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This is probably teasing, right? I mean, the book isn't out until August, I believe. It would be cruel to talk about the stories in this collection - even if I was vague?

Meh. Occasionally, I'm cruel.

I just finished reading my proof of the anthology - which showed up in my in-box shortly after my post yesterday, funnily enough - and I'm absolutely blown away at the company I'm keeping. These stories are fantastic - I'm so proud to be in this collection, folks.

Greg Herren's introduction poses the question "what is Noir?" and lets you know that there's going to be a range of responses to the question - and with such a wonderful range of stories and interpretations of "noir" in the book, I think there's definitely something in here for everyone.

(My story is up first, but I'll skip right by.)

Rob Byrnes wins the prize for best murder method with "Patience, Colorado" and the grim twist is a worthy one - the story has the cleverness I've come to expect from Byrnes, but these characters are not the lighthearted folks of his capers; there's a grit to what's written that made me shiver.

"Mouse" by Jeffrey Round was a dark and disturbing journey that left me chilled - the characterization here was spot-on and painfully sharp. I felt like I needed to wash my hands after reading this story, it was that evocative.

Michael Thomas Ford's "Faithful" was outright and morbidly erotic and yet still launched the biggest surprise ending of the collection - what a phenomenal set up, and what a bloody punch "Faithful" delivers!

"Spin Cycle" by Greg Herren, made me grin from ear to ear - and was probably the story with the murder motive I empathized with the most. For Chanse fans, Herren also included a tip of the hat for you, in the cast.

Jeffrey Ricker's "Murder on the Midway" had a twisted little mystery to it that will confound you, and the fallout of bad choices that end in blood was a great example of noir. The sense of "no one to trust" is vivid here.

With "The Thin Blue Line(s)" Max Reynolds reminded me of the lovely Edward O. Phillips "Sunday" series, putting an unlikely murderer in the position of having to dispose of a body - this story will delight anyone who has ever been an editor, I dare say. Is it wrong to hope a murderer gets away with it?

Neil Plakcy's "An Appetite for Warmth" is a slow collapse of pain, and pulled me along throughout the character's decline. This was a psychologically chilling tale (if you can forgive me that pun), and very unsettling.

"Miss Trial" by Adam McCabe was a sharp story with a brutal turn that actually forced me to stop and stare and absorb for a while. I really liked where the tale took the reader.

Mel Bossa's "Last Call" drips with the grime of the underworld, and that faded potential hope that makes you think that just maybe this time will be a happy ending - it completely drew me in. When you can deliver characters who are crooked and dirty and still make your reader hope all ends well? That's one heck of a story.

Josh Aterovis brings forth the kind of dark mystery that noir does so well in "The Case of the Missing Bulldog" and leaves you wondering if there's anyone with any amount of innocence in the telling. I believe it was also the shortest of the tales - a kind of swift shock to the system.

"Imago Blue" by Felice Picano was a favorite - Picano took noir to a speculative place, invoking a "Bladerunner" feel and showing that in the right hands, a noir mystery can be set anywhere and anywhen. I loved this - and the main character's evolution was masterful.

John Morgan Wilson's "The Cocktail Hour" is a fiendish trap that springs around the reader and the narrator both - it's a story where you know there's something horrible coming, and can't look away - and when it comes, it's all the more terrible for the foreboding.

Rounding up all these fantastic stories is Julie Smith's "Private Chick" which brings forth one of the best character voices I've ever read in the form of her detective. The narrative style of this story was freaking beautiful and I sincerely hope there's more from this character on the way from Smith.

All of that to say I can't wait for this book to be out and about. I hope you'll join me on those mean streets. They're all worth walking.

And sorry for teasing.

(Not really.)

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