, Terry Lamsley, Joyce Carol Oates, Roberta Lannes, Pat Cadigan, Simon Ings, David J. Schow, Christopher Fowler, Douglas Clegg, Jonathan Lethem, Michael Marshall Smith, Michael Swanwick, Jack Dann, Pat Murphy, Michael Cadnum, Richard Christian Matheson, M. M. O’Driscoll,


…Warmer – A.R. Morlan

“(Edan detested the obvious, in all things.)”

Whether I shall ever get warm enough to locate this story’s core, I am wondering. I was borne along by the amazing style of its once pre-retrocausal ‘ruin porn’ (please forgive me if I get my terms wrong but I know deep in the heart when I enjoy a read whatever the niceties of describing it – and I sure enjoyeed this interconnected concertina of step-changes in an all-pervasive pent-up sememe fest) – and here a budding starlet fresh from tattoo-licking and nipple-ring ripping in a film of real-time agony is chosen / asked by a cancer-brinked, twit-anglicised, twat-filming impresario to lip-synch with some cyborg ligotti-dolls that have beautiful voices and things stashed away on their bodies fit to revive Ancient Rome or Greece as a new pawn of ruins without the necessity of the debt haircuts (I may have some of that wrong – I lost the connection between the dolls and the beautifully striking sing-voice). Pawn rather than porn because of this story’s quantitative-(dis)easing “Euro-market crotch-grinds“!  Phew, I am not sure I got all that was going on in that hair-raising read. But I was certainly taken along in a whirlwind of images and urgent motives, body-wise and blood-racing, “E“-book curdled, domino-rally story-driven.  I may need to re-read it after I have gone further into this book’s aspirational connect-bacchanale of a gestalt. Or so I suspect.  Keeping my head, I hope, walking “…a quarter mile of empty hallway carpeted in the sort of plushy beige carpeting that mats down if you sneeze at it,…” (11 Mar 12 – 7.35 pm gmt)

Anamorphosis – Caitlín R. Kiernan

“The carpet had ended at the threshold and the floor was just hardwood and something on it that looked like Karo syrup.”

The Morlan, I recall, talked about italics as a way of talking. This Kiernan has cutting italic asides among the other “words like fishhooks” and a repainted “Jackson Pollock” scatology of ripe pungencies that I feel, if this book were made of paper, it would actually smell for real.  It’s that strong. This story is about a laundromat-working ‘scryer’ helping the police unofficially by sniffing out synchronous, almost occult, connections, as I do with real-time reviews. But my office is thankfully nearer to a laundromat (I hear it churning suds and clothes even as I write this) than it is to the unspeakably awful crime scenes in this story!  When I worked in London in the 1970s, I visited the National Gallery quite regularly at lunchtime, and saw Holbein’s ‘The Ambassadors’.  I often read Yeats on the tube train commuting.  And Conan Doyle, too.  (I read the Afterword by accident!) — I’m just ringing this story round: hesitating to get to its nub. It’s most unsavoury, you see. But that’s because the prose is so effective.  And the idea of the gradual homing in towards the gestalt of crime-solving by Deacon the scryer – reaching out, much to his own hesitation of vulnerable self-sanity as part of his powers-to-see, like mine, thus only to graze against the mix of truth and fiction: the head-lease author’s skilful stretching in and out of the words themselves from different angles … like Deacon does similarly when viewing the Holbein.  I think I shall remember this story for a long time.  It even has a reference to “small-time porn” to resonate with the previous story.  Both have that slick stickiness of meaning.  Flensed but rich. From humanity’s ruins building a structured cartilage of  phonemes and sememes anew. “Deacon had done his hangover morning counting trick, backwards from twenty-five,…” (10 Mar 12 – two hours later)

A Grub Street Tale – Thomas Tessier

“They’re too sophisticated and good for the commercial market, category fiction, but they’re not quite brilliant enough for literary acceptance.”

The eternal conundrum of writing fiction, even if one doesn’t think about it too much, but just writes. A thought-provoking but workmanlike tale – I’d say about serious revenge – or it may have been about an elaborate joke of light-hearted revenge by one of the parties involved because the ending skilfully ends too soon to tell us. A story about an author whose life was not fulfilled for whatever reason. And a metaphor of someone who would have been better left adrift, I guess, off the coast of Whitby rather than taken ashore -assuming the power of fiction is real magic rather than make-believe. Just my extrapolation. In any event I imagine Deacon from the previous story being given the job of sniffing out what lies behind this story’s crime-of-passion. I enjoyed being taken through the story’s civilised conversation: a quiet relief from the manic driving of the previous two authors! (11 Mar 12 – 8.45 am gmt)

Back in the Dunes – Terry Lamsley

“He scraped away some of the ashes and realised there were concrete floors…”

I am taking for granted that there is a connecting ‘link’ with all these stories that I do not need to plumb: i.e. as connected by the original ‘Lethal Kisses’ title of this collection, and I am satisfied, so far, this is the case.  I am keeping my powder (or sand) dry, meanwhile, concerning the new title: ‘Wild Justice’. My job – as I perhaps presumptuously see it – is hopefully to dig in different directions – and here to dig, along with the main protagonist, beneath the beige carpet of sand: in a scrubby seaside area connected with holidays and caravans and arcaded amusements etc – which is very much like the area where I actually live on the NE Essex coast.  This story creates that ‘genius loci’ brilliantly. Including the textured litter or props or uncivilised signs of behaviour that the sand and dunes often conceal.  And the sense of timelessness as well as lost time, easy sex, serial relationships to mask loneliness, shapeless miscreants who are not a million miles from Deep Ones or from Aickman glimpses out of the corner of the eye or from, as here, ghosts of seaside tragedies and of uncaring care in the community … and I am not disappointed, further enriched as it is by an atmospheric sense of retrocausality.  I am only slightly disappointed by what is, for me, the stilted mechanics of dénouement through self-conscious dialogue. (11 Mar 12 – four hours later)




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