Reviewed by: Keith Nixon
Genre: Crime / Noir / Hard Boiled / Short Story Collection
Approximate word count: 35-40,000 words
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Joe Clifford is acquisitions editor for Gutter Books and managing editor of The Flash Fiction Offensive. He is the author of three books.
You can learn more about the author at his website.
The author’s debut collection of noir and crime stories previously published in a variety of magazines, brought together for the first time.
I’ve previously reviewed and thoroughly enjoyed two of Joe Clifford’s novels – Junkie Love and Wake The Undertaker so I was interested to see how he dealt with the shorter form. In summary – very well. This is an enjoyable, if at times challenging, read. There’s a real spread of subjects, from drugs and their users to combat stress to prison escapes. Some have nods to Clifford’s past experiences as a user (read Junkie Love for more information). However, all have an underlying element of empathy for the characters. This is not sensationalized story telling.
Most are at the high end of the quality spectrum, one or two not so. To be fair, those that fell into the latter segment were the shortest of shorts, where there was insufficient room to develop a narrative, but that’s just down to my preferences.
There are too many stories to go through in detail so I’ll pick out some of the highlights.
Another Man’s Treasure is written in the first person, a perspective that Clifford seems most comfortable writing within. The main character and a friend called Geiger trawl flea markets with the aim of making a few dollars from junk. Geiger thinks he’s got the perfect scam to rip off one of the stall holders, but the tables are turned in rather gruesome fashion.
Meat follows several Russian prisoners who escape the most brutal of confinements and battle their way across a frozen landscape, miles from anywhere. In order to survive they need a source of food…
In Red Pistachios a once successful writer is struggling with life, literally. A student of his, one to whom the main character owes a debt in effect, returns after several years away, but to disastrous consequences.
Joe Clifford has many enviable strong points as a writer, but the one that shone through yet again was his descriptive narrative. Simply read and enjoy this collection of high quality work.
Scenes of drug taking.
Nothing of note.
Rating: **** Four Stars