I’m due to start below another of my gradual real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt.
And it is of the 240 page paperback book entitled Crimewave Eleven: ‘GHOSTS’ : TTA Press 2010.
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.
All my real-time reviews are linked from here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/df-lewis-real-time-reviews/
All my TTA Press real-time reviews here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/tta-press-my-real-time-reviews/ (22 Dec 10)
Authors included: Dave Hoing, Nina Allan, Christopher Fowler, Mikal Trimm, Richard Butner, Cheryl Wood Ruggiero, Ilsa J. Bick, Cody Goodfellow, O’Neil De Noux, Steve Rasnic Tem, Alison Littlewood, Joel Lane, Luke Sholer.
This is the first time I’ve reviewed Crime Fiction, if that is what this book contains. And, if so, I must be very careful about spoilers. For my own benefit, I am not reading the Contributors’ notes until I’ve read and reviewed all the fiction. It’s a crime to know anything about a work of fiction other than the act of reading it.
I have glanced at the contents list, however, and I see the first fiction is split between being the first and last. A crime in the making?
Plainview: Part One: The Shoe Store by Dave Hoing
“…but the rest moved in circles her circles never touched.”
Drawn straight – by accomplished prose and dialogue – into this (I opine) Twin Peaks type scenario of a missing 19 year-old girl, her family, the police, suspicions set up, an e. e. cummings line of poetry intriguingly set to resonate (like the owls in TP?), a neat circular plot-line to Part One as a whole – and the exact time of year and weather serendipitously equalising what I’m experiencing myself today. A neat searching for how the fiction shoe will fit? And who will help me horn it on? (22 Dec 10)
Wilkolak by Nina Allan
“He loved the cleanness of digital…”
A substantial, compelling, skilfully written story about a youth and his camera, his ambitions as a forensic photographer, the still lifes (both animate and inanimate), the girl friend, the parents – in a guessing game (a mystery not completely detached from (or attached to) headlines yesterday about the Crossbow Cannibal)… where digital photography … and old-fashioned ‘waiting to see’ photography (with which I grew up and also appreciate more than the immediacy of digital) … paralleled by as well as parallelling the events here – giving a sense of the narrator empathising with the youthful protagonist who is also ‘waiting to see’ what happens. And not only the narrator, the head-lease author, too, genuinely ‘waiting to see’ and we readers, too, ’wait to see’ with our own ‘takes’ on the unfolding events. Not to make ‘snap’ judgements, as we may well have done already with the previous yet ‘unfolded’ ‘Plainview‘ story.
‘Wilkolak’ is a genuine masterpiece of something. With its hints of the legend behind the story’s title, it may not be crime fiction for the purist (I wouldn’t know) but it certainly is fiction that will stay with you, whatever its genre. (23 Dec 10)
The Conspirators by Christopher Fowler
” ‘Then why not sell to me?’ Court walked over to the balcony…”
An interesting moebius scarf of a story … long-term business colleagues, the one who was the original mentor of the other looking “…like a game show host” … meeting in one of their plush hotels, and a call-girl called Vienna (“…like a character from a video game“) , and icecube-clunky bars – and the plot travelling from the heat of the Middle-East to St Petersburg – a Russian city I visited only a few weeks ago and where one would need the scarf, presumably… A neat story of high finance and high stakes. Don’t forget the red herring, if not in the story, certainly in this review. Waiting for the end. In plain view? Or purl? (23 Dec 10 – three hours later)
INTERMISSION: One of the crimes upon fiction for which I have been accused is being more text-based than plot-based in my real-time reviews. So be it. What have these words in common: timely, lonely, allusively, sparely, rely, rarely, diffusely, lovely, comely, recessively…? (23 Dec 10 – another 2 hours later)
Who’s gonna miss you when you’re gone? by Mikal Trimm
” ‘You’re a good guy, Des.’ “
Another unforgiveable moebius series of eely crimes forgiven by the family that is us, having, as readers (sharers?), been brought into the family proper of the one committing such crimes. Lived through, haunted, visionary, purged, trimmed, untrimmed, zipped, snagged and unzipped and rezipped and scrapbooked. Powerful rite of passage, where the device I’ve noticed in recent decades (since King?) of a protagonist’s internal thoughts italicized beyond the effective reach of even the head-lease author to control…. Here this device has been used to its maximum, better than I’ve ever seen it used. (23 Dec 10 – another 3 hours later)
Holderhaven by Richard Butner
“Rudy imagines all these objects, all this text, laid out in a giant matrix.”
