The above illustration, "Blowing Bubbles," has been adapted for use here by generous permission from the artist, Cyril Rolando.

January 30, 2010

The Big Bully

"Monopoly is business at the end of its journey." - Henry DeMarest Lloyd

WARNING: RANT FOLLOWS. Proceed at your own risk.

I awakened this morning to the roar of cannons, as fired a direct broadside at the MacMillan publishing ship. For those out of earshot of the battle, it seems that MacMillan has had the temerity to object to the lowballing of ebook prices. And amazon, one would guess, took exception not only to a producer attempting to have some say in the pricing of its product but also to that producer signing on for that higher pricing with amazon's ebook device competition, the Apple iPad (with bookstore to come). As punishment, amazon has removed the buy buttons from all of MacMillan's offerings. In short, amazon had an e-tantrum.

What does that mean to a reader/buyer? Books by Donna Andrews, Linda Barnes, Joe Barone, SJ Bolton, certain titles by Ken Bruen, Chelsea Cain, James Doss, Alan Glynn, Chris Grabenstein, John Hart, Steven Hockensmith, JA Jance, four titles by Michael Koryta, Roger Smith, Craig McDonald, and hundreds of other authors ARE NOT AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE AT AMAZON. Well, that's not strictly true. You can buy used copies of those books, in which neither MacMillan nor the authors will make any money on that sale. Just amazon and the used-book dealer  Amazon is hoping you won't notice and that MacMillan will shut up, just to get their books selling on amazon again. Shades of Wal-Mart! Same strategy, same tactics. (And do you see where the walmartization of America has got us? Ahem. But that's a different rant.)

What does it mean to the authors? It means that the very people who write the books from which amazon makes a lot of money (considerably more than most authors will ever make), those are the people who will most feel the sting from this venomous act of corporate bullying. And don't you believe for a minute that amazon has the interests of the consumer at heart. Oh, no. This is all about market domination. As in cornering the market. As in monopoly.

Maybe it sounds strange to you that a consumer would support higher pricing at any time. But in this case, those lowlow prices help only the consumer. Try to see beyond what's in your pocket right this second.  If the publishing industry is to survive, pricing has to be a win all around, from authors to consumers and all points in between. I want a low price, sure, but a fair price. But still, that's not the main reason I'm supporting "Big Mac" in this war. I'm not a fan of what the big publishers have done to their own industry. Not at all. They've helped make this mess, and done it willfully, just as amazon is doing.

No, I oppose amazon in this war because (full disclosure) I LOATHE amazon. My initial experiences with them were great, but repeated exposure has cured me forever. Hallelujah, brothers and sisters! I have been redeemed!

I have not forgotten amazon's prior bad acts, the repeated displays of a staggering lack of ethics and integrity:
  • That their Kindle is a proprietary device designed to further CEO Jeff Bezos' megalomaniac dream of a complete monopoly on ebooks (and from there to a lock on books, period).
  • That amazon has the power and the will to remove books, whenever it pleases and for whatever reason or none, from a consumer's Kindle. You won't be told in advance either.
  • The "glitch" that resulted in the removal of over 57,000 titles from both sales rankings and search offerings which just happened to include a large number of gay and lesbian themed titles.
  • That amazon once pulled all POD titles in an attempt to force POD publishers to exclusively use amazon's CreateSpace tool for printing.
  • That Amazon's customer service would be a joke except there's nothing funny about the way they treat their customers. Google "I hate amazon" or "amazon sucks," sit back and enjoy the reading. If they sent your book via US mail and you never got it? Tough, they still expect you to pay for it. If you placed an order for books "in stock" four weeks earlier and the status of that order has been "in shipping" for three of those weeks? Tough, you can't cancel the order and buy elsewhere. If you want to talk to a customer service rep, you'll actually get the chance to talk to several, none of whom talk to each other. So they wear you down with making you explain your problem over and over, until you just give up and go away.
  • Their hidden hooks and misleads. Beware of promotions that say your savings won't show up at check out. If you're an amazon customer and haven't been stung by these yet, your turn will come. Be patient, they have a lot of suckers customers to process. And think how much fun you'll have working with their customer service afterward.
  • Did you miss amazon's attempt at charm last November, when they flew a dozen top literary agents out to Seattle in an attempt to persuade the agents that amazon "is not trying to destroy publishing as we know it." Now why do you suppose they would want to persuade agents that is their mission, rather than persuading, say, the publishing CEOs? Are you thinking Amazon wants to turn the agents into fifth-columnists?

