Drawn from Robinson's online magazine Thuglit, these 25 mostly solid crime stories will largely appeal to those with a taste for explicit violence. (For others, one description of mutilated genitalia is likely to be more than enough.) The best entries rely on subtlety and spare character portraits to make their point, like Mike MacClean's "McHenry's Gift," the account of a drug runner's legacy with a vicious twist at the end that O. Henry might have appreciated. Dark humor propels Duane Swierczynski's satirical "The Replacement," in which a drunk driver is sentenced to live out the life of his victim. Bill Fitzhugh's "The Neighbors," about post-9/11 hysteria in California, does a nice job of playing off readers' expectations. In contrast, Vinnie Penn's "Trim," a predictable and gory tale of revenge, makes an impression solely because of its gross-out factor. As Otto Penzler cautions in his introduction, this anthology is not for the fainthearted. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Hardcore Hardboiledby Todd Robinson
"I drove all the way across town to cut up this son of a bitch, but it's these three flights of stairs that got me worried. . ."
It's meaner than a puppy juggler. It's sharper than the knife that hot babe is aiming at your back. It's got you so hard 'n bothered you don't see bad news coming. It's the best of contemporary neo-noir suspense fiction, raw and uncut
"I drove all the way across town to cut up this son of a bitch, but it's these three flights of stairs that got me worried. . ."
It's meaner than a puppy juggler. It's sharper than the knife that hot babe is aiming at your back. It's got you so hard 'n bothered you don't see bad news coming. It's the best of contemporary neo-noir suspense fiction, raw and uncut from the net's most hardcore, award-winning site. . .
"The unhinged depravity of your standard street freak is a very difficult thing to predict. . .."
So snap the neck off your favorite brew, find a comfortable barstool, and dig. . .the lesbian-in-fishnets on a killing spree. The cop who breaks more laws than he defends. A pit-fight champion who's drugged-up, revved-up and way less-than-human. Mobsters whose mercy is worse than their payback. The restless ghosts of Johnny Cash and Ol' Blue Eyes haunting the streets. And the "pubic-ly-challenged" dream woman who's happy to deliver the ultimate final cut. . .
"In this game, every move is a risk. Everything you do has repercussions. . ."
Step up to a meth-fueled, E-ticket ride through the wild side, where no deed goes unpunished, no heart is true. . .and evil is the only thing that's pure. . .
"You have to look hard to find two consecutive pages that don't deal with sex or violence, but why would you want to? If you're man enough, you'll love this book. If you're not, give it to your girlfriend. If she accepts it and enjoys it, never turn your back on her."Otto Penzler
Big Daddy Thug/Todd Robinson's writing has appeared in Danger City, Demolition, Out Of The Gutter, Pulp Pusher, Crimespree and Writers Digest's The Years Best Writing 2003. He is the creator and chief editor of Thuglit.com.
The stories he's edited for Thuglit.com have been nominated for several awards, including The Derringer (presented by the Short Mystery Fiction Society) and The Million Writer's Award, and been have been selected for Best American Mystery Stories and Best Noir 2006.
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Read an Excerpthardcore hardboiled
Copyright © 2008 Todd Robinson
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The guy sat down next to me. He laid a deck of smokes down on the bar. Camels. "Beer," he said when Philly came around.
"Jesus Christ," Philly said, more to me. "Beer. I got sixteen friggin' beers back here."
"Pick one," the guy told him and we both watched as Philly drew a mug of his most expensive foreign lager.
The guy extracted a butt from the pack and lit it with a gold lighter, which he conspicuously examined before sliding it back into the deck. "I'm looking for a fence," he said without looking at me. I didn't say anything; everybody thinks they got something to sell. Most people got dick. Most people think that just because they stole it, somebody wants to buy it.
"I'm looking for a fence," he repeated with a rehearsed casualness.
"I heard ya," I said. "Try a carpenter."
I didn't say anything, just moved to a different stool further away from him. I can't buy from every guy who walks in off the street claiming he's got something to move.
Philly glanced at me. I made a subtle move with my head and that was it. He took the guy's half-finished beer and dumped it in the sink behind the bar.
"I wasn't finished with that," the guy said.
"You're done," Philly told him."C'mon, now get on out 'fore I toss ya out. Be a good guy, huh?"
"Sure. Sure thing," the guy said. He stood up slowly, put his jacket on and picked up his smokes. He started to leave, then hesitated. He turned to face me; I didn't move to look at him. "C'mon, pally, will ya?" Philly said.
The guy raised his index finger asking for one minute before Philly came out from behind the bar. "How much will you give me for ten dimes?" he asked.
"A dollar," I answered and the guy walked out the door.
