Sometimes, reviewing books for Crimespree really is the best job ever. I get to read and review cool stuff that I probably would have gone out and read anyway. But would I have gone out and taken a flyer on something new? Maybe…or maybe not. Strange as it sounds, it can be kind of scary diving into a short story collection that is filled with authors that are all brand new to you. So when a package wrapped in a jet-black bow lands on your doorstep with a giant neon arrow that reads, “Hey, dummy! This is a package of THE NEW STUFF. READ ME NOW IF YOU KNOW WHAT’S GOOD FOR YOU.” Well, you pick it up with sweaty hands…

…and you read it.

You have a drink (or two), wander around the living room, go outside and have a cigarette, remember you don’t smoke, go back inside, and think some more about what you just read

Zelmer Pulp Press is a conglomerate made up of seven madmen: Chris Leek, Benoit Lelievre, Isaac Kirkman, Brian Panowich, Chuck Regan, Gareth Spark, and Ryan Sayles. The tagline on their Facebook page reads: “Whatever-we-feel-like pulp fiction,” and I can’t think of a better summary for this outstanding digital collection.

The Zelmer Boys have crafted a collection of stories that range from traditional two-fisted PI noir tales to dreamy, existential snapshots, to magical crime wars. Chris Leek leads off with LAST EXIT. A sure sign of a great short story is that feeling of “I want to know the rest” that hits you when you finish it. Leek’s story of a Jersey cop out for revenge for the murder of his hooker girlfriend is heartfelt, to say the least. Leek hits all the high-notes, but really impresses me with the humanity he shows in what could have been just another blood soaked revenge story.

Brian Panowich knocked me out with ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WOODS. In a story that you need to read to believe, a pair of kidnappers faces a forest full of vengeance with a left turn that will hit you square in the side of the head. Seriously, I loved this story. I can’t say more about it without spoiling it, so you’ll have to read it for yourself.

And with TAKING FLESH, Chuck Regan shows us how broad the genre can really be. Noir isn’t just tough guys and beautiful girls. Noir is light and shadow, quiet introspection and shocking violence. Add in the stark realism of the small town carnival, and snap the pictures of true humanity. These are the elements that drive home this story about a boy and his camera.

I chose to highlight these three stories because they are the stories that hit me the hardest. So now I expect you, the reader, to download your copy of MAYBE I SHOULD JUST SHOOT YOU IN THE FACE. And then tell your friends which stories stuck with you after reading them. So then they can get down with THE NEW STUFF.


Dan Malmon