A country house matrix, another ‘waiting to see’ journey as we take snapshots of past events, but where, in real time, Rudy investigates the marks in a secret passage, all conveying a sort of McEwanesque Atonement, a Reggie Oliver-type ambiance and haunting, or a Murder weekend in Cluedo as a cross-section of a house’s history, plus a neat echo of the previous story’s (un)zipping and a similar aberration if with a different gender… (23 Dec 10 – another 2 hours later)
Eleven Eleven by Cheryl Wood Ruggiero
“How often do numbers stand in line like that?”
Children are often victims (in tune with the previous two stories). This, meanwhile, as a short backdrop, by retrocausality, to the earlier longer fictions in this book, is a magical tale of real events as filtered through the consciousness of a girl who is 12 years old today. If we had experienced these real events in the same way as she did, we would have expected to wake from a dream or nightmare. But this is reality for the girl, a ‘waiting to see’ and never reaching the end of the queue (or audit trail) of events …. but we readers reason for ourselves in this crime fiction which was crime and which was fiction. The blend of the two here being religion. Or God? Or truth itself. Very clever tale. (24 Dec 10)
Zipped up in an itchy bag? Ready to zap? (24 Dec 10 – two hours later).
(review to be continued here in due course after Christmas)
Where the Bodies Are by Ilsa J. Bick
“…a featureless rectangle studded with graves and a single whitewashed, tumbledown mausoleum – a genizah – “
An itchy bag? I am amazed at some of the telling connections and coincidences serendipity can find. Here between two separate publications. Please compare another story I’ve read today – ’The Covered Doll’ in Black Static #20 – with the previous story in this book and with this story: a story of child abuse in its most mysterious and motive-confused (Mother and new born baby). And the connections and coincidences between those investigating the potential crime and its safeguards for both parties in the crime, and the ‘waiting to see’ watcher of the graveyard, this story’s protagonist – all those interconnecting ways of ‘containing’ death and birth in containers. I also recognise this is a very well-written and thought-provoking story in itself, disregarding my personal real-time context of experience reading it. (26 Dec 10)
Neighborhood Watch by Cody Goodfellow
If this is a Neighborhood Watch badfellow, I don’t want to meet a good one! Means justifying the ends with all the new surveillance gear. Another parent with its child-prey punished even before getting an end away. Getting a death away. This book its cuboid container-box on boxing day. Each story an end in itself, but feeding a gestalt that’s getting off on the biggest crime of all. Waiting to watch. Waiting to see. (26 Dec 10 – another 8 hours later)
K Love by O’Neil De Noux
“…found the suicide note in a clear, plastic sandwich bag…”
A truly effective ‘waiting to see’, in post-Katrina New Orleans during that period when the inhabitants believed the approaching Rita would be even worse than Katrina. And to this ironic background an investigation by a female detective into a gory crime – and despite or because of the story’s humorous-human ending (reflecting the sense of characterisation built up), is that more powerful as a result.
[And mention of a body bag and a realisation on my part that when storms attack a building the most vulnerable parts are the balconies.] (27 Dec 10)
Living Arrangement by Steve Rasnic Tem
“Old age was full of surprises.”
And I’m personally waiting to see what those surprises are, I thought, upon reading that at the start of the story. An old man in diminishing health (but with a well-conveyed hinterland of youth) lives with his daughter and grandson. And the daughter’s latest rough-edged boy friend. This is a very clever crime story, I feel, in my relative innocence of this genre. A story with motivations I can truly understand but with some sense of surprise as it developed. If I told you how clever, I’d spoil it for you. Let me, instead, speculate on why this anthology of crime fiction has the overall ‘Ghosts’ heading. Or is it too early to tell, with three and half stories left to read and review? I have wondered if it is to do with motives themselves being forms of ghosts that transcend the intentional fallacy…? Clues from victims as well as from the criminals that created those victims – now, in the future, in the past, clues imparted to the reader collusively by those victims and criminals themselves, accreting clues-to-selves that are the essence of ghosts haunting…? Waiting to see if I’m right. (27 Dec 10 – another 4 hours later)
4 A.M., When The Walls Are Thinnest by Alison J. Littlewood
“Waiting: I was good at waiting.”
