We’ve covered Switchblade before, and editor Matthew X. Gomez even had a flash piece published in Issue Seven, but that’s not going to stop us from covering their latest, Issue 9.
We start with a poem by Willie Smith taking us down to New Orleans in Voodoo Spider which crosses that line between noir and horror with the reader guessing which side of the line it’s on.
“Lucky Fuck” by Jack Bates follows a twisting, small town tale of car accidents, revenge, bitter recriminations and regrets. You’ll be left wondering if the main character is actually lucky, or just unlucky enough to keep from dying.
“Death Letter Blues” by Mark Slade could have used another round of editing, in this editor’s humble opinion, but is a twisted little tale of a man who lives in a reality adjacent to, but not fully in synchronicity with, this world. It’s self-delusion and violence in a tight little package and the right man in the wrong place.
Richard Risemberg waxes poetic in “Prisoners” and delves into how doing a thing for what you think are the right reasons can lead to problems down the road. Worth the price of admission for the language alone and how the experience of the past can lead to the tribulations of the present.
“Stanley” by A.F. Knott follows a life-long loser as he wakes up on the beach after a bender and as he pieces together the puzzle of the night before. A noir piece in the classic style where it starts bad and just gets worse the further down the rabbit hole you go.
“Black Flies” by Stefen Styrsky is the most ambitious piece in the collection, going back and forth in a “how we got here” kind of way. Falling in with the wrong person, pulling a crime that goes sideways, the way relationships can fall apart even when you think they are going strong… this is a crime story that has a bit of everything in it and sucks you in to the bad decisions that lead to the main character’s present.
Paul D. Marks brings us to “The House of the Rising Sun” and a New Orleans themed brothel in Hollywood and introduces us to Vivien who works there. A piece on unanswered dreams, bitter regrets, and what happens when a woman realizes that tomorrow is never going to be as good as today. A dark, bitter piece of fiction that goes down like cheap Scotch and that makes you wonder how many other lost dreamers are just going day to day.
J. Rohr is a writer we’ve featured before in Broadswords and Blasters. It is always fun to get a chance to read his work and “Unanswered Prayers” is no different following a man called Priest who isn’t a priest as he navigates an underworld he’s all too familiar with… trying to make amends for a previous life of inequity. A bit of a redemption story, but also what happens when a bad man tries to make good. Well worth the price of admission, and makes me want Rohr to have a full novel out already, or at least a collection of his short fiction.
“Squaring Up With Eddie” by Fred Rock is the first bit of flash fic in the collection. A story of a hit with a few twists, it manages to use the economy of language to set the scene and get out, a terrific amuse-bouche of fiction. I think I’d almost prefer Switchblade to intersperse these between the longer pieces, though it might be like a chaser of gasoline after Mad Dog, so maybe its best these come at the end.
“Bobby ‘Eggs’ and Grady” by Glenn A. Bruce is a somewhat convoluted crime trail of who knew what and when, and the ending left me feeling like I got kicked in the gut. It is a highlight reel of sudden violence and the cost it extracts on both sides of the law, and one I felt I had to read twice to get.
“Going to California” by John Kojack. I feel that fiction should, most of the time, at least, have a point. If I was to try and pin down one for this piece its that when a relationship goes south, it might be better to bail than try to keep the thing going. Otherwise you might find yourself outside a road side diner after a hold up, trying to decide your next best move.
Overall, the writing continues to be strong, the view points as seedy as you’d expect and my only complaint is for a bit tighter editing to move this from a good publication to a great one.