by: Chris Meekings
It is barely coin o’clock in the morning,
and the bourbon has only just taken the taste of Pepsodent from my mouth
when she walks into my office.
She’s glass and alabaster,
with curves in all the right places,
She walks across the room, her heels clicking like a cricket on death row.
She tells me she has a problem.
I tell her it will cost her a pretty penny,
She pulls out an ugly penny and I take that instead.
Beggars can’t be choosers, especially with the price of flutes these days.
She says her name is Gia,
which should have told me everything I needed to know about the case,
but I was broke and she was in trouble
and I’m a sucker for a dame.
I offer her a chair.
I pour a drink
even though the sun has barely spat over the horizon.
I try to split my face to hide who I am,
but it doesn’t come off,
and I end up looking like a game-show host with too much time on his hands.
I take out a ruler,
and crack it in two.
I put one half in my bourbon and stir.
She tells me her husband has vanished,
and her brother is in Sing Sing for a stretch
so she’s turned to me for help.
Equations danced around her head,
and my abacus strikes attention.
I take her case,
and put it in the closet.
I tell her I’ll be in touch.
I’m a good guy to have around
when the chips go down and the tables go up.
A real white knight.
You shouldn’t drink hard on an empty stomach.
The bar is the kind of dive that charges you extra when the lights go down.
I go to the wood, and order a drink.
It comes with a shovel full of dirt, owl pellets and napkin to wipe the blood away.
I dip my other half of ruler in it,
and survey the scene.
The bar is dark and wearing sunglasses.
Midgets flit from table to table,
asking for green wine and molasses.
Nobody has any.
I crack an egg on the bar.
It sizzles to fried
None of this makes the boot polish blacker,
so I ask some questions.
“How did you get here?”
“Which way to Amarillo?”
“Do you know where the Falcon is?”
The Nazis in the corner “Seig Heil”,
but no one else pays attention.
Outside the bicycle bell rings,
and De Bergerac sniffs the glue.
Of course, someone’s in the know.
I swallow my finger nails,
and wait patiently
for the case to unfold.
It doesn’t take long,
Gia knows who’s to blame,
I rip off my moustache and trench coat,
No one can say I didn’t try to get out.
The fire licks up the side of bar in salacious wafts,
and the bicycle bell rings again,
but the patrons pay it no mind.
They staple down the fire to stop it spreading.
I pull out my revolver
and point it at the drink.
It’s always the ones you suspect the least who hurt you the most.
The bourbon tries to make a break for it,
but my gun sings, and the bourbon has to listen.
It’s transfixed by the music,
distracted, it falls from the bar.
Clatter-tinkle on the floor.
Thank god, I’m wearing my galoshes.
The bicycle bell rings once more,
and I make notes on Mahatma Gandhi’s treatises.
Thank god, it was only a thinking man’s bicycle.
Chris Meekings lives in the city of Gloucester in the UK. If you’d ever been to Gloucester you’d understand why he sits inside and makes things up. He’s the author of the bizarro novella Elephant Vice (Eraserhead Press) and the metaphysical fantasy novel Ravens and Writing Desks (Omnium Gatherum). He is still 58 weasels in a trench coat, just looking for love.
Send your weird little stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Ross E. Lockhart
Black. The most achromatic of colors. Black is the color of objects that refuse to reflect light in the visual spectrum (or, if you’re a Nina Simone fan, “the color of my true Love’s hair”). The word black comes from the Old English “blæc” (meaning “black, dark”, or “ink”). Most of my T-shirts are black (and I’m willing to bet most of yours are as well). The French word for black is noir, which in turn names the genre of dark detective and dangerous dame novels, stories, and films that began to be published and produced beginning in the late 1920s. Some folks like black metal, whereas for others, it’s not so black and white. Back in Black, on the other hand, is the 1980 album by Australian rockers AC/DC, their first without singer Bon Scott, and the third best selling album of all time.
With that in mind, tonight I’m having a can of 21st Amendment Brewery’s Back in Black, a black IPA “Inspired by Paul Revere’s midnight ride,” and “brewed with rich dark malts” promising 65 IBUs and 6.8% alc./vol., and featuring an image of the famous Boston silversmith and militiaman (and Beastie Boys song title) on its label. I’m still a little on the fence with regards to canned beer, but 21st Amendment seem to do canned beer right, so in this case I’ll look past my bottle snobbery and enjoy a crisp, cold one.
Back in Black pours deep mahogany — almost, but not quite, black — with a huge, dense tan head that leaves behind scattered striated lacing. Malt, roasted grain, coffee, and chocolate on the nose, with undertones of pine and citrus hops. Taste follows scent: sweet, bittersweet chocolate malts and bitter hops dominate, with touches of orange, copper, and smokey roast coffee. Creamy, porter-like texture, with moderate carbonation. Velvet-smooth, mellow, and robust, with a dry, bitter, hoppy finish that leaves you wanting more.
