It's always utter bliss when the post delivery arrives with the next issue of Switchblade. And despite the issues with Amazon and Australia, I can still get my fix, just slightly delayed from the way it used to be. But this is a magazine anthology that is worth pursuing to the ends of the Earth.
William R. Soldan’s dark, urban poetry starts this volume off, setting the scene perfectly for the hard-boiled and noir tales to follow. As always with Switchblade, I really, really enjoyed every piece I read here; it’s another stellar collection of the hard-boiled and noir talent out there.
Three pieces of flash fiction follow the Soldan poem.
“Down Payment” by George Garnet: You’re never too young to protect your mummy, even with only a water pistol.
“Hooked” by Aidan Thorn: Grief and craving for intimacy are not a good state of mind when the world is full of predators.
“On The Way Home” by Rex Weiner: A twisted tale with very twisted humour. And this gem of a line: “The sun is setting over the hills like final judgment in some forgotten language.” Superb!
Then we’re into the 11 excellent short stories.
“Cold Comfort” by John Bosworth: Well, it does take all sorts to make the world go round. And this is prostitution on a whole new level, or not so new, depending on how you look at it!
“The Vice Aisle” by Mike Payne: Yeah, mix swingers' parties, drug supply, and child support – what could possibly go wrong?
“Dead Men Tell Tales” by Jim Thomsen: Lovely twist here, and if you’re into hiring a contract killer, then you really need to understand that nobody can be trusted. But rich, arrogant people will still behave the way they do. Loved this line: “He nodded to the couch, a horror of bright flowers and burnt orange that looked like it had died and gone to hell in 1974.”
“The Usher” by E.F. Sweetman: This was my personal favourite. Aside from the great writing, this piece is the epitome of the missing young female traveller tale. Mix those Scandinavian girls with twisted predators in a foreign country, and it’s gruesome. The skill of Sweetman here is to leave that haunting chill with you well after the read. Seriously loved this piece. And it haunts, it really does.
“Chowda” by Travis Richardson: Fish soup has never been high on my list, but even less so now, and even if it is cooked by family. Because not all families live on Walton mountain, that’s for sure.
“Implement of Destruction” by Rusty Barnes: The great twist here is the feisty girlfriend you didn’t see coming. And it’s a new take on a golden shower, oh yes. Add in the dog’s tongue…just read it, you’ll understand exactly what I mean. This is my second favourite piece here.
“Lost Girl” by Scot Carpenter: PIs take pretty well most jobs that come their way. So does this PI. And his torture techniques are inventive! He does also have an unconventional way of wrapping a case up.
“Road Rage” by Danny Sophabmisay: This is the gutter of life at its darkest best. This girl should have tried harder with Narcotics Anonymous, but then we wouldn't have this great story. Mix drugs, cash and Disney characters. Yeah, a hell of a ride. And this line sets the scene perfectly: “All she wanted was a hit of crack – just one little rock to unwind after a long shift at The Foamy Beaver.” Love it!
“The Bargain” by Tom Barlow: Buyer beware, what more can I say? But drugs and cash are powerful motivators. Throw in a blow job and guns, and it’s a hoot.
“The Magician’s Left Hand” by Tais Teng: Over to Holland for a contract killer who needs to have a better recollection of his clients and targets, but this one is a real professional.
“Violet” by Evelyn Deshane: Transgender porn shop worker fantasizing about female porn star in a porno snuff movie – of course, this is looking good. Throw in a filmic re-enactment, and this is a great story to round out the volume.
The Switchblade editor, Scotch Rutherford, has quickly established himself and his magazine anthology as a leader in the hard-boiled and noir crime writing space. Every issue of Switchblade so far has been an immense treat, and the quality just keeps getting better. If you are a fan of this sub-genre of crime, then I cannot recommend Switchblade enough – it is, quite simply, mandatory reading for connoisseurs of noir.
Bringing you hard-boiled and noir tales of crime and corruption. And various related opinions!