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Brit Grit Alley

Brit Grit Alley features interviews, news and updates on what's happening down British crime fiction's booze and blood soaked alleyways.

By Paul D. Brazill 


HAVE A BRIT GRIT XMAS!


Over at my gaff, I’ve asked a bunch of Brit Grit writers about their favourite Christmas book, film and song. Martina Cole, Lesley Welsh, Nick Quantrill, Sarah Hilary, Martin Stanley, Betsy Reavley, Alex Shaw, Ryan Bracha, Graham Smith, Graham Wynd, Sheila Quigley, Matt Hilton, Douglas Skelton, Mark West, Luca Veste, Ian Ayris, Paul Heatley, Nigel Bird, Jason Michel and Richard Godwin gave their answers. HERE.

The Dark Minds anthology will be published on 12 December. Dark Minds is a charity anthology that includes stories from K A
Richardson, Alex Shaw, Betsy Reavley, and more. Including me.

Luca Veste’s latest, Then She Was Gone, is now available in paperback.

Ryan Bracha’s latest twisted comedy, Phoebe Jeebies and The Man Who Annoyed Everybody, is now available for pre-order and is DEAD CHEAP!

Come here and get yourself on Martin Stanley’s email subscribers list. ALL subscribers get an eBook of his short story collection 'The Greatest Show in Town' absolutely FREE as a sign-up gift!

Rowena Hoseason takes a look at Frank Westworth’s JJ Stoner. Musician. Motorcyclist. Murderer. 

Gareth Spark is interviewed at Black Coffee For Breakfast

Richard Godwin is up at Pulp Metal Magazine with Alcatraz Fetish.  


I’m over at Literally Stories with Band On The Run.


There'll be more carryings on down Brit Grit Alley very soon, sorta kinda thing, like.

Paul D. Brazill is the author of books like The Last Laugh, Guns Of Brixton, Cold London Blues, and Kill Me Quick! He was born in England and lives in Poland. He is an International Thriller Writers Inc member whose writing has been translated into Italian, German and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime. He has even edited a few anthologies, including the best-selling True Brit Grit – with Luca Veste. His blog is here.



Review: South Village, by Rob Hart

Ongoing series offer a reader the opportunity to see a character develop and grow over the course of many books, yet this isn't an easy objective to accomplish. The manner in which an author plots these changes and how they allow the reader to join the character on their journey can make or break, not only an individual book, but the series as a whole.


Ash McKenna is my kind of lead for a kick-ass book. He's a main character who's flawed, troubled by his past, and uncertain of his own future. He makes mistakes at every turn and is blind to the poisons that emanate onto those around him. In other words, he's a great series character who not only grows from novel to novel, but seems to have undergone a metamorphosis based upon the events to previous books. He doesn’t seem to be the same guy we met in New Yorked; he's darker, carries more baggage, and is more troubled by his own actions.

In South Village, Rob Hart has continues to pen genius books that put McKenna into situations where he always seems over his head, yet somehow manages to keep his nose above the water line and take one more breath. He finds himself in a hippy commune and, while trying to keep to himself, ends up involved in the hunt for the truth behind  death of fellow commune member Crusty Pete. In typical McKenna fashion, misfortune lurks around every corner and violence is always a breath away.

The pacing in this book is set on full throttle. I love the way Hart allows readers to worm their way into the psyche of McKenna and see what makes him tick. It's more than just a walk in McKenna’s shoes, you feel as if you're circling the drain with him as he slowly sinks into paranoia, never knowing who to trust. Although he does find a somewhat kindred soul in his friend Aesop, you still get the feeling McKenna is a lone wolf who's always holding back parts of himself. The amateur PI books always seem to flow better when there is an engaging sidekick along for the rise, and Aesop fills the role nicely in this book.

