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Brit Grit Ally

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 

News and a review!

As of February 2018, Number Thirteen Press has joined withFahrenheit Press to form a new imprint:

Fahrenheit 13

Fahrenheit Press’ Chris McVeigh dishes the dirt here:

‘We’re delighted to announce that Number Thirteen Press has officially become part of the Fahrenheit family. We’re massively chuffed that as part of the deal, Number Thirteen head honcho Chris Black has agreed to join us as senior editor of our new imprint Fahrenheit 13. Over the coming months we’ll be republishing the Number Thirteen books and Chris will be out in the world actively commissioning new books for our new imprint. As a nod to Number Thirteen tradition, all the books published by Fahrenheit 13 will be published on the 13th of the month.’

And Number Thirteen Press’ Chris Black spills the beans here. 

‘So, here I am, the new head of a new imprint and it’s important to me that Fahrenheit 13has a distinctive feel. So if Fahrenheit are the punk publishers of crime fiction, where does that leave Fahrenheit 13?

Simple: Fahrenheit only break the rules. Fahrenheit 13 burns the rule book and buries it out in the desert.’

All of which is great news for me, as it means my seaside noir Kill Me Quick! will be rebooted and suited and should be republished around May or June.


M W Craven’s new crime thriller has been snapped up for a TV adaptation. The Bookseller says: 

'Studio Lambert, producers of the award-winning BBC1 drama “Three Girls”, have acquired the TV rights to the former probation officer’s forthcoming novel The Puppet Show (Constable), from Emily Hayward-Whitlock at The Artists Partnership on behalf of D H H Literary Agency.

The title is the first in a two-book deal signed by Constable ahead of London Book Fair last year, forming a new series from Craven featuring Washington Poe, a cynical Detective Sergeant and colleague Tilly Bradshaw, as they investigate a series of murders that take place in and around the ancient moorlands and stone circles of Cumbria. The Puppet Show will be published in June 2018.

Craven, who was born in Cumbria, said: “I am absolutely delighted that Studio Lambert have optioned the rights to The Puppet Show. I met with Susan Hogg (head of drama) and Madeleine Sinclair (head of development) last May, and knew immediately that Studio Lambert’s track record of producing hard-hitting and innovative drama meant that they were the perfect home for Poe and Tilly.”

Hogg said: “Reading The Puppet Show, we were immediately drawn to the brilliant and surprising partnership of Detective Washington Poe and analyst Tilly Bradshaw. Mike Craven has created a distinctive, darkly humorous and compelling series that we can’t wait to develop for British and worldwide television viewers.”

Craven’s previous books in the DI Avison Fluke series were published by independent press Caffeine Nights Publishing.'


Recommended read: This Is How It Ends by Eva Dolan. When property developers buy a London tower block and start to force people out of their homes, Ella and Molly start a protest campaign .

But one night, Molly gets a phone call from Ella that throws both of their lives out of kilter.

Eva Dolan’s This Is How It Ends is a gripping, rich, inventive and powerful 21st century crime thriller that will keep you on your toes.

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

Paul D. Brazill is the author of A Case Of Noir, Guns Of Brixton, Last Year's Man, and Kill Me Quick! He was born in England and lives in Poland. His writing has been translated into Italian, Polish, 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: May, by Marietta Miles

While I already count myself as a Marietta Miles fan from my reading of Route 12, her first book, nothing prepared me for her follow-up offering, May. This is an atmospheric masterpiece that painted my soul in a muted grey and left me praying she comes out with her next book very soon. This book dripped with a depressive, bleak feeling of imminent danger. Each page you turn forces you into a gloomier, darker, more ominous state of being. In other words, this is one of the finest books I have read in a long while.

Told in two parts, with May is a young girl and as an older battle-scarred caretaker of an island being closed down due to an impending storm, both narratives provide us glimpses of a severely broken and damaged soul.

The initial narrative offers the reader a glimpse of May’s early life. May was raised in a time where becoming pregnant without a husband at an early age is the sign of deviancy and when May finds herself impregnated during high school, she soon finds herself abandoned by her parents; left to live with her free-spirited aunt.  

The second narrative follows May, beaten down by life and appearing to be on the run from parts of her life we are not yet privy to, as she traverses the island where she lives and works as a caretaker, shuttering homes and prepping them to weather the powerful storm set to slam the island. But she is also running from something or someone from her past. Around every corner are reminders of a life which went off the rails and left her with deep scars; but these scars may just be scabbed over wounds that are about to be reopened.