The Ten Dimes is a myth. It don't exist, a rumor everybody forgot to ignore. They were supposed to be in the box when The Man went under; they were supposed to be in the right-hand pocket of his tuxedo pants like they'd been for the previous thirty years. It became a habit in the sixties when his kid got snatched-up (the boy kid, not the girls). He always carried ten dimes in his pocket in case he needed to make phone calls. This was back before cell phones, a long time ago, when a pay phone cost ten cents. The Man was a creature of habit, and so, for the rest of his life-long after Jr. was back safe and sound-he carried ten dimes in his pocket. He liked to jingle them while he sang. So when he went down a few years ago, the family decided that when they put him under, the ten dimes should go with him-along with a gold lighter, a watch, a toy train from Von Ryan's Express, and a bunch of other shit he toted around with him.
Now the rumor; the story every half-assed gangster from the Strip tells is that somebody got the dimes. Some friend of a friend of the mortician went to see the body and lifted the ten dimes when everyone turned away. Some guys tell it with The Man's dimes being replaced with an ordinary ten dimes; some people have him going under with empty pockets. Either way, it's a good story because-short of exhuming him-there's really no way to prove or disprove it. The story had been up and down the Strip. Everybody knew a guy who knew a guy-but this was the first time anybody tried to sell them to me.
Three days later the guy came back. Word had been that he'd been to every other fence on the Strip and no one was buying. He pulled the same act as the first time; sitting down, ordering a beer, talking without looking at me.
"I got these things," he said.
"I know," I told him. I'd been thinking about him and his ten dimes since he left.
"I need to sell them," he said.
"I know," I told him.
We both sat sipping our drinks, not looking at each other.
"How do I know they're legit?" I asked.
He pulled the gold lighter out of the deck of Camels, lit one, and slid the lighter down to me. It was gold, real gold-heavy. A weight in your hands. There was a monogram on it: The Man's initials. Still, this proved nothing. Everybody knows his initials; the guy could have had this made. Still.
The guy stood up. He took a pull on his beer and a last drag on his smoke. He put the lighter into the deck and the deck into his pocket. "Listen," he said, "either you're going to believe me or you aren't. Obviously you aren't, so I'm sorry for having bothered you."
He headed for the door.
"Hey," I said. "Sit down."
"What?" the guy asked.
"I said sit down."
The guy sat down, next to me this time. I motioned Philly to pour us a couple. We waited until the beers were set and Philly was gone. We each took the head off our mug.
"If you even ..." I started.
"I know," the guy said.
I could feel him looking at me occasionally but didn't turn to see.
"What do you want for 'em?" I asked.
"Two large," he answered.
"For the lot?" I asked.
"The lot?" he repeated. "Shit, apiece. Two grand apiece."
"Twenty grand for ten dimes?" I asked.
The guy just nodded.
"No chance," I told him. "Ten large."
I probably would have gone as high as twelve hundred dollars apiece, but we both agreed ten large was a fair price for a buck in change.
"You want to do this thing right now?" I asked.
"Yeah," he said. "'Cause I carry 'em around with me all day."
He told me a place.
"You know where it is?"
"Yeah, I know."
"Like nine tonight?" he asked.
"Yeah," I said. "Nine tonight."
And he left without paying for his drink.
I pulled into the place at ten to nine and he was waiting there, engine running. He had a big old American car, Buick or something. The kind of car a half-assed gangster drove because it bore some resemblance to a Cadillac. Some people might call it a poor man's Cadillac-a Lincoln's a poor man's Cadillac, a Buick's a Buick. I waited to see if he would come and sit in with me. When he didn't, I went over to his car. He had Dean Martin on the tape.
"Hey," he said without looking.
"Hey," I answered in the same way.
"Dino," he said after an awkward beat of two guys in a car listening to the radio. "He could sing. He was a talent-you ever see Rio Bravo?"
I didn't answer.
"He could act, he was funny. He was the real deal, not like this guy."
I thought of Dino drinking apple juice on stage. Faking it in the later years while The Man was still chasing sunrises. "Yeah," I said.
"From Here to Eternity?" The guy continued. "That's bullshit too, he never went to the war."
"He was 4-F," I said quietly.
The guy paused, as if noticing I was there for the first time.
"He's what?" He was too young to know what it was.
"Never mind," I said. "You got it?"
"Yeah," he said. "Yeah." He pulled out a pouch and made it jingle so I could hear the coins inside.
"You got the money?" he asked. I reached into my coat and handed him an envelope. He counted it. Then handed me the pouch, which I didn't examine. We sat there for a minute, he put the envelope inside his coat.
I turned so I was facing him. "These are them, right?"
"Yeah," he answered.
"I mean, these were his, right?"
"I told you they were."
"These were supposed to go under with him?"
"What I say?"
I said The Man's name, full, with the middle name. He repeated it, as confirmation.
"You took them from him?"
"Yes," he said and repeated the name.
I jammed a screwdriver into his ear.
I left the money; I'm a fence, not a thief. I didn't take the money. I paid fair market value for the dimes. The money was his. I didn't do it for the money. I got money.
I met him once. We were both from the same place.
We both ended up in the same place. I met him once, years ago, a lifetime ago, when we were both passing through Big Town. We had mutual friends. They vouched for him; said he was a good guy, stand-up. Said he went to bat for the Clipper once with that broad he married.
We were in this bar and a friend we had in common pointed out that we were from the same place. We spent the rest of the night talking about it. I bought him a drink; he drank half of it and left the rest on top of a urinal. That's what he did. That's what he always did.
We talked about people we'd both known and the places we'd grown up. I told him he should write a song about it-A man, broken, from Hoboken-or something like that. You know what he told me? He couldn't read music. Can you imagine?
He was a good man. He didn't deserve what that guy did to him. I took the dimes myself and laid nine of them on his grave. I kept one. I don't think he'd mind. It cost me ten grand.
I think he'll understand. We were from the same place.
Brant Bites Back
Roberts, his commanding officer, had just joined Brant in the canteen. He had a tea and a slice of Danish-he'd been looking forward to it all morning. The pastry was fresh from the oven and he wasn't too happy about the way Brant was eyeing it. He'd been telling Brant about a new case, a guy was attacking women, beating the living shit out of them and then ...
Sinking his teeth in their neck and apparently sucking deep.
Brant reached over, and using his large thick fingers, tore a chunk off the Danish, asked, "You don't mind Guv, but I missed breakfast?"
Roberts was appalled, all the years they'd worked together and all the shite Brant had pulled, he still managed to amaze.
Brant popped the chunk in his mouth, chewed noisily and-Roberts felt-deliberately, then said, "A vampire, give me a fucking break."
He was now staring at the shredded remains of the ruined pastry and Roberts sighed, pushed it across the table. He couldn't eat it after this, said, "Knock yourself out."
Brant grabbed it, said, "Why we love you, Guv."
Always the loaded tone, you knew he was fucking with you but you could never quite pin him down. Now the bastard was eyeing his tea, no fucking way. Roberts gulped half of it down and near gasped-it was steaming hot, and burned the roof of his mouth.
Brant asked, "Jesus, you got a thirst there Guv, on the beer were you?"
Roberts, his so-called breakfast destroyed, resigned himself, got back to the biz in hand, said, "Whatever he is, he's got Clapham Common scared, women are afraid to go there anymore."
Brant wiped the crumbs from his mouth, using the sleeve of his sergeant's uniform, said, "I enjoyed that, bit stale though, you shouldn't let them fob that second hand gear on you Guv, you being a ranking officer and all."
Most of the time, Roberts wanted to wallop the be-jaysus out of Brant and he felt the desire all over again.
Brant asked, "How many victims?"
Roberts' mouth hurt from the burn and he said, "Four, but that's only those who've come forward. There may be more, you know women are sometimes reluctant to come forward."
Brant, the demonic smile in full neon said, "Why, we're not going to bite them?"
It was exactly the sort of comment that ensured Brant would never rise above his present rank.
The brass had been trying for years to get rid of him but whatever else, Brant was the ultimate survivor. Brown, their Super, never stopped trying to find some devious means of destroying Brant, even used a young cop named McDonald to try and bring Brant down.
Big mistake, especially for McDonald who was now, as Brant said, "worm take-away."
Brant asked, "So do we have any suspects?"
Roberts sighed. You were around Brant, you got to sigh.
He said, "We checked out the all usual perverts, but a biter, no, we haven't had one of those ... before."
Brant gave the wolfish smile, said, "Okay, a challenge as it were. I like a case I can ... how would you put it, Guv, sink me teeth in?"
Brant stood, an imposing figure when he stood to full effect, the bulky frame, all muscle, the black Irish face and those hard eyes, pure granite and he had the aura of,
"You wanna fuck with me?
.................... Bring it the fook on."
Roberts, twenty years on the force-all of them rough-knew one thing: when you had nothing, you did the one reliable, you went to a snitch.
Trouble was, Brant's snitches had a history of coming to violent ends, the most notable being one poor bastard who was literally kebabbed.
Say what you will, London villains had a sense of humour, balls in the wringer you might say.
Caz, a guy who claimed to be from South America, a professional dancer, had lasted longer than most. He was actually from Croydon but what was a little geography?
