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

February 6, 2011

REVIEW: DISCOUNT NOIR - Patricia Abbott & Steve Weddle, Editors

When I purchased DISCOUNT NOIR, which is available only as an ebook, it was as much with the idea of supporting the many writers whose stories I've enjoyed for free on the web as it was with the idea that I would also enjoy more of their work. I didn't envision that I would feel compelled to write a full review of this anthology, and for that I most humbly apologize to all of those who contributed to and edited the work. I, of all people, should know better than to underestimate the talent pool out there.

The project that eventually became this anthology began by Patricia Abbott issuing a flash-fiction challenge in 2009, "Megamart: I Love You." Writers were asked to contribute a story of about 800 words, set or partially set, in a mass-merchandise store. On November 30, 2009, some 30 stories were simultaneously published on various blogs. The anthology includes those stories and a few more.

I rarely read an anthology in its entirety, nor in the order the stories are printed. I like to seek out favorite authors first, then intriguing titles. But I began at the beginning with DISCOUNT NOIR and found myself loathe to skip around. Why? Because by the sixth or seventh story I found myself impressed by the range of emotion, and by the originality displayed in these very short works. Laughter, tears, fear, paranoia, and rage permeate these stories of love, murder, revenge, hardboiled, noir, mafia, zombies, homelessness, child endangerment. and more. One story would leave me chuckling and the next would wring my heart. So I read every story -- 42, in case you're wondering -- and in order. With so many stories, inevitably there are a couple of non-starters. But the vast majority are entertaining and highly original.

The authors themselves represent a mix of traditionally published and not; those who mostly write in the short form versus those better known for their novels. Easily recognized names include Ed Gorman, Bill Crider, James Reasoner, Dave Zeltserman, Sophie Littlefield, Chris Grabenstein, Toni McGee Causey, Anne Frasier, and others. Names well known to those of us who haunt the crime fiction webzines include Keith Rawson, Albert Tucher, Patricia Abbott, Steve Weddle, Sandra Seamans, Kyle Minor, Kieran Shea, Chad Eagleton, Eric Beetner, and many, many more. And yes, there were some names that were new to me although they may have been published online or traditionally for all I know: Fleur Bradley and John Weagly among others.

My favorite stories alone in this anthology would constitute excellent value for the money ($4.50), so for those of you who are still looking for fine, fun reading to download to that new ereader you got for Christmas, be sure to check out DISCOUNT NOIR. Here are some of my favorite stories:
ACCEPTANCE by Cormac Brown: The story of a small-businessman and grandfather who goes toe-to-toe with the massive retailer -- and wins.

THIRTY-ONE HUNDRED by Loren Eaton: Romance and zombies at the Megamart.

HOUSE NAMES by James Reasoner: Beware of authors rearranging the book displays at the Megamart.

MONDAYS AND THURSDAYS by Donna Moore: Planning the perfect murder entails some carefully-planned shoplifting at the Megamart.

CRACK HOUSE by Anne Frasier: A secret room in the Megamart provides shelter for a homeless woman.

HAVE YOU SEEN ME? by J.T. Ellison: A desperate mother with a dying daughter recognizes a face from a milk carton.

And my very favorite: DISCOUNT PRIMROSE by Todd Mason, an outstanding story of a future in which there is no need to ever leave the Megamart store.



  1. Thanks. I'm looking foward to reading this.

  2. Hey thanks, Naomi. And especially for giving it so much time and space.

  3. Patti, to my shame I have to admit I never thought I would do more than give the book a nod. But the material deserves better from me, and deserves a wider audience also.

  4. Hi Naomi,

    Many thanks for such a nice and thorough review of DN.

    Best, Alan.

  5. This sounds really great. Thanks, Naomi.

  6. My goodness. I blush, and thanks...I can only bow to my betters, in this collection and who served as inspiration (quite aside from the nudge acknowledged in the title to John Collier and the notion of living in a store--"Evening Primrose"--albeit under rather different circumstances)...augmented by A Certain Chain's unfortunate tendency to lock workers in overnight for a while--in the past, we hope--at some stores...).

  7. Thank you, Naomi, for the review and the story mention (thank you, thank you, very much).

  8. Is that an Elvis impersonation I hear, Cormac?

  9. Isn't it a great anthology? I am honoured to be part of it. And thank you so much for the mention - I'm hugely chuffed.

  10. Thanks for the plug, Naomi! I'm glad you enjoyed the anthology (and chuffed you found my little short worthy of a mention). Patti and Steve did a great job putting it together.

  11. Thank you, Naomi, for writing about DISCOUNT NOIR. I am proud to have a story included ("Secret Identity") and be in the company of such talented writers. I am grateful to Patti, Steve, and Stacia Decker for their efforts in making this project a reality, and thrilled that such kind folks like you have helped spread the word. So glad you enjoyed it!

  12. Thank you, Naomi, for the kind praise heaped upon DISCOUNT NOIR. We were honored to be given the opportunity to publish a volume of work with so much incredible talent contained within its virtual pages.

    Jay Hartman
    Untreed Reads Publishing

  13. I think I bought it for the same reason. I guess I owe the authors and editors and apology. I've come to love it. Great stuff.