This book is extremely well-written. Each page and paragraph are stripped down to their barest elements and bring elicit feelings of dread and anticipation in readers. Miles has a knack for penning stories that keep me turning the pages at a finger burning pace. While Route 12 showed the promise Miles holds as an author, Miles has outdone herself with this novella. The tension she creates throughout this book is so heavy and thick you can cut it with a knife. Impossible to put down, this book is going to grab you by the throat and slowly squeeze; always allowing you enough air to keep breathing, but never enough to allow you to forget you are in its grips. Sweetness.

Highly Recommended.

The New, Undisputed Champion of the World

Gladiator or no, when your back's against the wall,

use everything you got so you don't get ripped to shit.

The New, Undisputed Champion of the World by Benjamin DeVos

On the day of the fight, I found Sean in the basement mixing cement in a wheelbarrow.  “Today’s the big one,” he said. “It’s the day you break someone’s fucking face.”

I imagined my body, beaten after the fight, lying in the wheelbarrow and Sean dumping my body in a shallow ditch somewhere, using the cement to seal my grave.

Sean greased me up with Vaseline and poured cement over my hand wraps to make them really fucking tough.

I put on my shit kickers, ready to rumble.

Sean drove me to a slaughterhouse in Kensington where fights were held on a monthly basis. There was a line of motorcycles lined up out front and a group of tough looking bikers dressed in leather.

Sean led me inside to a meat locker where I could warm up.

I warmed up the way he taught me, punching a pig carcass until I broke every bone in its body.

A fat man wearing a blood-stained butcher apron and holding a cigar between his sausage fingers told me it was time to meet my opponent, a wrestler named Antonio.

Antonio’s head looked like a wrinkled lump of meat with rotten teeth slanting out of the sides. I couldn’t if they were teeth or just dead gums hanging from the roof of his mouth. He wore a black robe and looked like death. Death come for me. The tattoo on his chest said: “Chosen One.”

Yeah, chosen to get my ass whooped.

The fat man led us to a ring made of wooden slats and chicken wire.

I looked around for a referee. There wasn’t one.

The match was policed by the crowd. If they didn’t like you, they showed it by throwing shit at you. Smash. A bottle broke across my head. Blood coiled out of my brow like plum-colored Play-Doh. My baptism; a new face replacing the old one.

I stepped into the ring and shadow-boxed in my corner, trying not to look scared as my entire body shook, felt like I might faint at any moment.

The fat man rang the bell. The fight was on.

Antonio broke my nose within the first five seconds. Didn’t just break it but obliterated it.

There was no nose left, just the jagged outline where one used to be.

I inhaled flesh through my sinuses and choked a little. My senses were fucked after that first punch: a slight ringing out my right ear; couldn’t see a thing, but let my training guide me. I closed my eyes and imagined a massive pig before me.

It was snorting and spitting, ready to bite my head off. So I bit the pig first.
I hurdled forward and planted my teeth into its throat, clamping down with all my might.

The pig let out a wild squeal and tried to pull itself from my clutches but it was too late.

I punched that pig right in its face. I squeezed its pig nipples and twisted. There was no real technique involved, but I was winning. Winning was all that mattered. I jumped on the pig’s back and began to choke it like I saw the martial arts guys do on television. I reached my arm under its chin and locked my hand behind its head.

It was like I was in a pig rodeo being thrashed around the ring while latching on to armpit hair, trying not to be thrown to my doom.

Eventually, the pig’s legs buckled and it let out one final grunt before completely collapsing.

I released my grip and raised my hands triumphantly, assuming the fight was over. I was wrong.

The pig wasn’t ready to give up. It kicked me in the groin, followed by a devastating elbow to the spot where my nose used to be.

The pain nearly knocked me unconscious. I dropped to my knees and prepared for the final blow. That’s when I heard the voice of God.

Actually, it was Sean but I thought it was God. He was yelling, “A pig is nothing without its eyes.”

I thought about this. It was an incorrect statement. Like snakes, pigs used their noses more than their eyes. 

Still, I knew what I had to do. I jumped to my feet and reached for Antonio, found his face with my hands, reared myself like a bull, and head-butted him into oblivion. I gouged Antonio’s eyes with my thumbs, continued head-butting. I wanted to head-butt him until my face was permanently imprinted in his meaty skull.  