Hart’s greatest strength is his ability to create a character who, while not exceptionally likable, is intriguing and deep. McKenna has a gravitational pull that will suck you in and spit you back out, exhausted from the journey, but begging for more. There is a dark future ahead for McKenna and I am invested in taking the journey with him. This is a strong addition to a strong series and well worth the read.


Highly Recommended.

Metropark

Next time you use the toilet, check under the seat.

Someone might be watching you from The Gutter.

Metropark by Andrew Novak




The air tank on my back clangs against the corrugated tin walls when I move. 

The first moments are taxing, but claustrophobia subsides after only a few minutes.
           
I settle in.
           
According to my estimate, I have roughly an hour and twenty minutes of oxygen remaining.
           
I look up, through the tempered glass of my goggles, past the darkness around me. A haze of orange summer light floods in through the small opening above, which is good. I’ll need light. Without it, the footage will be too dark and unusable. Artificial lighting is not an option. Could give away my position and compromise the entire project.
           
I remind myself: If anything goes wrong, you work for the university. You’re doing research.
           
I turn the camcorder over in my gloved hands to inspect the front. The underwater housing is holding up. A strip of black electrical tape still covers the tiny red light. The lens is clean. Everything is in order.
           
I wait.
           
Cicadas buzz nearby. Or maybe it’s the cloud of flies around my head. I cannot tell.  
           
Wet heat weighs on me. For some reason, I hadn’t imagined the drysuit insulating so viciously. No matter. It’s a necessary evil—the only barrier between me and the biological cesspit in which I crouch.
           
My heart leaps at the sound of the wooden door scraping open just above me.
           
A tingling sensation grabs my lower abdomen as I anticipate the coming events.
           
My fingers fumble over the camcorder. I manage to press the “record” button. I raise the viewfinder to my right eye and watch, filming the opening above, all to the soundtrack of my rabid heartbeat and delicate footsteps overhead. Droplets of sweat roll onto my eyelashes. I blink them away.
           
Through the opening, a shadowy form of wide hips and round, pale buttocks snuff the orange glow like a solar eclipse, lowering onto the resting place just above me. Thankfully, there’s still just enough light to see.
           
I shake.
           
Nervousness. Excitement.
           
My testicles swell. My member stiffens, fighting the tight neoprene covering my left thigh.
           
A sharp creak of flatulence startles me, but I remain calm, focused. A clear stream of urine dribbles jaggedly onto my chest, down from two parted lips veiled partially in dark hair.
           
I lean back slowly.
           
As the camera refocuses, I capture a clear shot of the pulsing anus, only a foot or so from the lens, from my own face.
           
A calm rises in me, but my erection rears, writhing aggressively and uncontrollably. My eyes pull slightly out of focus as they fix on the shadowy orifice. It opens ever so slightly.
           
Some say our universe was born inside a black hole, that black holes are “the cosmic mothers of new universes.”
           
Goddesses, creators of life.
           
Spacetime slows.
           
The opening grows larger, only infinitesimally, though, with each passing second.
           
My gaze shifts to the dark, wrinkled ring encircling the black infinity: event horizon.

Puckered flesh, a circle imperfect. All expanding and contracting.
           
Breathing.
           
I stare into the singularity, that stinking abyss. A perfect recreation of the birth of life as we know it, some scientists would undoubtedly agree.
           
I bear witness.
           
I kneel before it, inferior.

I set the camcorder down. 
           
My cock thrashes wildly without my intent, stretching the neoprene. I clutch it.
           
Above, the singularity expands. Matter emerges, dark and slick. Dense. Asymmetrical.
           
The spasms of my erection grow faster and more intense. Fuzzy darkness devours the outer edges of my vision. My body seethes, my mind falls serene.
           
Soothing chemistry rushes over my brain like ether. My sex bulges. An unquantifiable amount of seed drives for release.
           
The singularity opens fully, then closes off. Matter drops in front of me. Concurrence.
           
The contractions of my sex reach a fever pitch and I fall backward from my knees.
           
Semen bursts from my cock. I imagine it as a viscous molecular cloud or an ethereal star formation. 
           
Falling onto my back, I let out a soft moan, consumed almost entirely by thick, warm dark-matter.
           
Space.
           
I hear the faint sound of a woman shrieking in the distance, miles away maybe.
           
My head sinks until darkness creeps over my goggles like a slow primordial soup.
           
My erection jerks sporadically as it vomits last drops of semen.
           
My eyes water.
           
My breathing slows.
           
Time passes.
           
Violent hands hoist me up. I hear shouting. A gloved hand wipes my goggles, pushing hard on my face. Pain. Sunlight. Two huge men in hazardous material suits drag me by my arms toward an armored truck. The words they use are bitter and filthy. I stumble along, slipping every few steps, catching myself.  
           
I turn, still dazed. Behind me, another hazmat man seals my camcorder into an orange bag near the entrance of the crude wooden structure. 

“I—I work for the university,” I mutter, exasperated. “I’m doing research.”
           
I shake and cough. I taste the rank sludge on my lips and retch.
           
One of the men at my side grabs the back of my neck, tightens his grip, and pulls me along.



Andrew Novak is a journalist and news editor in Washington, DC. He likes to read. He likes to write. He likes to take pictures with his camera. His fiction has appeared in Shotgun Honey.

The Inner Me

It can be good to look inside yourself.
But in the gutter, sometimes it's too dark to see.

The Inner Me by Todd Morr



When Dennis decided to become Denise, he told everybody Denise was who he really was inside.  The man we all saw was just a mask he used to hide his true self.   Sure, his transformation from dad to mom was tough on his kids, as was his conversion from son to daughter tough on his parents, but his inner self had spoken. Apparently, listening to the inner self is very important, certainly more important than the feelings of his friends and family. Everyone, for the most part, recognized the authority of the inner self and came around to support the decision.
The same line of reasoning was not working out near as well for me.  I had explained the way the inner me felt. I laid out how important letting the inner me do some blow off the tits of prostitute was for my long term mental health, but my wife was still standing in the doorway of my room at the Las Vegas Motel 6 pointing my own gun at me.
Apparently my inner me’s long desire for a long weekend binging on cocaine, strippers, Tequila, and blackjack was not ‘valid.’
Explaining the dull loser who worked forty hours a week and took the kids to school was just a mask I wore did not get the sympathetic head nods and long hugs Dennis got. Instead, she pulled the trigger.
Lack of proper gun care never paid off so well.  Turns out if one does not oil and clean the things once in a while, they tend to jam.
I was not the type of guy who would ever hit a woman, or at least I had always thought so, but it turns out that may have been a mask too.  The inner me felt the bitch deserved it, and the outer me agreed.
One of the big differences between a man and woman is after men get dropped by a single punch they tend to quit running their mouths. It is just common sense. Even with her half her fat face caved in she would not shut the fuck up.  Later I thought I should visit Denise, test out how well the transformation went and punch her in the mouth, see if she keeps talking.
The wife did not shut up until I had bounced her face off the bathroom sink about twelve times, actually I think she may have quit talking after the third time, but the inner me felt compelled to keep slamming her.
She was alive, but I thought I could see some brain showing through her crappy dye job. I was pretty sure the inner her did not want to live the rest of her life as A retard or a vegetable, so I drowned her in the toilet. I flushed first, this was the mother of my children after all.
I went ahead and gave the gun a good cleaning. The oil and everything was in the case I kept it in, and my deceased wife had been thoughtful enough to bring it along.
My mask suggested suicide, but fuck him.  The inner me saw a better use for the gun.  The bank accounts, what was left of them, were frozen, but the real me needed some more cash to continue living the way I was supposed to.
When I walked into the gas station waving the gun around, I got the distinct feeling the inner self of the dude behind the counter really wanted to shoot someone with the pistol he had under the counter. I had never really thought about it, probably because I was too busy cultivating my mask, but I really wanted to shoot someone too.
Since I already had my freshly oiled pistol handy, I got my wish.  Turns out it was not near as satisfying as drowning somebody, but watching the blood from the exit wounds decorate the broken liquor bottles behind the counter and seeing him fall back into the same bottles before slumping lifelessly to the ground was pretty cool.
While I was taking all the cash from the register I saw the patrol car pull into the parking lot.  I grabbed the young lady by the slot machines and walked out using her as a shield.  He was reluctant to open fire and hit the girl.  I shot him four times while he was telling me to drop the gun.
The girl covered her head, fell to her knees, and started crying.  She had done such a nice job helping me with the cop I gave her twenty bucks from my haul.
I made my way to a casino, one of the crappy ones off the strip.  I washed down a shot of Patron with a beer and set up at a blackjack table.  I could see the cops surrounding the table as the sparse gamblers in the place ran for the exits.  I put all my chips on the next hand and the dealer gave me an ace and a king.  Instead of paying me my money he ducked under the table.
I went for my gun, but these cops were not bothering to tell me anything before they opened fire.
I bled out on the cheap green felt thinking the inner me was kind of an asshole.

