Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Short Story Wednesday: stories from Damn Near Dead 2, edited by Bill Crider



A few months ago, I purchased a copy of Damn Near Dead 2, edited by Bill Crider and published by Busted Flush Press in 2010. The book had come to my attention when I was looking for a copy of "Chin Yong-Yun Takes a Case" by S.J. Rozan, and I decided to buy it when I saw a list of the authors with stories in the book. So this week I read a few stories from the beginning  of the book. 



The first story is “Sleep, Creep, Leap” by Patricia Abbott. I had read this story earlier in a collection of Abbott's stories, Monkey Justice. Bob Mason is an older man, in his early seventies (my age). His next door neighbor, Lillian, dies and her house sits empty for over a year. The neighborhood is going downhill, no one wants to buy in the area. Then, a younger woman, newly divorced, moves in. She is not the ideal neighbor, with a barking dog and a nasty boyfriend. When Bob thinks that she is being abused and tries to help out, things don't go well. This is an excellent story, dark and sad, with a lot of character development for its length.

I loved the title, which is referring to the way some perennial plants grow, the “sleep, creep, leap” effect. The first year they sleep, the next year they creep (grow more), and in the third year they leap, or reach their full potential. This is discussed as he plants hydrangeas between the two houses, noting in the second year that they will be getting bigger and bloom more. Not having much experience with perennials until the last couple of years, this phrase was new to me.


The second story is "The Last Long Ride of El Canejo" by Ace Atkins, which was also very good. Patricia Abbott discussed this story at her blog,  Pattinase, so you should check out her review there. 


The third story was “Stiffs” by Neal Barrett, Jr. That one is a science fiction story, set on the Moon, about a group of assassins who are very, very old  and are competing to be the oldest living assassin. It was confusing, but I liked it anyway, confusion and all.


“The End of Jim and Ezra” by C. J. Box is a Western story set in the 1800's in Wyoming. Two old trappers are snowed in up in the mountains and run out of food. Everything that Ezra does is driving Jim crazy. I did not love the ending but overall the story was good and it provided a good picture of that time and the brutal weather.


I read a total of eight stories from the book, and the last one I read was “Flying Solo” by Ed Gorman. Two cancer patients, who are getting chemo treatments at the same time, become friends and decide to take the law into their own hands to help out some of the nurses. Very well done and somewhat more upbeat than the others. Based on another book I read that talked about chemotherapy treatments, that part of it was accurately described.


The theme here is "geezer noir" and the overall result is dark stories, and often very sad ones. I haven't read all the stories yet, and I know that the story by S.J. Rozan is neither noir nor sad, so maybe I will find a few others that are not so dark. Not that I mind reading dark stories.


16 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sadly too much of us are familiar with chemo. Ed was a great writer. He wrote tough but his stories always had heart. I miss him very much. When blogs were the thing, 10-15 years ago, we used to correspond through them almost every day. I got a kick out of Ed loving to post his FFB on my blog rather than his own. Five of them gone now: Ron Scheer, Ed Gorman, Bill Crider, Randy Johnson and Sandra Seamans. I am probably missing someone. Richard Wheeler didn't correspond as much as the others but he was a great voice on Westerns.

Margot Kinberg said...

As soon as I saw that Crider was the editor, Tracy, I got interested. He really was so talented, and had an eye for a good story, dialogue, and setting. He is much missed.

col2910 said...

I enjoyed the first in the series and only recently discovered that there had been a second edition. I had a copy which was signed by about a dozen of the contributors. Foolishly I got rid of it. If only I didn't have enough short story anthologies on the pile already!

Sam Sattler said...

This collection really sounds great. So many great writers included, and as abbott mentioned, so greatly missed now. I'll have to see if I can find this one for sure. I remember reading "Chin Yong-Yun Takes a Case" by S.J. Rozan somewhere, but I'm sure it wasn't in this collection.

Todd Mason said...

I'd forgotten the start that Patti's protagonist being "Bob Mason" had handed me in 2010 or so, as that was my father's preferred means of being addressed, and he, too, was in his early '70s then.

It's a hell of a book, and Barrett is perhaps one of the most underusing writers in it, though not by Bill, Ed or the likes of Joe Lansdale, and one of those writers who, like the preceding trio, had no problem writing impressively in crime, western and science fiction and fantasy.

George said...

DAMN NEAR DEAD 2 is a fun book. Bill Crider was an underrated editor.

TracyK said...

George, I agree, it is a fun book, even with the darker stories. It was hard to stop reading. I wish Bill Crider had had a story in this book. He did have one in the first Damn Near Dead, but I don't have that one.

TracyK said...

Patti, I have read a few of Ed Gorman's books and a few short stories. And I want to read much more. For a long time I was most familiar with him as the editor of Mystery Scene. I will never be able to get through all of Bill Crider's books either but I would at least like to read all the Dan Rhodes books, and a few from other series.

TracyK said...

Margot, having Bill Crider as editor of this book also was a big attraction for me. I have mostly read his Dan Rhodes series, and I appreciate those for the small town mysteries and the dialogue, as you say.

TracyK said...

Col,
I know what you mean, I keep finding more anthologies tucked away that I had forgotten about. I am going to find a used copy of the first Damn Near Dead. Too bad you did not keep yours.

TracyK said...

Sam, every story I have read so far in this anthology has been good.

"Chin Yong-Yun Takes a Case" was also published in The Best American Mystery Stories 2011, but I first read it as a Kindle edition (of just that story).

TracyK said...

That would be a bit of a shock, Todd, seeing your father's name in a story.

I did look up Barrett while I was writing the post and see that he had written in several genres. Today I checked out what he has written at Fantastic Fiction, and there is a website too, which I will look at. If you have some suggestions of stories or books I could try, I would be interested.

Todd Mason said...

My younger sibling used to go by Eric, and once our family was watching an episode of COLD CASE together when the series was still in production, and the key figures in the episode were brothers named Todd and Eric. We were slightly amused. (I don't remember if either was a/the criminal of the episode...perhaps have blacked it out...)

My first suggestions for Barrett among novel might run to PINK VODKA BLUE (cf), THROUGH DARKEST AMERICA and THE HEREAFTER GANG (these being idiosyncratic speculative fiction, the latter leaning into fantasy. Sadly, his short fiction has mostly been collected by small presses, so you might need to hit interlibrary loan unless you gamble heavy bread or get lucky with a used copy, but PERPETUITY BLUES AND OTHER STORIES or OTHER SEASONS: THE BEST OF NEAL BARRETT, JR. will certainly give you a sense of his work...if Joe Lansdale is editing a given anthology, a Barrett story is pretty likely, while he was still with us (NB, that is).

I do like that site, if https://www.nealbarrettjr.com/ is the one you refer to.

TracyK said...

Todd, that would be a kick to see an TV show with characters with your siblings names. I've never seen any of my family's names turn up, although there have long stretches where I was watching little TV.

Thanks for the suggestions for Barrett's writings. I will see what I can find.

Yes that is the website I was referring to.

Rick Robinson said...

The first one, DAMNED NEAR DEAD was terrific, and so is this follow up.

TracyK said...

Rick, I will be getting a copy of DAMNED NEAR DEAD soon.