The smokey, bitter flavors put me in mind of literary noir, so here are a few recommended pairings:
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler – The essential noir novel. A dying millionaire hires private dick Philip Marlowe (not to be confused with Spike Marlowe) to go digging. Kidnapping, pornography, seduction, and murder are just a few of the things he uncovers. Plus, Chandler wore gloves while he typed, so you know there’s some serious strangeness below the surface.
Jimmy Plush, Teddy Bear Detective by Garrett Cook – If Philip Marlowe’s world included furries and plushies, and he was a three-foot-high bundle of fluff, you’d have Jimmy Plush, Teddy Bear Detective. Inspired Bizarro noir.
Necropolis by Michael Dempsey – NYPD detective Paul Donner is shot and killed in a seemingly random crime. Fifty years later, he’s back, courtesy of the shift, a strange plague that re-activates DNA, creating a new underclass of reborn citizens. In this retro-future world, Paul Donner must solve his own murder. Highly recommended.
Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett – A personal favorite, as the Continental Op tracks down the murder of the last honest man in Poisonville, a run-down company town controlled by rival gangs. Uncompromisingly dark, cynical, and violent, Red Harvest showcases the noir heart of Americana like no other.
The Orphan Palace by Joseph S. Pulver Sr. – Strange, experimental, and twisted, Joe Pulver’s killer-on-the-road novel The Orphan Palace is noir through the lens of Lovecraft, Ligotti, Poe, and Jodorowsky.
Ross E. Lockhart is the managing editor of Night Shade Books. A lifelong fan of supernatural, fantastic, speculative, and weird fiction, he holds degrees in English from Sonoma State University (BA) and San Francisco State University (MA). He lives in an old church in Petaluma, CA, with his wife Jennifer, hundreds of books, and a small, ravenous dog that he believes may be one of the Elder Gods. In 2011, he edited the acclaimed anthology The Book of Cthulhu. Visit him online at www.haresrocklots.com.
by Garrett Cook
When you put a trenchcoat and fedora on a character, it does something to who they are. They’re a detective, they’re a gangster, they’re a loner. These trappings change your perceptions of a person, of what they do and what they’ll get into. It’s a shortcut, maybe a shallow visual cue. I poke fun at this and examine this at the same time in my book Jimmy Plush, Teddy Bear Detective, a book that’s about whether we are what we look like or what body we’re in or what clothes we wear or even, in the case of fictional characters, which ones they’re dressed in. Sometimes that’s the only indication of a genre we have. A lot of the time genre itself is just a costume we slap on a piece of fiction.
Laura Lee Bahr’s Haunt is a Bizarro novel and a noir underneath its clothes, but something really interesting is going on, something you don’t see that often in crime fiction. While Haunt features a private dick, a femme fatale and a man obsessed who must confront his dark side, she doesn’t use these as a veneer. It’s noir whose trappings are what they are, whose strangeness is unabashedly what it is, pervading the architecture of the book and the voice of its narrators. It’s surreal, it’s transgressive and its more strange than it is anything else, but its strangeness and its noir-ness become one in ways you seldom see.
This is a traitorous whore of a book, a femme fatale that puts Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis and Joan Bennett to shame. It switches protagonists. It switches storylines. It’s not just the basic vicissitudes of plot or the revelation of facts. It outright turns on you. It’s turned on its author it seems. Bahr has blended fiction and lying. You are, like the book’s heroes part of its intrigues and the author might well be too. Noir is about shadows and identity schemes and broken confidences and people facing up to their dark sides. This is Bizarro noir that isn’t wearing a trench coat or anything at all.
Haunt is a book that doesn’t require a lot of violence, a lot of detective work, gangsters or grit. The violence occurs at the emotional and narrative level. It hurts the brain and it hurts the heart of the protagonist and the reader alike who have become one. I’m reminded of Frank Zappa’s statement “I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.” It’s made of hurt and enigmas. Which is an impressive feat to say the least.
Bizarro noir is already a fine tradition. It comes out of a fine cinematic tradition, films like Mark Damon’s The Seventh Victim, David Lynch’s Blue Velvet and Alex Proyas’ Dark City. Jordan Krall’s books alone are enough to validate the subgenre, but others came before it and more will come after it. Haunt fits in with these films and with this tradition and reminds us why the two go together. Bizarro and noir are both at some level about reality being unreliable. They both involve emotions and ideas becoming realities and changing
the physics of one’s universe. Naked, proud, honest weird noir Haunt reveals these connections and uses them the best they can be used.