This story from within prison is probably the best example so far of contained motives, contained and shared by the inmates, promises within, threats unfulfilled outside, even a librarian to keep the words contained. I found this story absolutely inspiring. Also, before reading this story, I probably was premature about speculating why this book is called ‘Ghosts’. I think I now know at least one reason, and not just because of its ‘phantom limb’ of a thumb-tip! Something far more intrinsic yet subtle. Bravo! This story ought to win awards. And if so, it’ll be up against one or two others from this book, I guess. (27 Dec 10 – another 2 hours later)
The Hostess by Joel Lane
“But the victims weren’t talking even when their mouths healed.”
A short Lane-like piece that if I retold it my mouth would never heal! Suffice to say it’s atmospheric and about a crime in Birmingham and the contained community of criminals that incubate victims as well as themselves as criminals, and any purging needs to be broadly aimed rather than focussed to allow optimum resolution to pan out serendiptously … and for some of the earlier child victims in this book also to find voice as emblemised by the child here …. and its last line of text is genius and makes the whole story work. It somehow makes my whole ‘waiting to see’ theory on this book work, too, or simply click into its rightful context. So, if push comes to shove, this brief story was worth its presence here if only for that… (27 Dec 10 – another hour later)
We Are Two Lions by Luke Sholer
“Motive’s only important if it can affect the outcome.”
Like paid gigolos who meticulously plan to treat each matured woman as a special, never-the-same musical instument to play loud or subtly or whatever – hitmen, too, with their ‘victims’. There are other hitmen in this book (in the Fowler, in the Tem? etc.) – and this substantial, compellingly told, cool narrative seems to pepper itself with every ‘musical instrument’ of fiction in this book we’ve ‘played’ heretofore. Even the camera-bag container for a gun. Narrative snapshots of the protagonist hitman and the ‘you’ he meets and then actually becomes in a very special blending – first as a loving couple (so believably conveyed in the scenes of encounter between him and you), next where ‘you’ want to emulate him – later in a far more violent blending of self with self in rivalry. The hitmen’s Godfather – named Singer – treadles away as the stitches jab like bullets into the texture of the text. And the waiting-to-see has become the tree rotting, and the “time wrapped in flesh“…. And, of course, all the recurrent balconies, where teetering vulnerability shows itself as all hitmen know…. (27 Dec 10 – another 2 hours later)
Plainview: Part Two: The Blood Cools by Dave Hoing
“Take away the new cars and modern fashions, and Plainview could be a Polaroid of 1962.”
Whether it was the author’s or this book’s editor’s idea to split this story into two, bracketing the unfolding plain-views of fiction (tantamount to photographs with no filters other than the chosen frame or direction of shot) that now start, even as I speak, to grow into huge cross-sectioning memory-bases of cruel truth and mystery: and whether it was intended – at the point of writing – that it would always be thus divided into two … well, I shall never know by dint of ‘the intentional fallacy’, but, whatever the case, for me, it works perfectly. It makes it seem as if it were never written at all but simply happened. A rotting tree in fast frame here slowed down to match our cool pace of reading – and of living. Making us wait to see that we shall never know the ultimate truth only enjoy truth in media res … forever. Merely left happy that I’ve managed to read and real-time review another book before my own slow never-endingness of death started. Whodunnit? Not me. I wasn’t there. Not my shoe. Ghosts don’t have shoes. Or the itchy body-bags of the past. (27 Dec 10 – another 3 hours later)
Eleven Eleven: standing upright until a crowd-wave of fiction rolls through us…
Death is the crime of those who abort it?
All in all a stunning book. One I am pleased I bravely reviewed without really knowing what to expect . (27 Dec 10 – another 4 hours later)
NB: Any writer whose single story or novel or collection is real-time reviewed on this site before 30 April 2011 is – inter alios – eligible to submit a story to ‘The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies.