If you want to read some of the best crime fiction being written today, you owe it to yourself to pick up this issue of SWITCHBLADE magazine. More than good time girls and hard luck guys, the stories in SWITCHBLADE shows humanity at its most desperate but stops short of being voyeuristic. Each of the broken souls in the stories remains, at the end of the day, human, and to their credit, each of the authors featured zoom in on that characteristic and challenges the reader to not sympathize but definitely empathize with the characters contained within. There are stories of rotten luck and worse choices, of unintended consequences and occasional moments of grace.
“A Good Week’s Work” by Rob Pierce. Truly no plan survives contact with the enemy… and that goes double when you get a group of criminals together, each with their own agenda. End of the day, when blood is spilled and money is on the line, is there anyone you can trust?
“Nasty Habits” by Alex Cizak. There are worse addictions to have then heroin, and even the bottom rung of society has ways of looking out for the vulnerable.
“Discretion” by Court Merrigan. A mob boss’ wife gets caught on camera performing an intimate act with someone who isn’t her husband. And so an example needs to be made… but what does a man who loves his wife do when her infidelity threatens his position in the criminal underworld? This story does an excellent job of exploring love, loyalty, and what it takes to keep a marriage going.
“Play Your Hand” by Danny Sophabmisay. An unfaithful wife. An unsavory photographer. A middle aged man who falls out of love and with enough money to realize he can find a younger model. But what to do when the photographer offers to go the extra distance and exact a bit of revenge. The smart thing to do is turn him down, right?
“Chemo Queen” by Tom Barlow. Andrea has a good thing going, as it turns out faking having cancer is an easy way to make a living. And she’s smart, travelling far enough out of town to fulfill her other needs. But when a one-night stand tracks her down and demands a piece of the pie in exchange for her silence, what’s a girl going to do? A tale of blackmail, double crosses, and the fact that it is impossible to judge someone simply on the appearance they present to the world.
“Daughter of Diamonds” by Jack Bates. Josie Haddad is the daughter of a diamond merchant, twenty-something and dangerous. The manager of one of her dad’s stores agrees to take her on, teach her the basics of the business, and soon finds himself ensnared, seduced. At the end of the day, it might just cost the man everything.
“The Comforter” by Rick Risemberg. A robbery gone wrong. A friend dead. Jules’ hasn’t left his apartment in a week, worried about who Bobby might have told. Worried who might be looking to put a bullet in him. But Old Mrs. Rosentstein is outside his door, a bag of pastries just for him. After all, she heard he wasn’t feeling well. It’s the least she can do, isn’t it?
“Crossing Lines” by Tony Genova. It was supposed to be an easy pick-up. But Dale is saddled with Len, and well, Len is a fuck-up. When Len kills the man they were supposed to pick up from, he departs for places unknown, leaving Dale to explain to their boss what happened. So… come clean or try and lie? And what do you do when you’re worried that you’ve become a loose end? This story highlights how, even in the underworld, it’s everyone for themselves first, and loyalty only goes so far.
“China Township, MI” by E.F. Sweetman. College isn’t for Skip. Neither is any sort of regular job. But when he gets the chance to work for Eddie, travelling around delivering packages, he goes for it. But Eddie doesn’t deal in any sort of normal merchandise, and his customers aren’t exactly upstanding citizens. A story of having your back to the wall, and the importance of getting your story straight.
“These Hills” by Chris McGinley. What do you do when there’s no work and nothing left to steal? What do you do when even the local preacher knows theirs no salvation waiting for them based on the things they’ve done? A story about the weight some men carry for years, and sometimes the best part of us is long gone and buried, just a white cross at the side of a mountain road to mark our passing.
“Vanishing Girl” by Robb T. White. A story of serial killers crossing in the night, and what happens when one predator targets another by mistake. And sometimes the police screw up enough to help a girl who just wants to get out of town and start over someplace fresh.
“Bad Dog” by Timothy Friend. A unique story from a dog’s perspective about love, and loyalty, and ultimately how we perceive ourselves. IF this doesn’t tug at your heart strings, I’m going to have to assume you’ve got no soul at all.
“The Big Blind” by David Rachels. Someone at a poker game is a serial killer. Which one though? And does it matter when you’ve got enough bullets for everyone at the game?
“Lama Todd” by Preston Lang. A grifter is a grifter, whether selling New Age mysticism or corporate synergy. What’s a girl to do though when she runs into the same man at two different stages of her life? And how hard can it be to kill a man anyway?
“The Lights of San Francisco” by Tom Andes. Ditch works a door at place called The Stud. They’ve also been offered twelve thousand by a Chinese gangster if she runs into a friend of hers named Terry. And then Terry’s there, offering a lift home after their shift. But murder has a way of cascading like dominoes, and sometimes the best thing a body can do is leave the lights of the city behind.
All of the stories exhibit excellent writing, at times visceral, gritty, and grime covered, but also emotional, tension filled, and with stakes that grab the reader and won’t let go. The artwork accompanying each story is well chosen, highlighting aspects of each story without giving away the plot.
The magazine is available via kindle and print on demand at Amazon. My recommendation is to pick up the print version as the kindle version doesn’t accommodate the usual bells and whistles (zooming, smart text, etc.) that you might otherwise be expecting.
At the time this article is being published, Switchblade is open for submissions and will be until May 25, 2018.