Todd Morr is the author of Mr. Chips Must Die, If You're Not One Percent, Captain Cooker and Jesus Saves, Satan Invests. He has also had work appear in Out of the Gutter, Shotgun Honey and The Big Adios. He lives in Central California.

Outta Sight, Outta Mind

When dealing with scum bags in The Gutter,

be prepared to get your hands dirty.

Outta Sight, Outta Mind by Gary Clifton




Detective Sheena Rucker studied the patrol report on her desk intently. A slender, attractive former college basketball star, she could outrun and kick the ass of nearly every thug in town, and often had. She looked over at her partner, Detective Ernie Grogan, at the next desk. “Our only witness in the murder of Stabber Wilson was found last night in a dumpster out on the east side. Stabbed…uh, eighteen times, cigarette burns, eyes gouged out, wrists tied with barbed wire…all before death.”

Grogan was twenty-three years a cop, balding, quiet, and tough. “Kitten…Lula Mae?” Grogan raised an eyebrow. “You aren’t really surprised? We promised her Witsec. She told us to piss off.”

Lula Mae Clinton, known as “Kitten,” was a stripper at the Silver Daddy Topless Club. She had taken up with an outlaw biker, Clarence Rugger, also known as “Blood.”

Sheena slid the death photo over to Grogan. “He did it to get his jollies. She wasn’t gonna spill. The prick just likes to cut up naked strippers.”

“And we know damned well Blood is good for killing both Stabber and this poor kid. Look at the photo. The MOs are identical,” Grogan said. “Took a fuckin’ hour to do this. But still way too circumstantial to get a conviction.”

Sheena’s smile was death. “We still need to round his ass up for a serious ass-whippin.’ Maybe he’ll confess.”

Grogan nodded and the hunt was on. By noon the following day, facilitated by kicking the dog shit out of several of Blood’s buddies, they traced the biker to his aunt’s farm south of the city.

An hour’s search disclosed no sign of Blood. “Bad info I guess, Sheena.” Grogan stepped into an old, lopsided outdoor privy and urinated into the single hole.

“S…stop, mu’fucker!” a distraught wail wafted up from the huge load of accumulated offal below.

Grogan peered closer into the hole. The piss-filled, yellow eyes of Blood himself, neck deep in liquid shit, glared back at him. Grogan grinned. “Neat place to hide, bad ass…among more shit.”

“Goddammit, Grogan, I’m stuck in shit and I’m sinking,” Blood screamed before his voice dissolved into hysterical sobs. “I got rights, man. You gotta get me out.”

“Sheena,” Grogan called out. “Blood wants to talk to you.”

Sheena shone her flash light on the trapped biker.

“Arrgggghgodammit,” Blood yelled. He was in nearly to the mouth, although by tipping his head backward, he had about a half-inch of play left. His shrieks of terror were long and deafening. He couldn’t quite reach the sides for leverage.

 “You could damage your throat screaming like that. You need help, you say?” Sheena said softly.

“Yeah, you mu’fuckers. You gotta help.” His voice was a nearly unintelligible glut of terror. “Helllllp, for Christ’s sake.”

Grogan said, “Well, Blood, we really need to know if you sure enough butchered Stabber and Kitten.”

“Yeah, goddammit…they both had it comin’. Now help.” The stress on his throat was bringing on serious voice loss. Oh, God, help me. Mucus coursed down what little chin remained visible and mingled with liquid human waste already soaking his scraggly beard. His last shriek allowed some offal to fill his mouth.

“I don’t believe God likes your fat ass any better than us,” Grogan said and motioned Sheena out of the odor.

Blood’s screams of horror rapidly diminished to a squeal.

“Kitten squeal like that when you gouged out her eyes, shithead? We’ll have to get the shit removal squad.” Grogan pushed the door shut behind him.

“No, no, mu’fuckers, no!” Blood screeched from his horrible prison. His hoarse voice was nearly gone. “Nooooo!” His shriek was again lost in sobs of self-pity.

Blood’s voice had strained to a shrill howl as they walked to the car.

“Sounds like a castrated coyote tryin’ to sing the National Anthem,” Sheena said.

“He confessed, Sheena,” Grogan said, stopping at the main gate.

Sheena wired it shut and slid back into the squad car. “At this distance, Blood’s squeals sound partially liquid and barely audible. Suppose he already went under? Rats and snakes will eat his ass in a day or so.” She smiled.

“Rats and snakes gotta eat, too, partner.” Grogan shifted the car to drive. “Hope they don’t get food poisoning from that useless bastard.”

“And no circumstantial case for the court to toss,” Sheena smiled.



Gary Clifton, forty years a cop, has been shot at, shot, stabbed, lied to and about, and often misunderstood. He's currently retired to a dusty north Texas ranch, has an M.S. from Abilene Christian University, and still doesn't give a damn if school keeps or not. Facebook.com/gary.clifton.71

Waiting to Be Forgotten

There is nothing harder to review than a book of collected short stories by various authors. From the different styles to the different levels of production, short story collections can be, as Forest Gump’s momma says, “like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get”.  
Well, Waiting to Be Forgotten makes my job a bit easier because all the stories are good; albeit some are better than others.

The concept to the collection is a great one; each story is inspired by a title of a song from the group, The Replacements. Each author’s take on a different song leads to a different experience, yet the stories all seem intertwined with feelings of revenge, dread, hope, and desire.  

Some of my favorite offerings from this collection:

Customer by S.W. Lauden: The anthology kicks off with a hell of a tale of love and revenge. Lauden has gotten my attention with everything he has written and this story is no exception. A perfect recipe for revenge served cold.

Within Your Reach by Alex Segura: If the first few paragraphs from this one don’t make you scratch your head and say WTF, I don’t know what will. Starts with a standard noir outline; man has access to money that isn’t his, he meets a dame who has plans to get money that isn’t hers, man makes plans that will never pan out…ah, you know the rest. But Segura infuses this tale with some unique characters and twists and ended up with a tale that did everything right.

Gary’s Got a Boner by Johnny Shaw: With a title like this and an author like Shaw, you know you better buckle up for this one. Add one part of a man who needs some spice to his sex life, one part Mexican cop with bad intentions, sauté it with the effects from a Mexican sex pill and you have all the ingredients for a hell of a read. Johnny Shaw can do no wrong and this quick read is just more proof for any doubters.

Kiss Me on the Bus by Angel Luis Colon:  A great story of the balancing act that goes on between finding love and feeding the itch of addiction. Had a heartbreaking feel, but mixes in feelings of hope.