I felt like I could do anything I wanted so I tickled his feet until he ran out of breath, put him over my knee and spanked him. I embarrassed him into submission.

The crowd went crazy.

I drilled my knuckles into his head until I broke the blood-brain barrier.

The fat man pulled me off and raised my hand.

I felt like a gladiator who just decapitated a lion. The only difference was the lion was actually a pig and I was a lucky son of a bitch.

Benjamin DeVos is the head editor of Apocalypse Party. He is the author of the forthcoming novella The Bar Is Low (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2018) among others.

Carter or No Carter

Stuck out in the woods with armed militia men?

Better have an exit strategy. And you'd better know what you're doing. 

Carter or No Carter by Ross Peterson

An assault rifle hung from his shoulder by a strap, a wad of tobacco bulged behind his lower lip. He wore a tie-dye shirt under his camo jacket and a necklace with a bear tooth for its pendant. He walked toward me through the tall grass.

“I’m Leon’s friend,” I said to him.

He spat a wad of brown sludge.

“I’m the one . . . I got some shit for you guys.”

“Carter’s shit?” he said.

“I think so, yeah. Carter, yeah, he’s the guy.”

“Let’s see it.”  

I took off my backpack, unzipped it, and reached for the slab of H wrapped in freezer bags. Twenty five thousand dollars’ worth.  I handed it to him for inspection.

Like an apparition, another militia member appeared from the trees at the edge of the grove and stepped forward from the brush. Bearded and dressed like a mountain man, in buckskin pants, he too brandished an assault rifle.

I greeted him with more trepidation in my voice than I would have liked. The takeaway bit of wisdom Leon gave, before he sent me hiking up here: do not exude fear in any way.
“Works for Carter,” the one with the bear tooth necklace said, nodding at me.
“Indirectly,” I said. “I’ve never met the guy. I’m coming from a lot further down the totem, but I go way back with Leon, one of his . . . associates.”
Buckskin Pants smiled and I saw the hole where there was once a front tooth.
“I know I’m probably not what you’re used to,” I said. “I bet you wouldn’t believe it if I told you I’m actually an elementary school P.E. teacher.” Shut up, shut up, shut up.
“You know Carter’s dead, right?” Bear Tooth Necklace said, showing me his missing teeth.
“Carter’s d—”
“Yep. Popov and some other Russian guys.”
“Nothing left of him, dropped in a drum of fucking acid.”
“I don’t think he’s following,” Buckskin Pants said.
“No,” I said, “I got you. They dumped him in hydrochl—”

“Money, asshole,” Bear Tooth Necklace said. “Your boss ain’t around to collect, so we ain’t got a reason to pay you. Thanks for handing over the product so easy.”
“Wait,” I said.

I was in unchartered waters. There were no in-case-of-emergency acronyms to apply, were there? LAST? Listen, Apologize, Solve, Thank? That might get you out of hot water with irate parents but didn’t do shit when it came to prying heroin money out of odious backwoods militia members.

 “Even if Carter is dead, a deal’s a deal, right?” I said.

Bear Tooth Necklace jammed the cold steel barrel of his rifle into my cheek. “You tell me, idiot. Is a deal a deal?”

“Whoa,” I said. “Easy, easy. I’m cool. You’re right. You can—you can have the shit.” It wouldn’t have surprised me if I’d suddenly felt the warm wetness of pissed pants.     

Bear Tooth necklace slowly lowered his rifle.

This might have been my first handoff, but Carter or no Carter, I knew I couldn’t return empty-handed. It doesn’t matter who’s dead, you collect. Fail to and that’s how you end up bubbling in hydrochloric acid.

I backed away with my hands in the air.

Both men pointed their guns at me.

I bent down to pick up my backpack. “Just got to grab this,” I said. I moved slowly, as if an imaginary cop had told me to keep my hands where he could see them and picked up my backpack.

Buckskin Pants cocked his gun.

I showed him my hands, my bag hanging off my thumb by a strap. In an instant, I ripped the bear spray out of my bag, tumbled, rolled, flicked off the plastic safety cover, and discharged the canister. It burned my eyes, but not as bad as it burned theirs.

They screamed, kneading their eye sockets with their palms. 