The publishing industry is currently writhing with its business model, trying to find a way to move forward in this age of technology, while amazon is doing its damnedest to become the industry, from publishing to retail. No kidding. David Young, CEO of the Hatchette publishing group, told NPR that the future of the $9.99 prices from amazon and the big box stores means ruin for the industry. Guess who would step in to "save" all those authors if that happens? I hope Young backs up his words by making the same demands of amazon that MacMillan has. I hope all the big publishers will stand together on this. It's kind of like what old Ben Franklin said about hanging together. If they don't, rest assured that the publishers will be hung (out to dry) separately.

For those authors who have supported the Kindle ebook phenom and made money via the same, enjoy. It feels good to actually sell your product and get royalties, doesn't it? But don't get accustomed to it, because based on amazon's culture and previous actions, once (if) the monopoly becomes a reality, you authors will also have to start playing by amazon's rules. I bet they have some already written, just for the big day. Just for you.

As for me, I went out to a local store today and bought a copy of Brad Parks' Faces of the Gone and Rosemary Harris's Pushing Up Daisies. I have to stock up against the day when the only books available will be by Dan Brown, James Patterson, John Grisham, and a few others. And the only places to buy them will be at amazon, Wal-Mart, and Target. Probably won't even be books as I know them, just bits and bytes. For an extra $1.00, each book will come with a special digitized graphic, like the ISBN, as the equivalent of an author's signature. For another $5.00, the graphic can be customized using the name on your credit card. .

"If it were necessary to give the briefest possible definition of imperialism, we should have to say that imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism." - Vladimir Lenin

                        Heil, Kindle!

End of rant. For a better-balanced (read: sane) and well-reasoned perspective, please read Cory Doctorow's post on the subject. We will now resume our regular programming.

January 29, 2010

Is it time for a quarantine?

The contagion is spreading: Overheard in the convenience store yesterday, an elderly gentleman complaining about his vision problems and the trouble he was having with his 'Cadillac eyes'.

January 28, 2010

SHOT TO DEATH: 31 Stories of Nefarious New England by Stephen D. Rogers

A part of the joy in reading short stories is that they are, well, short. Brevity is not only the soul of wit, as Shakespeare noted, it is attractive in its own write, er, right. A bite or two of a truly tasty short story is often more satisfying than a five-course meal of been-there-read-that novel.

There's a high percentage of tasty morsels to be found in Stephen D. Rogers' SHOT TO DEATH, an anthology of crime fiction tied together by locale. My closest brush with New England was in the form of watching reruns of Murder, She Wrote, so I was expecting lots of laconic New Englanders in these stories. Lots of "ayehs" and lobster fisherman. Rustic atmostphere. Colonial past looming over the present.

I'm delighted to report that my expectations missed the mark by a significant margin. I don't think there's a single "ayeh" in the book. The stories may occur in New England, but these are stories about people more than place. Take Raising the Bar, in which the mother of a toddler is agonizing over the damage done to her son's face, quite by accident, but for which maternal guilt is reshaping her every thought. Her angst is building into action, and Rogers wisely stops short of giving the reader the details. This story could be happening to any mother in the world, not just a New England mother. The same is true of Breakdown, in which a father who harmed his little girl no longer trusts himself to be around her and takes himself out of her life. From the act of inadvertently, but not accidentally, harming his child springs all his future decisions, major and minor, right down to whether or not he wants fries with his order.

A nice change-up from these noirish parents and ominously unresolved endings, is The Big Store, an amusing tale of three none-too-bright con artists who plan their scam in a diner, using their outdoors voices. The conversation between these three geniuses reminds me of the kind of nonsensical discussions carried on by the patrons of the OJ Bar & Grill in Donald Westlake's Dortmunder series. Another story on the lighter side, and one of my favorites, is Custody Battle at Red Creek. What that title may imply and what the story proves to be about -- vastly different. It's a cat-and-mouse tale about two competing private investigators who can't stand each other and their methods of expressing that mutual hatred.

To be sure, out of 31 stories, not every one is a winner. For example, the ending of High Noon, about a bankrobber left behind, lacks the punch and polish of C.O.D. about a sleep-deprived homeowner who takes matters into his own hands when law enforcement officials refuse to do anything about the repeated vandalism of his mail box. But the majority of these stories are worth your time.

