“Private Chick” by Julie Smith from Men of the Mean Streets (Bold Strokes Books, 2011). Edited by Greg Herren and J. M. Redmann.
Diva Delish is a bartender/private investigator working out of a bar in the Marigny called the Palace. It’s the perfect steady gig for a private eye, isn’t it? Even so, sometimes clients need a little prodding, so Miss Diva hands out business cards to inform the locals of her sleuthing side business. That’s how Wendy the gutter punk happens in, wanting Diva Delish to locate her missing boyfriend Geo.
I wasn’t sure what to make of this story at first, but it turned out to be one of my favorites of the collection. It’s unconventional, the voice is unique, and there was a twist to the whole thing that I really loved. I wouldn’t mind reading more cases featuring the Mistress of Disguise and Detection and her alter ego Don Devereaux. I wouldn’t mind it one bit.
“The Cocktail Hour” by John Morgan Wilson from Men of the Mean Streets (Bold Strokes Books, 2011). Edited by Greg Herren and J. M. Redmann.
There’s a temptation, early on in the reading of this story, to compare it to a certain play-turned-movie. While the two works do bear similarities, they turn out to be quite different.
It’s 3am on a seedy side street in Hollywood when the phone in Jack’s motel room rings. It’s Randy, his lover from seven years back. Randy tells Jack he’s lonely and wants to see him, but only that. He swears he isn’t looking to re-kindle anything because he’s in a committed relationship—he professes to be in love—with a much, much older and also very well-off man. He invites Jack to their ranch.
Jack shouldn’t accept the offer, of course, but he does. He shows up and is introduced to the cook and the ranch hand, and finally to Arthur, the man who replaced him in Randy’s life. Arthur is surprisingly welcoming, and it all seems hunky-dory…until it doesn’t. Things slowly start to unravel, but it’s hard to say if Jack’s simply feeling jittery because he feels guilty about his and Jack’s tumultuous past, and the feelings that are being stirred up by seeing his former boyfriend again, or if, as he begins to suspect, there’s something sinister at work on the ranch.
“The Case of the Missing Bulldog” by Josh Aterovis from Men of the Mean Streets (Bold Strokes Books, 2011). Edited by Greg Herren and J. M. Redmann.
This story started fast and easily kept my attention all the way to the end. A private eye and a guy he met via an online dating profile are in the hallway of a seedy apartment building, heading to a crime scene. The apartment that the date-turned-client brought the narrator to see turns out to be a total disaster. The blood stains and bloody handprints don’t create but merely enhance the existing malevolent ambiance.
The private eye begins to grill the younger man, who looks increasingly guilty as the conversation progresses. Remember what we said a few days ago about noir requiring a cynical, fatalistic, or morally ambiguous tough guy, or else someone who is lured into committing a crime, or a victim of circumstance, often with a motivation that is sexual in nature?
Yeah, it’s that, in spades. I loved this story.