Sex, Thugs and Rock & Roll

Sarah Weinman,Todd Robinson, Patricia Abbott, Jedidiah Ayres, Matthew Baldwin,Greg Bardsley, Gary Carson, Lyman Feero, Allan Guthrie, Jordan Harper, Daniel Hatadi, D. T. Kelly, Jónas Knútsson, Patrick J. Lambe, Joe. R. Lansdale, Hugh Lessig, Richard J. Martin Jr., Steven M. Messner, Justin Porter, Marcus Sakey, Mike Sheeter, Anthony Neil Smith, Jason Starr, Albert Tucher, Scott Wolven

Sex, Thugs, Roll, & Rock Roll

© 2009

Introduction by Sarah Weinman

It’s a strange time to be a writer of short mystery fiction. On the one hand, print magazine outlets have dwindled to the point where longtime stalwarts Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock are still just about the only places to get paid a decent wage. On the other hand, thanks to Akashic’s “City Noir” series and upstart small presses like Busted Flush Press and Bleak House Books, the anthology market is so glutted that I pity anyone judging the short story category for the Edgar Awards.

But if you’re a writer and your voice and style doesn’t fit EQMM or AHMM’s guidelines, if you don’t have an in with specific editors or if you’re still not known enough to be picked up by one of the themed anthologies sponsored by the major crime writing associations, where do you go?

For the last few years, the answer is online.

It took a while for that answer to gain any sort of traction. Like any new medium, the Web was greeted within publishing circles and by would-be authors with skepticism and scorn, and often for good reason: poor presentation, questionable editing, and seeming instability. Many heralded early players like Blue Murder, HandHeldCrime, and Plots with Guns no longer exist; others have severely curtailed activity or dropped fiction altogether. For those that remain, creating their own distinct presence, adopting strict editorial guidelines and producing quality fiction, what still remains a sticking point is the lack of cash-the equivalent of a couple of high-priced beers if the writer’s lucky.

So why go online?

Several reasons. First, it gives undiscovered writers a wonderful opportunity to get their unique voices heard and distributed to, potentially, a bigger audience than a tiny print magazine that goes out of print after a month. Second, because of the dwindling print markets, more publishing professionals are looking to the Web for talent and quality. I can name example after example: Scott Wolven, whose stories have almost exclusively been published online, has been included in six consecutive editions of the Best American Short Stories, published a collection of short stories with Scribner, and has a novel in the works with Otto Penzler’s imprint at Harcourt. Allan Guthrie, who went from publishing his first story online to three-book deals with Harcourt and the Scottish publisher Polygon. Ray Banks, following Guthrie’s trajectory almost note-for-note; and Dave White, moving from critical acclaim for his Jackson Donne short stories to similar acclaim for his Jackson Donne novels published by Three Rivers Press.

The Web has become a haven of experimentation and risk-of stories that don’t quite fit a particular mold. It’s inspired a new wave of noir and allowed younger writers to have their voices heard, and there’s no better example of this than Thuglit. From the moment Todd Robinson launched this online magazine in late 2005, I’ve been impressed with the caliber of stories, the quality of prose, and the gut-wrenching emotions that pulsate on the virtual page. No wonder Thuglit made the jump to print format, mixing all manner of dark doings originally published online with original stories by the brightest (or is that blackest?) stars of contemporary noir like Wolven, Guthrie, Joe R. Lansdale, Jason Starr, and Marcus Sakey.

The big guns may be the draw to entice readers to open this anthology’s pages, but the reprints-from Jónas Knútsson’s knucklebuster tale of a Budapest brawler to Justin Porter’s depiction of Mexico City at its seediest to Patricia Abbott’s sly twist on noir conventions-are the meat of Sex, Thugs, and Rock & Roll, dripping so much blood and guts and marrow that it’s impossible to read this book in more than a single sitting. Be prepared to be shattered, shell-shocked, and bruised as Thuglit’s emissaries continue to write wrongs that are very, very right.

A Message from Big Daddy Thug

Welcome to the second collection of the best crime fiction culled from the depths of Thuglit.com and some of the best literary purveyors of mayhem and attitude on the planet.

