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

September 1, 2010

To the point: NEEDLE #2

In the interest of full disclosure, I'll tell you right now that I had the privilege of editing a few of the stories in the latest issue of NEEDLE (#2). The first two stories I was assigned to read for this issue pretty much left my jaw on the floor: Ray Banks' The Great Pretender, and Sarah Weinman's Mirror Image. Ray has received deserved acclaim for his novels featuring Scottish PI, Cal Innes, while Sarah is, well, yeah, she's that Sarah Weinman: LA Times book critic whose word carries major weight. As does, I assure you, her fiction.

The Great Pretender takes the Kris Kristofferson lyric, "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose," a step beyond: When you've nothing left to lose, well, brother, that's when you're in danger of losing it, period. And Mirror Image spins a web of morbid self-fascination that left this reader feeling claustrophobic in her own skin.

These two stories alone would make NEEDLE #2 well worth the price of admission, but it's a fact that the other ten stories will leave you sitting in your easy chair with your hair looking like it was styled using a can of cheap hairspray and a 90-mile-an-hour wind. Stephen Blackmoore (who, I'm happy to say, becomes a part of the NEEDLE editing family beginning with the next issue) spins a murder mystery with a journalist and brother/cop trying to find a drive-by shooter, in For the Children; while The Waiting, by Allan Leverone (whose first novel will be published by Medallion Press in February), features a gang of thieves whose group dynamics leave them more involved in cross and double-cross than in the heist.

In John Stickney's Spending Light, you can spend the day with an aging Northern Ohio mobster who is just as concerned about his Viagra intake as he is about the daily take from his numbers racket. But one of those two things is more deadly than the other. Julie Summerell unveils her first crime fiction story, Under the Rug, wherein someone is going to have to explain the dead guy in the apartment -- and that child molestation yarn probably isn't going to hold up.

David Cranmer's stories always provide their own reason for being, and The Sins of Maynard Shipley is no exception. After all, Maynard is providing a public service, isn't he, getting rid of all those old folks who are such a burden to their families and to the state? 

Mike Sheeter's name was new to me, but after reading Going Downrange, I'll make a point of seeking out more of his work. This story clues the reader in to just how binding are the ties of military comradeship. Semper fi, indeed.

Nigel Bird's original voice is heard in three incarnations in Beat on the Brat, the winner of this year's Watery Grave Invitational. (And if you haven't been keeping up with Nigel's 'Dancing with Myself' series of interviews on his blog, you've been missing out on the fun.) And Chris F. Holm delivers The Hitter, a novella about an unusual hit man whose unrequited love is also an unconditional love. If you're not familiar with Chris's work, let me clue you in: his credentials include a Derringer nom, a Spinetingler win, and stories published in both Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. I want this guy for a mentor.

And then there's Tip the Barkeep (Nolan "think fast" Knight) and Cold, Hard, Love! (Frank "just-got-a-book-deal" Bill) to round out the issue. I look at the quality of this anthology as a whole and of the individual stories, and my feeling is one of profound regret that NEEDLE does not (cannot, by MWA rules) carry MWA eligibility at this time.

NEEDLE #2 (and #1 also) is available in print format only at


  1. So many fine stories in this collection and I'm very grateful to be a part.

    And thanks for your top work.

  2. I wasn't assigned your story, David, but I'm sure Weddle won't make that kind of oversight again. Right, Steve?

  3. I enjoyed #1, so this next edition is a no-brainer. Thanks, Naomi.

  4. Yeah, #2 is solid all the way through. I understand why MWA has guides for eligibility for Edgar Awards, but it does cause them to ignore many excellent venues, Needle being chief among those.

  5. Needle 1&2 blow the doors off. The big circulation mags better watch out behind there's something coming up fast. Problem is most indie book shops can't see the advantage of trying to introduce hot new talent over "proven" names. Back a ways I talked to Michael Moorcock's publisher, who told me the first time out for the Elric saga he placed 65 total books on the west coast and thought that was stupendous.

  6. I hear you, AJ. One indie store that I thought really covered all the bases as far as the depth of their in-store stock was Sleuth of Baker Street, in Toronto. They really do have it all. Unfortunately, Toronto is an 8 hour drive, so I won't get there often.

  7. Naomi, you just floored me with your kind words. You are very, very kind. I'm just thrilled to be a part of such a killer lineup, and to be featured alongside folks I'm a fan of.

  8. a great roundup of a great collection. vive la needle!

  9. Naomi is too shy to mention how much work she does on NEEDLE, but it's thanks in large part to her work that the magazine happens at all.
    Thanks, Naomi.

  10. Not shy at all, no, ask anybody! So I'll accept the undue compliment and return it by saying that without Steve and John, there is no NEEDLE. Period, full stop.