When they opened fire, I ran as fast as I could toward the trail. Bullets bounced off dirt, rocks, and trees. I rolled behind a boulder, yanked the .38 from its ankle holster, turned off the safety, and fired. The little cannon shocked my shoulder backward. I sprung to my feet and ran.

They held their fingers steadfast to their triggers, created a wall of bullets around the encampment. Why was I now only considering this was a piss poor way to take their money? Why was I now only considering they might not even have the money?


“Drive, drive, drive!” I said to Leon, slamming the door of his pickup.

“I heard gunfire, Donny. What happened? Tell me that wasn’t you they were shooting at.”

His truck fishtailed across the washboard on the dirt road. We bounced over a giant pothole.

“Carter’s dead.”

“No he isn’t. Evans texted me an hour ago and told me Carter said to meet him with the cash at the Briar.”


“What? Don? Why do look like that? That’s not a good look.”

“You’re sure Carter isn’t dead?” 

“You got the cash. Please, tell me you got the cash. If you didn’t get the cash we are so, so fucked.”

“Some Russian mob guys put him in hydrochloric acid.”

“No, no, no, no, no. You got the cash, though? Right?”

“Yes,” I lied. “Of course I got the cash.”

We bounced down the mountain drive, dodging protruding rocks, swiping low hanging brush. I still had bullets in the .38. If Leon refused to be left on the side of the road . . . I couldn’t even think about it. The guy was a pallbearer at my father’s funeral. He’d submit. People submit to all kinds of shit at gunpoint.

Where to disappear, though? How far away could I get today? How long before they’d start hunting me?

Why did Leon’s pickup have to be a stick shift?

Jesse Gets Fixed

In The Gutter, a true friend stabs you in the front.  

Jesse Gets Fixed by Fred Rock

The night was sticky and hot and I was sweating plenty even though it was well past sunset. Gravel crunched beneath my shoes, the echoes bouncing loudly off abandoned buildings. This neighborhood wasn’t safe after dark but I was hurting and needed to be here. A five-inch blade was folded up in my pocket. Just in case.

Manny’s black Ford sat rusting in its usual spot, five spaces over from the back door of the Skol Bar. Three men talked softly by the car but their muted voices fell quickly silent as I approached. Curt goodbyes were said and two of the men peeled away from the third. They drifted over to the back door of the Skol Bar and went in. The door closed itself behind them.

The third shape called from over by the car. It was Manny. “Who is it?” he asked.


“Jesse,” Manny said. “No shit?”

I heard him thumb the hammer forward on a handgun and watched him stuff it down into his waistband. I went over to him.

Manny looked like a tramp freshly tossed off a railcar into the mud. He never shaved and didn’t seem to have much regard for soap. His clothes were dirty and threadbare, hair dingy and grimy. A dented-up bowler hat sat too small on his head.

“I’m shaking apart,” I told him.

Manny was a guy who enjoyed watching people squirm. His eyes lit up and he gave me a greasy smile. “Haven’t seen you in days,” he said. “Hell, maybe weeks.” He fished a cigarette from a crumpled pack, tapped it on a nickel plated lighter, and studied me like a butterfly pinned to a board. He bit down on the cigarette, wrapped it with a meaty hand to shield it from some imaginary breeze, and fired it. “Thought maybe you moved away or something.”

“I tried to kick.”

He chuckled out smoke and clicked shut the lighter. “Dolophine?”

“Cold turkey.”

“Cold turkey!” he whooped.  “Hoo boy! You got balls, Jesse, I’ll give you that!” He gaped at me for a while. Then the amusement died in his eyes and the smile slid off his face. With a tone of pure disdain, he asked, “Up or down?”

“Both,” I said. “Can you set me up a speedball so I can see straight?”

A scornful guttural sound came from deep in his throat. “You want a cocktail, you’re gonna have to cook it up yourself. I ain’t your goddamn bartender!”

“Easy now,” I said. “Take it easy, Manny. It was just a question. You don’t have to get sore.”

“I’m not sore,” he snapped. “I’m just sick of you dopers coming around hitting me up for favors all the time.”

He stared at me, bug-eyed and challenging.

I said nothing, wiped damp hands on my pants.

“How much do you need?” he asked.

A drop of sweat slid cold down my back. I could feel my pulse in my eyeballs. “Two of each.”

He bunched up his forehead and his eyes were wary. “Two? Of each?”