Sex…

We got femmes fatales, lying Lotharios, and some Mexican porno comics, to name a few elements of the horizontal chicken dance we got going on between these covers.

Thugs…

Open any page. There’s bound to be one there. Hell, we even got a couple of bisexual ass-kicking Vikings on a Crusade.

No. Don’t read it again. That’s what I said.

Rock & Roll…

Shee-yit, brothers and sisters…we are Rock & Roll. These stories are the guitar-slingin’, drum-kit-kickin’, bass-amp-exploding riders on the storm of pulp fiction.

Testify!!!!!

Where else you gonna find psychotic street gangs, jailhouse lunatics, brawlers, psychopaths, pimps, hookers, and PIs all in one place? And in case you think you’ve seen it all, we still got those kooky Vikings.

Who else is going to give it to you, if not Thuglit?

You’re welcome.

– TODD ROBINSON (BIG DADDY THUG)

Double Down by Jason Starr

I needed the six horse to win the fourth race at Belmont in a big way, but as the horses went around the far turn I knew it wasn’t happening. The six made the lead but he was all out and another horse, the nine, was flying on the outside. In mid-stretch the nine hooked the six, but the six dug in-just to extend my torture a little longer-and they went neck and neck past the sixteenth pole.

“Hold him off, you cocksucker!” I yelled. “Get up, you fucking son of a bitch!”

Naturally, I was wasting my breath. Seventy yards to the wire, the six hit quicksand and the nine drew off to win by an open length.

I went back into the grandstand, cursing, ripping tickets. The six was my big play of the day. I bet my lungs on it-five hundred win and another six hundred in exactas and triples. Yeah, I hit a couple cover exactas on the nine-six, but what would that get me, a hundred and change? Big whoopy shit.

I rode the escalator to the second floor, went to the saloon, and ordered a J.D. straight up. I downed it in one gulp and asked for a refill. A guy sat next to me. He was my age, early forties, had a big gut and thinning gray hair. He was in an expensive suit and was wearing a Rolex. But he had a wannabe way about him. Maybe he was rich, maybe he wasn’t, but he wanted everybody to think he was.

He ordered a gin and tonic, then said to me, “How you doin’?”

At the racetrack when somebody asks you how you’re doing they’re not inquiring about your health.

“How do you think I’m doing?” I said, figuring I’d let the fact that I was at the bar downing J.D.’s at two in the afternoon on a bright sunny day do the talking.

“Had the six in the last, huh?” he asked.

“Tell me how he fuckin’ loses that race,” I said, getting aggravated all over again. “I mean, okay, the nine was good. But with the fractions he got, what, half in forty-seven and change? He should’ve won by open lengths.”

“Maybe he was a little green?”

“Green? Come on, give me a fuckin’ break. It was, what, his fourth time out? Mark my words, that horse’ll never win a fuckin’ race, not at this track anyway. Maybe if they ship him up to fuckin’ Finger Lakes or some shit track he’ll break his maiden.”

My heart was racing and my face was burning up. I felt the way people probably felt before they had heart attacks.

“Well, thank God there’s five more races to get ’em back, right?”

“Not for me. I came here to be the six horse.”

“And I came here to talk to you.”

During our conversation so far, I’d been looking away and at my glass mostly, but now I looked at the guy in the suit and said, “And who do you think you’re talking to?”

“Your name’s Jimmy Guarino, right?”

He got my name right, but I said, “Who the fuck’re you?”

I’d been doing PI and protection work for eleven years, three on my own. I hadn’t made a lot of friends along the way and I never knew when somebody’s life I’d fucked up would show up looking for payback.

“DiMarco,” he said, extending his hand. “Andy DiMarco.”

I didn’t shake his hand, just asked, “The fuck do you want?”

“Big Mikey said I could find you here.”

Big Mikey was a good guy, a bookie/loanshark from Staten Island. He grew up in my neighborhood-Brooklyn, Bay Ridge-and when I was a teenager I went out with his sister for a while.

“Sorry about that,” I said, feeling bad for treating him like shit. I smiled, trying to make nice, and said, “I hope you’re not looking for a hot t ...

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