Left of the Dial by Eric Beetner: I love Beetner and everything he writes. Here is gives us two men who find one killing quickly begets another. Issues can arise when you aren’t totally committed to the task at hand. Beetner’s streak of writing winners continues.

The Ledge by Josh Stallings: A family torn apart by drugs and the legacy that drugs leave on the soul. Stallings is at his best writing about pain, torment, and guilt. This was my favorite story in a collection of great stories. Sweet Jesus, this is a good one.

All in all, this is one hell of a great collection of stories. From established authors who have had my interest for years, to newer writers who have now piqued interest, there is something for everyone here. I loved the cover, I love the concept, and most importantly for a reader, I loved the writing. This is going to knock your socks off. Dare I say Waiting to Be Forgotten is a perfect holiday gift for the noir lover you want to keep out of your hair for a few hours.


Highly Recommended
Reviewed by Derrick Horodyski. 

Barstool Man

When you got your sights set on revenge,

make sure your resolve can commit.

Barstool Man by Jennifer Wortman




He’d sat on the same barstool every night since she first saw him there. Why? Did he crave a set place in this shaky world? Tonight, she’d shake him, but first, a drink. A few nights ago—her first time in this bar in two decades—she’d asked for a whiskey sour.

The bartender had said, “None of that here. We’re just a regular bar.” 

She’d forgotten that “a regular bar” meant something different in Mellsburg, Ohio than it did in bigger, better places. Better places that turned out to be just as bad as this bar or worse.
           
The hunting knife weighed heavy in her pants. She’d almost brought her dad’s revolver, but when nervous or angry—and she would be both—she lost control, and she didn’t want to ruin her life by going trigger-happy. She just wanted to scare him, hurt him a little. Maybe it was too late. Maybe her life had already been ruined all those years back by the barstool man.
           
He didn’t recognize her, not tonight or the nights before. The rapist’s luxury: being someone to watch out for but not someone who keeps watch. His linebacker’s heft had gone mushy and wide, and his round cheeks had caved into long jowls. Still, she’d known him instantly. She’d once told a therapist she’d blacked out during the worst of it, so it was like it never happened.

“But it did happen,” the therapist had said. “Your mind left, but your body knows.”
           
After drinks two and three, it was time.
           
She went to the ladies’ room. The lipstick was crucial. That night years ago, he’d praised her lips, saying they looked “French.” She’d worn a shade much like this one: a mix of red wine, dried blood, and ground-in dirt—the color of stains that don’t come out.
           
The fourth drink wasn’t part of the plan, but neither were drinks two or three. After the fifth, she slammed the empty glass on the bar and approached him.

Her dad had a shirt that read, “They must think I’m a mushroom, because they keep me in the dark and feed me bullshit.” The barstool man looked like the cartoon mushroom on that shirt.

Still, her heart slammed against her ribs. “Hi,” she said.
           
He turned to her. Those shimmering green eyes. They’d be beautiful if they weren’t half dead.

Fucking jock. Maybe those eyes had drawn her to him that night. There she’d been, invited to a jock party for the first time and excited despite herself, drinking a lot because she was nervous. There he’d been, in his orange Mellsburg Tigers jersey.

Stupid girl. Maybe it was those eyes she followed into the bathroom after he said, “Hold on, I gotta take a leak,” and motioned for her to come in so they could keep talking.

Survivor’s conventional wisdom told her it wasn’t her fault. She didn’t believe it. Even though she’d said, “No!” when he pinned her down. Even though she didn’t struggle because she couldn’t, stuck under the fallen building of him and his rubble. There was no food or water there, no air, just his face, yammering about his girlfriend, the back of his mullet swinging at her eyes. “I don’t want your body,” he said, implanting himself in her. “I want you.” Then things went dark.
           
When she staggered back to the party and told an older girl what had happened, the girl rolled her eyes and said, “Oh, Bobby. He always attacks girls in bathrooms. You have to lock the door.” Until her therapist, that girl was the last person she’d told.
           
