Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Crimewave 4: Mood Indigo

Crimewave is published by the same people who do The Third Alternative, which is possibly the best SF/Fantasy/Horror magazine publishing right now. Crimewave does crime fiction, however, as if the title wasn't clear enough. My friend Lynda Rucker--who incidentally has been published three times in TTA and has a story in the current issue, #33--kept telling me I had to check out Crimewave, so when I saw this issue at Dreamhaven I had to pick it up. Weirdly--since it's the only issue they had there--it's from a couple of years ago. Not that age has any bearing on quality, of course: this is a beautifully done magazine, on heavy stock, with lovely art and, well, let's talk about the stories:

"The Grift of the Magi" by Sean Doolittle is about three small-timers on their way to what they think is going to be their big score. A car crash derails their plans, and when an unsuspecting family stops to help them out, the Christmas that follows is merry for absolutely no one. What's most interesting about this story is the way the presence of the three crooks unravels the "straights," stripping away their carefully constructed outer shells. There's no bang in this story, but it's a thoughtful piece, and it works.

"Leaving Seven Sisters" by Simon Avery may be my favorite story in this volume. It's got some fairly cliched elements--the ex-con trying to keep his nose clean, and the old cellmate who gets him back into trouble--but a squirmingly real description of a corpse, a disorienting introduction, and an ending which is amoral and sentimental at the same time, make this a great story, in my opinion.

"Daughter" by Cliff Burns is a creepy tale of abduction, indoctrination, and escape. There is no happy ending, and little hope, and the bleakness is powerfully rendered.

"Junk Male" by Chaz Brenchley has an unfortunate title and perhaps the first boy-pimp detective in crime fiction. Perhaps. There's a lot going on here, much of it darkly fascinating. If not for the title . . .

Brian Hodge's "Miles To Go Before I Weep" is a quest story, of sorts. Tom agrees to give Allison a ride from the California desert town to Mississippi--he's on his way to Florida, after all. On the way he learns she's going back to kill someone, and he may be falling in love with her besides. The victim is just about the best evil talker since Angelus, and he leaves Tom wondering if he and Allison have any future after all. A close second to "Leaving Seven Sisters" for my favorite story here.

Lastly, Antony Mann has a brief story called "Shopping," which manages to tell the story of a love affair gone badly with nothing but shopping lists. Clever and funny.


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