They got outside. Brant suggested they use his own car, saying, "We don't want to frighten the natives."
His car-well, his latest one-was a BMW ... on a sergeant's salary?
They got in and as they pulled out, Brant said, "This motor purrs, Guv, you oughta get yer own self one of these babies."
Brant lit up one of his beloved Weights, a cigarette almost impossible to get anymore and dragged deep, his Zippo flicking like a bad prayer, said, "Wanna hear some music, Guv?"
Without waiting for a reply, he hit the speakers and here came Tom Waits, a-wailing and a-moaning, Brant saying, "I tell you, guv, this bollix, he's had some wild nights. I'd love to have a pint with him."
Roberts, who liked his Sinatra, wondered if there was any reply to this and decided no, not if it involved sanity.
They parked outside a pub in Balham, not exactly a dive but not flash either, Brant looked at his watch, a Rolex, naturally, said, "Caz should be having his eye opener about now."
They walked into the pub and it had that awful morning-after aroma, cheap booze, nicotine linger, and dashed hopes.
Brant said, "I fucking love this hole."
The clientele consisted of a few elderly women, sipping on sweet sherry, an elderly guy, already slumped over a pint of mild, and Caz.
You couldn't miss him. His shirt-he favoured the most garish type that even Elvis wouldn't be, pardon the pun, found dead in. He had the shirt open to his navel; a large gold medallion filled the blank space.
He was wearing shades, though it was dark in the place.
The customers were not fond of light.
Much in common with vampires.
He had a tall glass of what looked like Coke but was sure to be loaded. His body language on their entry had been relaxed.
Not no more.
He'd tensed up, ready for flight, but he knew from sad experience there wasn't anywhere to hide from Brant. He took a deep gulp of his drink, shuddered, and waited.
Brant was in jovial tone, boomed: "Caz, me oul mate, how are you doing?" And sat right next to Caz. He took the drink, sniffed it, said, "Jesus, paint off a gate."
Roberts sat, watched as Caz lit a cig with a slight tremble in his hand-Brant or the booze or probably both.
Brant said, "This is my Guv so you be on yer best behaviour, I'm trying to impress him."
Brant had never tried to impress a living soul.
He looked at Roberts, said, "Guv, hop on up there, get us a large G and T, no ice. We need to like ... blend."
Roberts moved, and the bar guy, looking like an over-the-hill bouncer, all tattoos, wasted muscle, sneered, "What can I get you, officer?"
Roberts gave him the look, said, "One tonic water."
The guy debated this then slurped a tonic into a far-from-clean glass, asked, "Anything else?"
Roberts, leaned over the counter, said in a very quiet voice: "Bit of fucking civility wouldn't go astray."
The guy, realizing he'd read Roberts all wrong, tried, "On the house, sir."
Roberts put the glass in front of Brant who raised his eyebrows then fired up a cig, said, "Caz believes he might have our case solved ... already! Isn't that right, matey?" Brant took a swig of the tonic, grimaced, asked, "The fook is this?"
Roberts was delighted, said, "The proprietor had what you might term ... an attitude."
Brant's face darkened then he suddenly walloped Caz on the back, nearly sending him across the table, said, "Don't be shy, spill all."
Caz took a large swallow of whatever concoction he had, and shuddered, looking like he might throw up. Roberts moved well back. Then the internal battle waging in his stomach eased and Caz, wiping sweat from his brow, said, "Phew, close call there."
Brant gave him an elbow in the gut, which wouldn't have helped the very recent healing, said, "Fascinating as your belly is to us, tell my Guv what you know."
A guy in his late twenties, recently back from Iraq, always dressed in black, was muttering in the clubs about vampires, creatures of the night, and a righteous cleansing.
Excerpted from hardcore hardboiled Copyright © 2008 by Todd Robinson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Big Daddy Thug/Todd Robinson's writing has appeared in Danger City, Demolition, Out Of The Gutter, Pulp Pusher, Crimespree and Writers Digest's The Years Best Writing 2003. He is the creator and chief editor of Thuglit.
The stories he's edited for Thuglit have been nominated for several awards, including The Derringer (presented by the Short Mystery Fiction Society) and The Million Writer's Award, and been have been selected for Best American Mystery Stories and Best Noir 2006.
He lives and works in New York with his wife (Lady Detroit), a ferret named Matilda and three freakin' cats.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Walks in for spottedfuri
While there are some good stories in this collection, I'm not sure they compensate for the bad efforts, not to mention the real stinkers. For certain of the authors anthologized here "noir" means nasty and the dark side of human nature is confused with the damp side of a rock. There is a real sense that some of the material was included simply to "make weight". Save your money.