How much time? Well, in general these are very short stories, clocking in at an average of roughly 2,000 words per. So depending on how fast you read, that's maybe 5-10 minutes per story. What's remarkable is that stories so brief usually have to focus on situation while character often gets understated, but there are a number of stories here in which character dominates. This is when Rogers is at his best.

Shot to Death
Mainly Murder Press
Release: February 15, 2010
Trade paperback ISBN: 9780982589908

Disclosure notice: A copy of this book was provided by the author at no charge to me. I make no money from reviewing this book, nor gain anything more. Do we really have to go through this every time I read a book?

January 25, 2010

Who wears short shorts?

If you're a fan of the short form of crime fiction, today was a banner day.

As many of you already know, CRIMEFACTORY, the brainchild/webzine produced by the mad triumvirate of Keith Rawson, Cameron Ashley, and Liam Jose, made its debut today. No pitiful piecemeal work is this, CRIMEFACTORY has everything from reviews of books and movies to in-depth articles on the severely under-read work of Charles Willeford as well as Dash Hammett's classic Red Harvest. And there's an interesting feature, Return to the Scene, that promises to become required reading. In CRIMEFACTORY's own words:
"RETURN TO THE SCENE functions as a “commentary track” for books, where various creative types choose one of their works and take us behind the scenes in its construction
in any manner they see fit."
In this issue, Adrian McKinty takes readers of his outstanding novel, Fifty Grand, behind the scenes.

Those are all nice accoutrements, but the real reason we read webzines is for the fiction, right? Well, CRIMEFACTORY has done a stellar job there. Well, come on, they've got an excerpt from Ken Bruen's not-yet-released Killer. (Shades of a Dave Zeltserman title!) You know right there that the editors of this webzine have both pull and taste.

And don't think that the good fiction starts and ends with Saint Ken. Oh, no. There are four more stories, and my advice is that you shouldn't skip any of them. Frank Bill opens the Temp Work fiction section of the 'zine, with Trespassing Between Heaven and Hell, about a deputy searching for the truth in an eerie hit-and-run case. Steve Weddle relates how a few friends got together to try to kill one of them. But it was just business, Nothing Personal.

Then along comes Dave White, who packed The Suitcase for a guy named Eddie. Now it's not clear to Eddie just what's in the suitcase. All he knows is there's a dead state trooper lying in the road, and Eddie's holding a recently fired pistol. And to top off all this great reading in one issue of CRIMEFACTORY, Hilary Davidson -- whose excellent short stories have already got me anticipating her debut novel, due later this year -- uncovers some Good Bones, a story that might make readers reconsider investing in one of those Victorian fixer-uppers.

January 21, 2010

Would you want his job?

Even in the world of crime writers, it isn't often that one gets to meet and interact with someone like Dr. Jeffrey Smalldon, but about two dozen people, including yours truly, had that rare pleasure today.

Dr. Smalldon is a forensic psychologist, in private practice since 1990. He is the son of a career FBI agent, so he grew up with criminal behavior as a frequent topic of conversation around the house. He has provided consultation in more than 150 capital murder cases. If you keep up with this kind of thing, and you're an Ohioan, you might recognize the names of Jerry Hessler, Jeffrey Lundgren, Thomas Lee Dillon, Alva Campbell, and more recently (like, say, yesterday) James Mammone III. All of them are cases on which Dr. Smalldon has consulted. I suspect he would have been called to consult on Anthony Sowell's case, but Sowell has changed his plea from 'not guilty by reason of insanity' to a simple 'not guilty.'

Besides the influence of his father's career, Dr. Smalldon stated that his interest in forensic psychology dates back to 1982, when two women he worked with at (then) Riverside Methodist Hospital (Columbus, Ohio) were brutally -- and that may be a colorless adjective in this case -- murdered on the job, just after Christmas. No arrest was ever made in that case. It is, however, interesting to note that the husband of one of the victims was William Matix. If you're old enough to remember the famous 1986 shoot-out in Miami between FBI agents and two bankrobbers, then you may also remember that Michael Gross played the role of Matix in the made-for-tv movie, In the Line of Duty: The F.B.I. Murders.

As a supervisor of the murdered women, Dr. Smalldon had met Matix after the murders, to express his condolences, and today he described the Matix he met as being soft-spoken, articulate, and an active church-goer.

