Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Free Bird

Several weeks ago publisher Benjamin M. LeRoy and senior editor Alison Janssen left Bleak House Books where over the last few years they’d built the boutique press into one of the leading names for quality in literary crime fiction with authors like Craig McDonald, Anthony Neil Smith and Reed Farrell Coleman/Tony Spinosa. Their departure to start a new company, Tyrus Books, is one of great interest to HBW and we will watch closely the future of both houses. Uncage Me, an anthology of crime and transgressive fiction edited by Jen Jordan is one of the final titles to be published by Bleak House from the LeRoy/Janssen era and the second hard-edged collection from Jordan whose previous book Expletive Deleted, (originally titled Fuck Noir) offered a trip through the darker recesses of the human experience from the safety of your own cozy chair/lumpy mattress/cold toilet seat/cell block or wherever you make the time to read. The goal of UM seems to be to destroy the illusion of that safety and make you recognize your own capability to star in one of these sordid tales of abuse be it substances, spouses, society at large or that guy/gal in particular that gets under your skin for reasons you can’t quite explain. As John Connolly puts it in his introduction every story "touches upon the basic human urge to transgress, and in this you will find a certain sense of commonality, however uncomfortable it may be." Yeah, I kinda agree, though I got whiplash from the hard gear shifts in the tone of the pieces included. For instance, Scott Phillips kicks things off with another flaming bag of dog crap left on the doorstep of the Wichita tourism board in his piece Ten Gallons of Infected Saliva, or The Cuckhold Avenged - about a young, naive projectionist working at a scuzzy porno theater in Kansas. It's a dirty little chuckler and is followed by Declan Burke's solid, but somber tale of a battered woman, No Thanks, Please. There's a bit of everything here from hardboiled, (Tim Maleeny), to psycho-sexual, (Maxim Jakubowski), gonzo cubicle, (Greg Bardsley), to rural malaise, (Patrick Bagley), the underworld of fetish work, (Christa Faust) to the piece that deserves its very own classification - absurdist bucolic noirotica - The Turnip Farm by Allan Guthrie. Some of the authors, (and maybe Jen deserves some credit here) seem to have gone the extra mile in titling their pieces - Like that Japanese Chick What Broke Up Van Halen, by Stephen Blackmoore - being my favorite. Also included are stories by Steven Torres, Brian Azzarello, Gregg Hurwitz, Nick Stone, Martyn Waites, J.D. Rhoades, Simon Kernick, Victor Gischler, Stuart MacBride, Blake Crouch, Talia Berliner, Hansen and J.A. Konrath, (who edited his own pretty great anthology of hit man stories for Bleak House a few years ago - These Guns for Hire).


Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

Readers should slap on a Depends before they tackle Konrath's story 'cause it's so funny they're liable to piss themselves. I found that out the hard way.

Neil said...

Hey, I didn't know Blackmoore was in it. I judged the contest where "That Chick What..." won something. I think I signed a book for him. Anyway, cool. Phillips and Guthrie, though, defy expectations in their pieces. Wow.