I fought to keep my voice from trembling but my mouth was dry and my throat felt scratchy. “I-” I cleared my throat. “I fell into some money.”

Manny leered at me for a few beats, waited for me to say more. When I didn’t, he turned and popped the trunk of the Ford. Inside was a green tackle box and he reached in, unlatched it, and flipped it open. A triple-beam scale sat down in the bottom of the box. He took it out and placed it carefully beside the tackle box. Then, with the attentive care of a chemist, he weighed two grams of heroin, wrapped it up in tinfoil, and set it aside.

Next, he weighed the cocaine.

I watched him weigh it and twist up the tinfoil. My heart galloped.

Manny turned back to me and presented the packets proudly, one in each hand. “Two at two grams apiece,” he said. “And this is no bunk. Get reckless shooting this stuff and they’ll be tagging your toe.”

My heart lurched up into my throat and the folding knife was open in my hand. Manny’s eyes shot to the shining blade and grew round. I watched them roll back white as I plunged the knife into his chest. I pulled the blade out red, plunged it in again. Then again. I thrust it deeper, harder. The blood spurt hot and sticky onto my face. My eyes rolled back and I spurt, hot and sticky, onto my briefs. 

Manny crumpled heavy against me with a long pneumatic wheeze and I caught his weight, eased him backwards and away. He slid down the Ford, his head skipping off the bumper, as he dropped in a heap to the ground. I stood over him, sobbing.

When my heart stopped flying, I bent down, wiped the blade on Manny’s jacket, and looked around. There was no one. I closed the tackle box, latched it tight, and took it.

They’ll tell you the first hit of any drug is the best, that the addict is always chasing his first high, and maybe that’s true for most. But I’ve done three kills now and I’m here to tell you: The rush gets better every time.

Fred Rock lives in a small town in Wisconsin with his wife and two kids. Specializing in pulp, hard-boiled, and noir, his stories have been featured in Disclaimer, Scaffolding, Speculative 66, 101 Words, and others. Fred Rock is currently writing his first novel: Danger in Rush City.

A Defective Story

In life, there comes a time you must face your insecurities.

In The Gutter, they just leap off the page.

A Defective Story by Wayne Scheer

Rock Mason pushes his lanky body away from his desk and plops his size thirteens on the battered desk littered with papers, coffee cups, and two ashtrays piled high with cigarette and cigar butts.

From his shirt pocket he pulls out the fattest, ugliest stogie this side of Havana, bites off the end, and spits it across the room. A glob of saliva drips from his lips to his chin, hangs there like a trapeze artist, and drops to his desk, forming a Florida-shaped stain.

The sign on the door reads: Private Investigator

He sucks on the cigar and turns toward his file cabinet. "You got something in there worth investigating?"  He stares at it menacingly. "This is what it has come to. I talk to my goddamn file cabinet." 

A couch with rumpled bed sheets and a blanket occupy the part of the office he’s been sleeping in."Damn women." He puts down his cigar and folds the sheets and blanket. "Just when you think you've found one." Returning to his desk, he reaches into a drawer for a bottle of Pepto Bismol and drinks deep, shaking the bottle to get the final drop. "Ahh, the most important meal of the day." 

There's a knock on the door.

"I dare you," Mason says.   

In walks the kind of broad wet dreams are made of. When his eyes finally reach her face, he sees a smile that would have made Adam beg for apple pie recipes.

Rock's mother had taught him to stand when a lady entered the room, but if he did right then he would have embarrassed himself. He motioned for her to sit down. "What do you go by, doll face?"

"Fanny," she whispers. "Fanny La Moore."

He stares at his cigar as if it had grown a couple of inches.

Rock begins to speak, but stops. He looks to Fanny, who is silent.

They gesture, as if trying to force out words.

Rock shakes his head. His face has turned red. He stares at Fanny who has tears in her eyes.

No longer able to restrain themselves, they giggle like two school children.

"The writer has no idea where he's going with this," Rock says. "All he has are stupid names, bad dialogue, and descriptions that would even embarrass Kinky Friedman. This guy wouldn't know a plot if it bit him on the ass."

Fanny rips off her blond wig and reaches down the top of her dress to pull out foam-rubber padding. "This stuff is giving me a rash." 

Rock turns to a mirror hanging on the wall opposite his desk and blows a perfect smoke ring into it.

Wayne Scheer coughs as the smoke from his cigarette settles onto his white hair and beard. "Ah, come on, you guys. Give me a break."

