THE BIG REAP: Heaven & Hell Aren’t Black & White

When reading The Big Reap, I couldn’t help but think of a recent discussion I had with the author Chris F. Holm when he called into our History Of Mystery class on Lawrence Block. Chris talked in great detail about Block’s Matthew Scudder series and the craftsmanship used in conveying those ideas. This latest in Holm’s Sam Thorton series proves he has taken what he’s learned from one of the masters to heart.

For the uninitiated, Sam Thorton is a man who sold his soul to the devil. His hard boiled Hell is is to collect the souls from those who have done the same, like a supernatural loan shark. In The Big Reap, his handler, Lilith, the ultimate femme fatale, gives him a different kind of job. She asks him to take out The Brethren, a group of former collectors who have escaped the bonds of Hell. Not only have many of them influenced the legends of many classic monsters, they feed off humans. The hunt for each one takes him across the globe, feeling more and more like a pawn as fights for his life against them. It also triggers memories of his first collection and encounter with Lilith.

Holm has amazing skill when it comes to emotion and theme. The book’s meaning creeps up on the reader, without one fully grasping it until the last sentence. The emotions build as Sam’s well earned cynicism gives way to a slight sense of hope, if not trust. To Holm, even Heaven and Hell aren’t black and white.

I’d love to delve more into The Big Reap, but what is so good about it is tied to it’s impacting reveals that serve as more than just plot twists. Holm weaves the ideas he wants to explore with his story like a master craftsman. He uses the subtext of hard boiled novels, making the text through urban fantasy a starting point to venture in less charted territory. It would be no surprise if there is a class discussion about him someday.

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Copies of The Big Reap are available on our shelves at BookPeople and via bookpeople.com.

MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: DALLAS NOIR

dallas noir

Dallas is a rich man with a death wish in his eyes
A steel and concrete soul in a warm hearted love disguise

Editor David Hale Smith uses this part of Jimmy Dale Gilmore’s song in his introduction to Dallas Noir, the latest in Akashic Press’ “city noir” anthologies. The collection shares the theme of the song, looking at down and dirty behavior that exists under the city’s bucolic sheen. It also serves as a perfect model for the Akashik series, including a range of of authors who show the breadth of noir fiction.

Smith got two of Dallas’ best crime fiction authors to deliver classic takes on the genre. Daniel J Hale’s “In The Air” reads like something that could be found in a late fifties copy of Manhunt magazine, using the genre tropes of desperation and betrayal, with a modern Lone Star spin. Harry Hunsicker’s “Stick Up Girl” gives us a story of deadly dames, dead ends, guns, and gusto with a shot of hard boiled pathos.

Some of the authors use noir in a subtler sense, especially when it comes to economic extremes. Merritt Tierce gives us a dark look at the cycle of of self destruction that spins its wheels in one of the city’s serving class. Ben Fountain gives us a different take on the femme fatale in the world of high end real estate.

Many of the authors use the gallows humor of the genre. One of my favorite lines is in James Himes’ “Kissing Your Sister” when his Texas Ranger hero goes into a sketchy apartment complex “…where the cockroaches carry side arms.” Kathleen Kent’s lesbian cop gets caught between a drug cartel and civil war reenactors in “Coincidences Can Kill You.”

Many of the darkest tales with the least amount of redemption take place in the suburbs. Matt Boudurant turns the area of White Rock into Lord Of The Flies in his story. Jonathan Woods takes a piece of  suburban underground and goes to dark and funny extremes with “Swinger’s Anonymous”.

Dallas Noir is a fiction mosaic, showing a city of class divisions precariously held together by money, land, and false love. It also shows the expanse of noir and it’s power. Another fitting line from Gilmore’s song that reflects the book: Dallas is a jungle, but Dallas gives a beautiful light.

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Copies of Dallas Noir are available on the shelves at BookPeople and via bookpeople.com. Join us here at BookPeople when we welcome a group of authors to read their selections from Dallas Noir on Friday, December 6 at 7pm.

Noir at the Bar Celebrates MysteryPeople’s 3rd Anniversary

Our last Noir At The Bar for 2013 will also celebrate the third anniversary of MysteryPeople. It’s been a fun year and we’re going out with three authors who are a great example of the talent we’ve brought out in the past.

MysteryPeople has been dealing with Jon Basoff for sometime, but mainly in his role as publisher. His NewPulp Press has given us books like Hell On Church Street, Bad JuJu, and Frank Sinatra In A Blender. His second book, Corrosion, has received accolades from book bloggers, drawing comparisons to Jim Thompson and William Faulkner. It is a bleak, sweaty, rural noir with a scarred veteran, hooker, and preacher on a collision course for violence on one doark night.


Anonymous-9’s Hard Bite found it’s way onto many, many best of 2012 lists, even though it was only available to download. Newpulp has put it in print and we’re happy to Introduce Anynmous-9 to Austin readers. Praise for this tale of a paraplegic going up against the Mexican Mafia to save his kidnapped nurse with only a hooker and his trained monkey for help spread like wildfire.

pale horses

We love to promote our local authors like Nate Southard ). Nate’s book Pale Horses has two protagonists: a small town sheriff dealing with Alzheimer’s and a murder, and the damaged vet who may have committed it. Nate has earned a lot of praise in the horror world and it looks like the same is going to happen with him in crime fiction.

Join us this Thursday, November 7th at 7pm at Opal Divine’s on 3601 South Congress. Have a drink, hear from some bad ass authors, buy some of their bad ass books, and help close out a great year at MysteryPeople. See you there.