“Hi there,” the barstool man said. “What can I do you for?”
           
“I’ve been watching you. Every night this week. Finally got the courage to come say hello.”
           
“Liquid courage?”
           
“The only kind there is.” Funny how he didn’t even blink at her fuck-me eyes, like he just expected women to want his fat ass. She nodded toward the bathroom. “Maybe we could get a little privacy.”
           
“No such thing around here, sugar,” he said and followed her.
           
There was barely room for them both in that stall. He smelled of Budweiser, but also sweet, a little powdery, like he’d been caring for babies. His breath scraped hot against her head. A puff of chest hair pushed beyond the neck of his shirt. His flesh flushed pink. 

She felt the blood drain from her face and limbs. She reached down, as if for him, and brought the blade to his throat.
           
Oh, how deftly he swatted it away and into the toilet with a splash. Oh, the light-speed in which her hands were forced behind her back.
           
For the second time in her life, everything went black.




Jennifer Wortman’s work appears in a variety of journals, including PANK, North American Review, Confrontation, Massachusetts Review, and elsewhere. She is a fiction editor for Colorado Review and an instructor at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver. This is her first attempt at noir. She likes it, maybe a little too much.

Review: Bad Luck City, by Matt Phillips

Being the reviewer at Out of the Gutter, I am blessed with the chance to read a lot of great books and share my opinions with all of you. The bad part of being the reviewer, is there are times when I get a lot of new books and, sad to say, some books seem to fall by the wayside. In an effort to correct this problem, I decided to dig down into my TBR pile and see if I could find any gems that may have slipped through my fingers. I am happy I made this decision, as I came across a hell of a great read that you are going to love.

It has been a while since I read Matt Philips’ Redbone. I recalled really enjoying it, but I forgot what an effective writing style Philips possesses. I started Bad Luck City ill prepared for the scorching read that this book presented. From beginning to end, this book did everything right.

Sim Palmer is a reporter in an age in which many reporters have fallen by the wayside. He is a reporter who lives the life of a reporter; get a lead on a story, look for the juicy meat of the story and then sink your teeth into it, never relinquishing the bone until you have stripped it clean and satiated yourself. When Palmer gets a tip that a woman he has never met, Gloria, might be missing (yes, MIGHT). Palmer sinks his teeth into this lead and finds more than he could have bargained for. Despite being warned off the case in a violent attack, he searches the city streets for more leads and what he hopes will be a satisfying ending to this story.

Without giving away too much of this wonderfully balanced plot, this story is at its core a story about family, having a sense of honor, and a man’s quest to find answers to both a news story and about himself at the same time. Philips used a deft touch is pulling all these pieces together in a must-read novella.

I would have to compare this book to a superstar athlete. It is lean, cut in a way that makes it efficient towards its goal, and in the end, it is a winner. Phillips creates a feeling of a throwback pulp novel that rings with authenticity. This was the second book I have read by Philips and it is the second time I have been left wanting more.


Highly Recommended. 

Animals

The more I get to know humans,

The more I love my dog.

Animals by Patrick Cooper




I’ve been waiting maybe twenty minutes already. My watch says 5:15, but I swear I’ve been hampered down in this backseat longer than that. I have a pretty good sense of time too. My internal clock is fine-tuned from running this caper so much.

The past two days, I’ve watched her get in her car and drive home. Always a couple minutes after five, like clockwork. What’s taking her so long today?

This part, the wait, used to get me sprung. Now it’s just part of the routine. Like the straights who get up at seven, get to work by nine, and punch out at five, just like she does. Where is she?

Past two days, right at five, she practically sprints from the building like it’s on fire. I don’t blame her. I used to have a nine to five. Didn’t take though.

Where is she? My bladder is swelling to the size of a small child’s, but I push that sensation to the back of my mind. The pressure won’t bother me because I won’t let it. It’s a Zen thing I read about one time.