"Give me a character," Fanny says. "I look like I belong on the cover of a 1950's paperback."

"And I'm tired of sitting around in this crummy office," Rock shouts. "For God's sake, man, have me do something."

"Like what?" Wayne asks.

"How the hell should I know?  You're the author. Don't you have a file cabinet full of plots?"

"If only," Wayne says, getting up from his desk and pacing. "Let's see. Fanny, you're married to an old geezer, but you're in love with a stud personal trainer. You signed a prenup and you'll get nothing unless you catch the old guy cheating on you. You want to hire Rock to set up your husband with a bimbo and—"

Rock slams his fist on the desk. "You call yourself a writer?  Is that the best you can do?"

"Now, now, Rock," Fanny over-articulates. "Maybe that is the best he can do."

Wayne pushes aside a half-folded blanket and crumbles on the couch. "Look, guys. I'm not having a great day. My wife left me for a poet from Iowa."

"Is he in the Writer's Workshop?" Rock asks.

Wayne looks up. "Yeah. What difference does that make?"

"Because they have some talented people there. I could see the attraction."

"Damn," Wayne says. "Why can't you be more understanding? I created you."

Wayne takes a deep drag on his cigarette and lets the smoke out slowly. His eyes widen. He dashes to his computer and starts banging at the keys like a madman.

With that, Fanny walks behind him, massages his shoulders, and kisses his neck.

"Now that's more like it," Wayne says as his fingers continue dancing over the keys.

"No." Fanny pulls away. "I don't do nude scenes."

“Okay, okay. It was worth a try.” 

“Hey, you two. What about me?” Rock asks. “I'm just sitting here playing with my cigar.”   

Wayne looks up and smiles before returning to his keyboard.

The office door swings open. An old man waving a handgun sees Rock sitting behind his desk. “So you're the one my Fanny is seeing behind my back?” The old man fires three shots into Rock, turns, and runs off.

Rocks collapses.

“Now. Where were we?” Wayne asks Fanny, typing furiously. “What if the nude scene is tasteful and essential to the plot?”

Wayne Scheer has been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net. He's published hundreds of stories, poems, and essays in print and online, including Revealing Moments, a collection of flash stories, available at A short film has also been produced based on his short story, "Zen and the Art of House Painting." Wayne lives in Atlanta with his wife and can be contacted at

Review: The Bloodletting, by Greg Barth

“It has never been my habit to write about the good and decent folks” – Greg Barth

It was with some apprehension I tackled Greg Barth’s new release, TheBloodletting. Being that he has become one of my favorite authors due to my relenting love of the Selena series, I was nervous this new one might feel like a letdown. You know, the whole “I’m not into westerns” things? Well I am pleased to report The Bloodletting is not a western. Sure it takes place in a western setting during the Civil War and some might argue with me it is a western by pure definition, but I am here to tell you, in my eyes, this is really a tale of atrocities, revenge, family bonds, and the coming-of-age of a gunslinger. And it is one hell of a worthy book for Barth to showcase his talents in a new genre (Okay, I admit it, it is a western).  

This great piece of western-noir opens with a band of thieves taking refuge at the home of the O’Brien family. Looking to tend to a wounded partner, the thieves find a homestead without the presence of parents; just 2 young girls reside here after their parents have dies and been killed. The men take liberties with the girls and leave the home with the fresh murder of two young girls on their conscious.

Word gets to Lew Younger, cousin to the girls who resides a state away, his help is needed. Being unaware of the atrocities committed upon them and being a young man who understands the obligations being family creates, he sets off to offer his support to his cousins. Riding with him two women; Ghose, a young hellion with a reputation of unchecked violence and penchant for whiskey, and Abetzi, a Comanche squaw who has fierce bonds of loyalty to the Younger clan.

When Younger arrives at his cousin’s farm and learns of their fate, he swears revenge and sets out to find the hell-raisers who committed the sins against his family. Along the way he learns to sharpen his gun fighting skills, let his thirst for revenge drive him through periods of self-doubt, and also how to use his desire for retribution to go to any lengths to defeat men who have no qualms about killing women, children, and anyone else who gets in their way.

