~ post by Chris M.
The world of crime fiction is an insulated entity. Many of my favorite reads in the genre have been recommendations from other crime writers, and those authors always seemed elated to tell me all about their friends. That, in essence, is what I love about this particular genre; it’s familial. Crime writers have each other’s backs, and they all cheer when one of their own makes it to the big time.
I can’t remember who introduced me to Snubnose Press; it was most definitely a crime writer…Joe Clifford perhaps? At this point it doesn’t really matter, because I know they weren’t telling me about this little indie press so that I would come back and thank them. No, the only real way to say thank you, in my opinion, is to read the books; so that’s what I did.
After a cracking through Eric Beetner’s Dig Two Graves and R. Thomas Brown’s Hill Country I was officially a believer. I couldn’t believe Snubnose Press was basically an online only publisher. I mean seriously, this is good! Shortly after my introduction to SNP, BookPeople’s Mystery guru Scott Montgomery informed me he had struck a deal with them and that BookPeople would now be the only bookstore where you could find their catalog. Needless to say, this was big news for us.
The kind folks over at Snubnose sent us a little care package containing a smattering of their catalog, which Scott and I fought over like two kids who’ve just been told there is only enough ice cream for one person. In the end I ended up grabbing a few collections of short stories and in doing so, exposed myself (pun not intended…unless Jed Ayres is reading this) to three fantastic authors; Court Merrigan, Joe Clifford, and Jed Ayres.
I had heard of all three authors in passing, but never actively sought out their work, mostly because it was a little harder to find than the average Big 6 crime writer. But, as my personal history has proven, I’m occasionally an idiot. I immediately fell in love with these collections and began fervently hand-selling them to any customer who would listen.
Court Merrigan’s Moondog Over The Mekong was the first collection I read. I don’t know what I was expecting to find when I cracked the spine on this one, but I know that what I found was a hell of a lot better than what I’d imagined. In Moondog, Merrigan takes his readers on a journey from the slums of Thailand to the dregs of Wyoming. Merrigan’s style is a clever take on pulpy noir that is both punchy and laced with imagery. My favorite story in the collection is “We Would Start Here,” a tale set in an unnamed coastal city and told in the form of flashbacks and the present. It’s a story that really highlights Merrigan’s ability to humanize his characters and break his reader’s hearts into a millions pieces.
Joe Clifford’s collection, Choice Cuts, is an example of how much fun one can have with gritty noir. The majority of the collection is rooted in the noir tradition. Clifford is careful not to rehash old clichés, though, and does an excellent job putting his own spin on a genre that can stagnate easily. For me Clifford’s strongest trait as a writer is his ability to use scope and show his readers just how big the world is and how insignificant one person can be. For me, the most affecting story in Choice Cuts is “Favors,” which tells the tale of a grubby lawyer who is asked to look in on his addict stepbrother. Clifford’s characterization chops strip away the gloss of hidden family tensions, and show us the aging and calloused reality of life in a broken family.
The last collection I read was Jed Ayres, F*ckload of Shorts, and it is absolutely brilliant. The stories in this collection are twisted, violent, touching, and hilarious. The thing I love about Jed’s writing is the way he is able to immerse his readers into a completely ludicrous situation as if it’s just another normal day. Of all the stories in F*ckload of Shorts, my favorite is “The Whole Buffalo,” which tells the tale of a shady funeral home owner who has been thrown in jail for questionable practices like reusing caskets, giving the bereaved the wrong ashes, and chopping the feet off of a dead body so it will fit into a coffin. It’s a ridiculous story told with conviction, and that’s what makes it so damn funny. I had the pleasure of meeting Jed at an Austin Noir at the Bar last summer and this was the story he read to the audience, which was a real treat for me. Jed is also a stand-up guy, so buy him a beer.
If you can’t tell by now, Snub Nose Press is putting out great material. Their roster has a lot of heavy hitters who don’t get the recognition they deserve; and so I feel it is my duty to inform you, dear readers, of some great new crime fiction. If you are familiar with publishers like New Pulp Press and Beat To A Pulp, you will most certainly enjoy what Snub Nose is doing. If you have no idea who those publishers are, great! You are in the enviable position of going in blind, so have fun, but beware, because these stories might make you something of a hermit.
Snubnose Press titles are available on our shelves at BookPeople. You can also order them via our website, bookpeople.com.