Well, you can see how such events, and the conflict between apparent personality and opposing behavior, would naturally lead Smalldon to a life-long interest in forensic psychology. But the interest was there even before the terrible events at the hospital. In the 1970s, while an English major in Indiana, he corresponded with Charles Manson and many of the Manson "family" members, after reading Helter Skelter left him wondering 'why?'. Smalldon met twice with John Wayne Gacy, and has correspondence from him as well as from the Manson group, Thomas Lee Dillon, and other serial killers.

The hour we had with Dr. Smalldon, which he graciously provided pro bono, stretched into almost 90 minutes, and even then several of us cornered him to talk further. My suggestion to him was, "You have to write a book." And clearly the idea appeals to him, but he said that his work now keeps him far too busy to tackle such a task.

Knowing how curious his audience would be, the good doctor provided us with some fascinating, albeit chilling, handouts, and my set is even now sitting right next to my keyboard. With his permission to do so, I'm providing you a scan of one of the notes he received from one of America's most infamous serial killers. See if you recognize him. Enjoy.

January 12, 2010

Short stops #4

My mom, who will turn 80 this July, wanted to know if elderly people ever show up in the kinds of stories I like to read. Oh, yeah, they surely do. All of the following stories, except the James Lee Burke story, have a senior citizen in an important role. And I'm telling you, elderly doesn't mean helpless.
I'm almost afraid to put Keith Rawson's little piece of voyeurism, 60+, as the first of today's recommendations. You may read it and decide you'd rather seek out Rawson's entire oeuvre rather than come back and check out the rest of this week's recommendations. I'll have to take the chance though, because you must read 60+. Slick, sick, and very appealing to my twisted sense of humor. Rawson displays a hitherto unknown (by me anyway) gift for action scenes. Thanks to A Twist of Noir for publishing this one.

As long as you're visiting A Twist of Noir, take note of two recent additions to the site: Stephen Book's debut, a very short tale about the aftermath of a stick-up, The Medicine Woman; and Chris Benton's dysfunctional-family drama, My Darlin'.

Stepping away from the online world, I just finished reading James Lee Burke's wrenching short story, The Mist, about a drug addict/prostitute whose husband was killed in Iraq shortly before she herself became one of the Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Burke is peerless when it comes to evoking the reader's five senses, but what is miraculous is that he never judges his characters. You'll find this small gem of a story in Burke's 2007 collection, Jesus Out to Sea.

In print also, is Kyle Minor's brilliant novella, A Day Meant to Do Less, a tale about a man who must bathe his helpless mother. Seeing this event through the eyes of both characters, the story burrows into childhood nightmares and makes them live again. Perhaps because the fears and concerns of seniors are so close to my heart right now, this one touched a special chord in me. Or perhaps it was just great writing. This story can be found in The Best American Mystery Stories 2008. And in case you missed it last year, you can read Minor's Spinetingler-nominated short story, They Take You in the Summer, 2008, issue of Plots With Guns.

January 9, 2010

Short stops #3

I've spent a good portion of today working on a story of my own. Well, sort of my own. See, my friend, Fish, told me a true story about something that happened to him on one of his cross-country motorcycle trips. He suggested I could make a story out of it, and I agreed that all it needed was a different ending. That was last August. I'm still working on this story. It's taken a long time for it to become my story instead of Fish's, and I admit to some resistance because it falls into the horror genre rather than my comfort zone, which is crime fic.

Never mind all that. Here are some stories I couldn't resist:
Romantic reconciliation can be hazardous. Take a bite out of Anton Gully's mouth-watering morsel of flash-fiction, K heart N, at The Black Dogs of Despair Reading Room, and ask yourself whether you will ever see those Necco wafers in quite the same way as before.

Westerns aren't as in vogue perhaps, as contemporary tales of petty criminals and serial killers, but they fill a particularly American niche within crime fiction. Bill Wilbur's Ghost easily covers western, crime, and paranormal territory. Saddle up and throw a lasso around this ghostly tale at Short Barrel Fiction.

It's brutally cold here in the Midwest just now. Making a five-minute drive to the supermarket means warming up the car for 15 minutes first. But after reading Levi Smock's Life Expectancy, maybe I won't wait for the car to warm up from now on. Grab your car keys and head on over to Thuglit, Levi is ready to roll in Issue #32.