Boredom kicks in and I sit up to stretch my neck and shoulders. I should do yoga. It would make the time spent folded up in backseats easier. Yoga, that’s the ticket. How much is a yoga class though? Probably expensive.

Through the windshield, I can see the parking garage is pretty vacant. Christ, the fluorescent lighting in these parking garages are hell on the eyes.

A picture of her holding an obscenely adorable boxer puppy dangles from the visor. I had a boxer once named Joey. He came down with cardiomyopathy – an irregular heartbeat that eventually led to death. I miss that goofy dog everyday.

I hoist myself up and open the center console out of sheer boredom: eye drops. Yeah, I thought I smelled traces of weed in here. Some earrings, nothing fancy. A travel bottle of mouthwash. Here’s the dime bag. Right on. I sniff it. It’s cheap. Pushed down to the bottom of the console is a folded-up envelope. The return address is some bank. Maybe it has her account balance inside, which will be useful when we stop at an ATM later.

There’s no account statement, but it says she’s a couple months behind on her student loans. The letter has OVERDUE stamped on it in furious red. It threatens action if she falls further behind. The vultures are circling.

Inside the glove box, I find an insurance card and registration in the name of a Katherine Newman; a compact, some perfume, and another envelope. Inside, there’s a sonogram photo. Judging by the blurry bulge between the legs, I’d say it’s a boy.

Mazel tov, Katherine.

The elevator doors ding open and Katherine walks out slowly like she has weights around her ankles. I put my hood up and fold back into my cramped position down between the backseats. Her footsteps get closer, echoing in the garage.

She walks to her car and leans against the hood. What’s that sound? My ears perk up. She’s crying.

Through the windshield, I can see her shoulders bounce up and down like pistons as she weeps into her hands.  She tries to compose herself. Wiping snot off on her blouse, she unlocks the front door, and slides into the driver’s seat.

I brace myself.

Her cellphone rings.  

“Hello? Paul? Hi.”

Damn. Wait it out. Breathe slow.

“Absolutely not,” she says. “You’re not taking Denny. He’s my dog, Paul! I’ve had him since he was a month old! I take care of him! You only want him to hurt me. I know what you’re doing! He’s all I’ve got, Paul! And don’t think for a second that…hello? Paul, Paul?!”

Katherine tosses the cellphone in the backseat. I don’t move. Close your door, Katherine. I never pounce until they close the damn door. Close it.

She takes the picture off the visor, stares at it, and resumes crying. What’s that sensation down in my gut? It’s not my bladder. It’s a pang of sadness and sympathy. Christ, Joey. I miss that stupid dog. It’s not fair they die so young and we continue living our shitty, selfish lives. Joey, goddammit.

Katherine places the photo back on the visor and exits the car. She heads back in the elevator and leaves me there, thinking about Joey and some guy named Paul who’s taking her dog away. Screw it. Where’s that registration card? 


###

I wait for Katherine again the next day. This time, I’m standing next to her car and not concealed in the backseat. A little after five, the doors ding open and out she comes, looking as despondent as the day before. Then she sees us and her eyes light up.

I unhook Denny’s leash from the harness and the little boxer runs up to Katherine. The pup’s little ass shakes the whole way, his tail wagging so wildly he can’t run straight. He wiggles into Katherine’s arms. 

When the initial shock is over, she looks at me uncertainly.

I say, “I visited Paul last night. I explained to him that it wasn’t right he takes Denny. He belongs with you.”

“But what…who are you?”

I squeeze my hands together. The knuckles are swollen, still throbbing from my visit with Paul. Thick skull on that guy. “I’m just a guy who used to have a dog once.”



Patrick Cooper is a writer living in Trappe, PA. His work has appeared in ThugLit, Akashic Books, Shotgun Honey, Spinetingler, and more. Dig more over at: https://patrickgcooper.com