I loved how Barth uses 3 different points of view in this book. We see the story unfold through the eyes on Lamar, semi-leader of the band of thieves, Rylee, the oldest of Lew’s cousins, and finally Lew himself who drives this story forward with his black and white view of the word around him. Barth switches into each point-of-view seamlessly and his strong ability to write from both the male and female perspectives allow each character to be fully fleshed out and jump off the page.

I found this to be one hell of a page turner and it has perhaps the most gruesome torture scenes I have read in a long while. The violence the scene displays is unparalleled in the sense of its outright brutality and unflinching delivery. Being that Barth delivered us the Selena series, this statement should hold serious weight with you.  

This book is going to knock you down like a shot of buckshot to the face. Barth proves beyond a shadow of a doubt he can tackle any genre and leave the reader gasping for breath. This is a serious piece of literature and leaves the reader hungering for the next adventure of Lew Younger.

Highly Recommended.

Diagnosis: A-Hole

The holidays bring out the best in us. 

Even our inner asshole.

Diagnosis: A-Hole by Paul Greenberg

The week before Christmas, I was diagnosed as bipolar. That was the day I decided to let my inner asshole shine. Fuck mood swings, hysteria, and depression. After leaving my shrink’s office that day, I decided to celebrate by saying, “fuck it all.”

Misery begins at home.

I live on the second of a three-floor tenement with my dog Butch in a predominantly white trash corner of the North Shore.

On the first floor lives a woman. She's also single, has no pets, and is an alcoholic.

Everyone in the apartment shares the same driveway. On any given day, I can find a half-dozen little nips of vodka lying like dead soldiers next to her car, along with the contents of her ashtray and pennies she drops there to bait me. At least that's what my paranoia tells me.

I may have ignored this behavior before but now I clearly see this as the “fuck you” moment it’s meant to be. I take the vodka nips and line them up like Christmas lights in front of the door for all to see. They blink Absolut blue as the sun shines on them in the wee hours of a sparkling new day. The smell is like a rummy’s breath on your neck as you open the door. I go back to the driveway and play foot hockey with the pennies, kicking them toward her car. As they ping off her Subaru, I shout, “Score!”

Upstairs, four generations of South Americans share two bedrooms. They run an illegal daycare during the week and every morning I watch people drop off their toddlers. Those blessed sweet children run around the apartment for the next twelve hours, jumping off furniture, running in and out of the building, slamming doors, and making my dog jump out of his shit all day.

There’s nothing like coming home after work, hoping to settle into your comfy chair, only to have a dog on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

The daddy up there is a big, bald, brute of a guy with one eye. I always suspected he could speak more English than he let on, so when he complained about Butch by pantomiming a barking dog with his hand, I went off my fucking nut.

“My dog will stop barking when your brats stop imitating the eighty-six Celtics up there. Comprende? Tell Parrish, Bird, and McHale to stop pounding the parquet and my dog will stop barking. Comprende?”

A few days later, One Eye Guy has done some body work on my white Ford Fusion. Black goo has been squeezed into the crevice surrounding the loose back quarter panel, like ants surrounding a peanut butter sandwich on Wonder Bread. 

I know this is a sign he wants to be friends but why give up an opportunity to make an enemy? Would I find him in my apartment next giving the kitchen floor a nice coat of wax?

 It happens on Christmas Eve. I watch from my window as One Eye Guy directs traffic out front, squeezing as many cars into the driveway as possible. Baskets of food, presents, and cases of Presidente beer are hauled upstairs.

The karaoke machine comes on and the ceiling starts shaking. I pick up the aluminum bat I keep for security and put on a Batman mask I saved from Halloween. Turning on my stereo, I pick out Trent Reznor’s cover of “The Immigrant Song,” crank it, and make my way upstairs.

It’s raucous in there and when it sounds like the crowd is going to collectively cum, I bang the bat on the door. The music stops and the crowd gets quiet. When the door opens and my big moment comes, I plan to scream, “turn the fucking music down.” My voice cracks instead and I end up sounding like some wheezing crack whore.

Everyone laughs and I yank off my mask. They recognize me as the asshole from downstairs. The laughs turn to an inviting cry of joy, applause, and shouts of “Merry Christmas!” I’m pulled in and the woman from the first floor hands me the coldest beer I’ve ever had, then kisses me under the mistletoe.

The day I’m diagnosed as bipolar becomes the start of me putting away my ass hat. Merry Christmas.

Paul's first book of short stories, "Dead Guy in the Bathtub," will be released late March from All Due Respect Books.