Darker Than Noir by Editor: Faith Kauwe; Grande Mal Press; 2011; 300 pgs; $.99 US

Booze, broads, bullets, blood, and bad guys.  All of these B’s, with a liberal mash up of the supernatural trope of your choice, infuse Darker Than Noir with a tough guy attitude that will have readers talking like Humphrey Bogart after he downed a few scotches while he was puffing away on a cigarette that dangled from the corner of his mouth.   Readers who enjoy their gumshoe tales gritty, sexy, and filled with both sole and soul, will find Darker Than Noir to be the stuff dreams are made of.

Like any themed anthology, if you read too much of one subject matter or a particular style it can suck the wonder and anticipation out of upcoming stories.   I found that if I limited myself to reading no more than three stories at a time my interest remained strong and I found myself focusing more on the plots of the tales than worrying about redundancy.  And with 18 stories, Darker Than Noir provides ample opportunities for readers to sate their horror/noir fix.

While all the stories in Darker Than Noir are above average, several of them are superb:

Zoot Campbell’s, ‘The Cunt Next Door’, is a shocking tale of hardcore horror about how someone handles an annoying next door neighbor that has a twist at the end that most readers will never see coming.

‘The Knack of Living’, by Patrick Flanagan is as noir perfect as it gets with a private eye investigating a client’s plea to find out what happened to her lover.  Another tale where the end is a shocker.

Gregory L. Norris’s story, ‘Wine and Spirit’s’, is a well-told tale about a young man to whom the dead appear when something physical is lost when they died (in one instance, a toe) and it is keeping them from moving on.  The thing is, the young man is an alcoholic, and his need for a drink becomes overwhelming and puts him in peril.

And, in what I believe is the best story in the anthology, Randy Chandler’s tale, ‘Devil In 206’ is an all out ballsy-punch salute to both  noir  and demonic possession tropes.  In Chandler’s tale we have a hotel dick who stumbles onto a priest at the aftermath or an exorcism, with disgusting results.

In addition to the above there are several other outstanding stories such as Kent Alyn’s, ‘The Box of the Seven Sons’, and ‘Shards of the Broken’, by R. Thomas Riley and Roy C. Booth, that will have readers reaching for side arms and a cross.

If reading about dirty cops, cynical detectives, hardboiled brutes, femme fatale’s and the supernatural horrors that can make life a living hell drives you to drink, then you should be indebted to Darker Than Noir because there is at least a full bottles worth of the hard stuff between these pages.  And while the stories in Darker Than Noir may all share a common theme their approach is different, but the results are the same.  There’s some great reading to be had here.

The e-book version of Darker Than Noir sells for under a buck, but for those who prefer a tree born copy, they can pick it up for $ 14.99.


Jan 4, 2012

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