A favorite flash piece so far this year has to be Dana King's Foresight. You must, he tells the reader, be like a Boy Scout: Be prepared. This is a darkly funny work that left me chortling. You'll find that story and more at Mysterical-E.

And in the winter issue of Scalped Magazine, Albert Tucher will introduce you to The Only Amateur, a highly polished tale about a writer accused of murdering his wife. I wish I had written this one.

January 5, 2010

Short stops #2

Never having heard Ben Franklin's aphorism that fish and company both smell after three days, the bitter cold has settled in for a long visit. And it stinks. So grab a throw, the hot toddy of your choice, and the laptop. Then see if some of these short stories don't chill you to the bone in spite of your preparations.
Steve Weddle's Missed Flight is a poignant story about what's to be done when a runaway is returned home to abusive parents. You can make your flight reservation at Beat to a Pulp, where you will also get a little Mortification from Sophie Littlefield. It's painfully good stuff.

If you wander on over to Pulp Pusher, Gerard Brennan provides the atmospheric tale of a tense snitch who's got Nothing But Time, and a limited amount of that. Sandra Seamans reminds us that females have great Survival Instincts, and that more often than not we are deadlier than the males. And Dave Zeltserman surrounds the reader with Nothing But Jerks, a story that is as gritty and cold as any of his longer works of noir.

Sandra Seamans, a very busy writer, rewrites the lyrics of a classic Rodgers and Hart song, and gives us Once Upon a Blue Moon, a vignette of a twisted family that recalls another loathesome tribe, the Peacocks, if anyone remembers that chilling, killing clan. You can hum along at Thrillers, Killers 'n Chillers.

I wonder if my bro-in-law, an inveterate Wal-Mart shopper, would enjoy a trip to the big box store with Keith Rawson's protagonist in Retail Therapy: A Wal*Mart Story. At least this guy gets his books from a real bookstore, then goes to Wal-Mart for his other needs. A sociopath with class, right? Check out Rawson's blue-light special at A Twist of Noir.

Interested in some flash fiction? You know those rowdy neighbors of yours that are always fighting? Talk to Stephen D. Rogers over at Powder Burn Flash. He'll see that you get Peace Restored. While you're there, do a little shopping if you're not burnt out by that earlier trip to Wal-Mart. You might just find that -- Congratulations: You're our one-thousandth customer! courtesy of Mark Robinson.
A brief comment to webzine publishers: Readability.  If the stories on your website are in white print with a black background (and that seems to be a very popular color treatment at crime fic webzines), that's really hard on these old eyes. If you want people to read the stories, make the readability factor as high as possible. Pay attention to line spacing, too. When the lines are too close together for comfortable online reading, I have a tendency to just move on to another site. I bet other readers do the same. It really isn't enough to just throw words against the wall. Showcase your stories by making them oh-so-easy to read. You'll be doing yourself a favor, because readers will stay longer and be more willing to return.

January 2, 2010

REVIEW: KILLER by Dave Zeltserman

SYNOPSIS: Leonard March did some bad things for which he has just spent 14 years in prison. But Leonard committed crimes much worse than that for which he was imprisoned -- like a couple of dozen murders for which he did no time at all. That's because he traded his mob boss, the notorious Salvatore Lombard, for a lighter sentence before the DA realized that Leonard was a lot more than just a small-time hood.

Through strength, cunning, and some luck, Leonard survived prison and the attempts at retaliation by Lombard's mob. He doesn't expect to survive being outside though. The mob still wants him dead. The whole world hates him. He's an old man now, and he has no money or resources. His children don't want any contact with him, his wife died while he was in prison, and as for friends, rats don't have any. He can't leave town because he has to appear in court to face civil suits filed by the families of his victims. And then there are the debilitating headaches that won't go away. Leonard has no health insurance, so he just eats aspirin like it's Pez. It's not easy for Leonard to look ahead when he has to spend so much time looking over his shoulder to see who might be gaining on him.

REVIEW: To put it simply, Killer is a brilliant character study that will rip the literary rug right out from under the reader's tightly-curled toes.

As with the previous two entries in Zeltserman's "man-out-of-prison" trilogy, the author has created a memorable protagonist, and in this case, one more sympathetic than the sociopaths the author depicted in Small Crimes and Pariah.

