And Other Criminally Good Fiction
Edited By: Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg
Published By: Cemetery Dance Publications
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When I read the promotional material for The Interrogator, I knew I wanted to get my hands on this book. Featuring short stories by such well-known and loved authors of fiction like Lee Child, Jeffrey Deaver, Mickey Spillane, Joyce Carol Oates, Michael Connelly and more, The Interrogator promised to be an intriguing read. Happily, Cemetery Dance Publications was nice enough to send me an advance copy for review.
It all begins with an essay about the fiction of 2010 by Jon L. Breen who brings about some good points on the new authors of fiction and gives us some tips on which 2010 books are worthy reads. I happen to agree with Breen's assessment in regards to the age of eReaders. Prior to these gadgets, many folks, excellent writers in their own right, would have found it difficult to get their works published. After all, to get published before the electronic reader age, you had to have an agent and to get an agent, often times, you had to be published. A conundrum to say the least. But now, with the ability to publish books and short stories specifically for electronic reading devices, would-be authors can publish their works for all to read (for a little cash of course) and thus, become exposed to the world. Some writers find great success using this avenue, success that may be well deserved and might never have occurred otherwise.
After this interesting essay comes the real meat and potatoes of the book - the fictional short stories, beginning with The Interrogator by David Morrell in which a CIA interrogator begins to doubt his methods of extracting information from terrorists. Could it be that his sensory overload methods might not be as effective as the brutal methods others use? With the lives of millions at risk, now is definitely not the time for doubts. The Interrogator is quite interesting, forcing the reader to think about the various forms of interrogation out there and decide for his/herself which is the most humane and affective way to extract information. A perfect story for the times.
The Interrogator is followed by twenty-eight more stories varying in style, genre, location and era. Of course, I had some favorites. Take, for instance, The Scent of Lilacs, by Doug Allyn. I love reading all I can about the Civil War and that includes historical fiction. Doug Allyn's tale about a family just trying to survive a war that has divided their country, let alone their own family is dramatically gripping. When the story reached its conclusion, I found I wanted to know what happened to the family after the war comes to an end. Perhaps Allyn will grace us with another tale about the McKee family in the future.
Then there was The Lamb Was Sure to Go, a detective flashback tale by Gar Anthony Haywood. This story has some surprising twists and turns with a detective noir style that I rather enjoyed. This is followed by Luck, a story about lost love and desperate acts by T. Jefferson Parker. Even though you are certain what will happen in the end, by the time you get there, you still find yourself somewhat shocked at the story's outcome. I enjoyed the table turning outcome of Trade Secret by Bill Pronzini and the suspicious death investigation in Jeffrey Deaver's The Plot.
David Dean's The Vengeance of Kali was quite entertaining in a surprising way. I found myself just wanting to reach into the book and smack the lead character around, but at the same time, I felt sympathetic towards his plight. Then there was Marcia Muller tale, Sometimes You Can't Retire about the unusual ways one man finds to rescue animals. Although the topic was a bit spooky, I couldn't help but chuckle a bit at the ending. Escape from Wolfkill by Clark Howard had me angry and surprisingly rooting for an escaped convict who always seemed to be down on his luck. The outcome of the story had me so mad that I had to put down the book and remember that this wasn't a true tale. Funny how good fiction will do that to you.
The Performer, by Gary Phillips is an interesting erotic tale of greed and grift. Christine Matthews' The Winning Ticket is also a tale of greed and grift performed along much tamer lines and with quite a different outcome. Sleep, Creep, Leap, by Patricia Abbot, is a creepy tale of tables turned in quite an interesting way. What People Leave Behind, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, was a shocking tale of revenge murder. I was unprepared for Rusch's style in this novel. I had read other Rusch works, but still was surprised when she got me invested in the life of a character only to have that character be the subject of a murder investigation...a rather dead and dismembered subject.
I liked the Gran Torino style of Old Men and Old Boards by Don Winslow and truly enjoyed the serial killer tale, Plainview by David Hong, that the editors decided should be the last tale in the book. Plainview was a terrific way to wrap things up.
The Interrogator was a great read, offering up exactly what the title says it will - some criminally good fiction. The book was an incredibly fast read, featuring a plethora of enjoyable fiction. The fact that I enjoyed so many of the stories collected in this book attests to the terrific job the editors did in picking the tales. I find it sad that this would be Martin H. Greenberg's last time editing a compilation of this magnitude (The book is dedicated to his memory as Marty Greenberg passed away in 2011). I truly hope there is a follow-up to this fiction compilation and that it is just as good as this one - a fun read from start to finish!
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