CRIMEUCOPIA: LET’S DO
IT LIKE THEY DO ON
THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL
Book Review of:
‘CRIMEUCOPIA: WE’RE ALL
ANIMALS UNDER THE SKIN’
(Murderous Ink Press: Crime & Mysteries, 2021)
Crime Fiction is not all dour noir detectives tramping those mean neon streets, or methodical police procedurals carried out by cops going through drink-dependency or divorce issues. Although it can be. Strict genre definitions are fluid, in the un-tender care of a writer’s temperament or ingenuity. The valiant Murderous Ink Press is a case in point. This hugely enjoyable anthology – made up of nineteen largely new or unfamiliar tales, is collected around the idea of the beast within. Or sometimes the beast without. The cover image line-drawing of a well-dressed chimp brandishing a pistol, by Mr Bananas from Matt Cioffi’s original composition, sets the tone. We are all one step from the concrete jungle, with lurking lycanthropic tendencies.
John Gerard Fagan’s opening “When What You Love Is Broken” is a strong dialogue piece with weird fiction overtones, concerning Eck and his evil childhood familiar, maybe the imaginary friend summoned to numb the pain of disablement stress and uncaring parents? An imp of the perverse who bargains matricide as the solution to his isolation. Hull-writer Nick Boldock’s “Superstition” – collected from Luca Veste’s 2013 collection ‘Of The Record’, is less concerned with crime per se, as by chance, the obsessive compulsion to invest portents and symbols with mystical significance. A black cat that brings a gambler good luck. Then there’s the Stephen King-style horror of Weldon Burge’s “White Hell, Wisconsin” – lifted from ‘Broken: Stories Of Damaged Psyches’ (2013, Smart Rhino), a tightly vicious thriller in which feral children ride snowmobiles to hunt down Snow Plough operatives in a blizzard white-out as a kind of play hunt game. These tales are less crime in the accepted sense, and more about extreme deviant behaviour.
Other tales are snatched direct from red-top sensationalism, Chris Phillips’ “Saint George’s Day Massacre” is a thinly-disguised re-run of the Kray’s East End mobster funeral complete with a ‘Victorian carriage drawn by four plumed black horses,’ plus a close Barbara Windsor facsimile, a ‘one-time star of TV dramas’ who ‘fought to keep herself in the public eye with appearances on chat shows and panel games.’ The funeral is used as an excuse for a reunion of ‘The Firm’ and the dramatic revenge of the victim of their earlier extortion protection-racket.
There are some Cop-Show shoot-outs with a pronounced American accent, hard double-cross with a bullet between the eyes, and drug-deals gone down. But some diversity content too, with Fabiyas MV from Kerala in India, and Emilian Wojnowski’s prison work-detail. And there are all the relentless Gum-Shoe investigations and spoilt brat psycho-killers you could ever hope for. Lamont A Turner’s serial killer who raises mutilation into an art-form by rearranging his victims into a collage of entrails, or a sculpture – as the “Concrete Bimbo”. The potential parent-killer in Caroline Tuohey’s “Agatha’s Simple Plan” who exacts revenge for being named after Ms Christie, the ‘Queen of Crime’. Or Al Hagan’s “Brit’s Rules” where she eliminates with casual brutality those with the temerity to be her rivals or her opponents.
A companion volume, ‘Crimeucopia: The Lady Thrillers’ (ISBN 978-1-909498-19-8) adds sixteen tales by ‘Countesses of Crime’ with an equally warped agenda. Posing the teasing question, what is crime? Is it a social construct defined by a punitive legal structure? Is it deeply-ingrained deviant behavior that transcends natural morality? Or is all morality simply an artificial concept imposed on an essentially amoral cosmos? None of these questions are answered, but it makes for one doozy of a quest.
Don’t close your eyes. It’s dark inside.