Killer reads like a grotesque, mesmerizing biography as Leonard March tells his story in first person. The chapters alternate between his present circumstances and earlier life, leading the reader through March's childhood, then his willing descent into mob hitman, and later still, his increasing isolation from his family as he seeks to keep the filth of his job from spilling over onto the wife and children he really loves.

Strange though it sounds, it's hard not to be sympathetic to Leonard when the people he killed were the kind of people most of us wish didn't exist in the first place. He doesn't like to dwell on what he did. He's just trying to keep his head down and stay out of trouble. He would make himself into wallpaper if he could. But he won't give himself a moral whitewash either. He knows the nature of his many crimes.

And so he commits himself to his job as a night janitor, humble as it is. He scrubs office toilets at night and in the wee hours returns 'home' to his seedy, narrow apartment, which is all that he can afford. You don't find many hitmen willing to scrub the toilet, or settling for a used recliner complete with stains and tears in the fabric. Leonard manages the few dollars he has with great care. No frills. He tries to contact his now-grown children who make it painfully clear how much they want nothing to do with him. And although Leonard wouldn't mind a little non-judgmental human contact, he goes out of his way to avoid people who hold out the promise of wealth in exchange for a book deal. He shows up in court to face those families of his victims who have filed wrongful death suits against him, even though he has no money for a lawyer and his presence means that the Lombard mob will  certainly find him. He even prevents a robbery, not that anyone wants to believe that Leonard is capable of both decency and courage.

The story of Leonard March's return to society is not an action story. The mundane events of his days and nights echo the lives of the marginalized and the dispossessed everywhere, with the added suspense of wondering which day will be Leonard's last. And even though Leonard has done nothing in his past to merit better treatment, the reader can't help hoping that this old man doesn't end up being tortured and murdered, that somehow he finds a measure of peace in whatever is left of his life. Or at the very least, that whatever has gone physically wrong in Leonard's head takes him out before the mob does. Between a society that despises him, crippling health issues, and a pair of younger Leonard Marches looking to take him down, his chances aren't looking good.

Zeltserman packs a lot of insight into the human psyche in the character of Leonard March, surely the world's most candid hitman. He also manages to flip the story on its side and roll it when the reader least expects it, forcing one to reevaluate all that came before.

Killer is a more suspenseful story than the previous books in this trilogy and less action-oriented, at least on the surface. But don't go thinking that Zeltserman has lost his touch. He has, in fact, refined it. Killer is the crown jewel of his trilogy, a story that builds tirelessly towards an unforeseen inevitability that will jolt the reader right out of his socks. If you've read Small Crimes and Pariah, and you think you know what this author is capable of, allow me to say this: You ain't read nothing yet. This book is the perfect way to start the new reading year.
Disclosure notice: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher (or his agent, or the author) at no charge to me without stipulating or receiving from me any promise that the book would be the subject of an endorsement or review, either positive or negative.

January 1, 2010

Short stops #1

As Corey mentioned in a previous post, I've been assigned the pleasurable task of covering short crime fiction this year. Pleasurable because I write and enjoy reading the short form, but also agonizing, because my own recent efforts in this area have not been rewarded with any degree of satisfaction on my part.

But that's my problem.
What was not a problem was reading Patricia Abbott's slick, sick little tale about an artist who specializes in photographing the recently deceased, Raising the Dead. It's a cautionary tale wrapped around professional ambition and you can find it in Volume II, Issue 2 of The Back Alley.

I wasn't as taken with Matthew McBride's The Cleaner, a piece of flash fiction over at Ass Whuppin' Quarterly. A simple scene about a hit man waiting to make a hit at an airport parking lot left me confused by the shifting POV and the vague use of personal pronouns.

Robert Crisman warns the reader to be careful about who you hire -- and who hires you -- in his story about what happens when an employee screws up, How Ramon Dealt With the Help. I like the way Crisman used dialogue to convey attitude. You can submit your resume to him over at A Twist of Noir.

I'm not sure exactly what there is about Paul D. Brazill's writing that always informs me who the author is. Something Hitchcockian in his DNA, I'd guess, with a Serling gene splice. You can see what I mean in The Friend Catcher, a tale of new-found friendship gone slightly awry, posted at Michael John Grist's Zine.
Know about a story that I should read? Feel free to recommend a title to me and tell me where to find it. No BSP* permitted! And don't get carried away with your recommendations. Try to limit yourself to one title every week or two.

*Blatant self-promotion.