A different lifetime ago in a parallel universe, I used to run a crime fiction web-zine called Hardluck Stories. One of my hopes when I ran Hardluck was to be able to turn some of the issues into print anthologies, and we had three issue in particular that I thought would make the core for outstanding noir anthologies: Western noir, bank job, and horror noir. Quite a few years ago during this alternative life, Ed Gorman and I were able to get Cemetery Dance to agree to publish our Western noir anthology, and then it just kind of disappeared, which I thought was a shame. We had put 21 stories, all of which were strong ones, some of which I thought were amazing, including Hell by Bentley Little, Piano Man by Bill Crider, Durston by Norman Partridge, Lucky by Harry Shannon, Burl Lockhart's in Town by Steve Hockensmith, The Cartoonist by Jon L. Breen, and The Old Ways by Ed Gorman. We even coaxed Ken Bruen to provide us a nifty Western titled 'Colt'. Last year this anthology resurfaced, and after reading the ARC I was struck by how damn good this anthology is. Being as completely unbiased as I can be given my involvement, this is the best noir anthology I've seen. Well, according to B&N's web-site, the anthology will be out in May, and Publisher's Weekly and Library Journal both seem to be backing up my opinion that this is a hell of a good anthology. I have both their reviews below and if you're looking for what I think is a great noir anthology, and very different from anything else you've seen, I strongly suggest you check this one out.
A wild posse of outlaws populates this dark, moody collection of 21 character-driven tales derived from the psychological westerns popular in the 1950s. Though set primarily in the old American Southwest, these dusty noirs flare with life, death, animosity, danger, duplicity, and realistic characterization. Highlights include Terry Tanner's electric "All Good Men," in which a jailbird takes revenge on the men who testified against him; Jon L. Breen's affecting "The Cartoonist"; Gary Lovisi's "Lead Poisoning," which sees an Indian and a bank robber team up to settle the score with a sheriff; and James Reasoner's "The Conversion of Carne Muerto," which explores the turbulent genesis of a Comanche war chief. Some dastardly womenfolk kick up trouble in Ken Bruen's "Colt," while Dave Zeltserman and Harry Shannon conjure some ruthless heroines of their own in "Emma Sue" and "Lucky." From Santa Fe and San Francisco to the Oregon Trail, the action and adventure consistently thrill and mystify in this unique anthology of the rugged west.
Library Journal (starred review):
Masters of the macabre Gorman (Dead and Alive), Dave Zeltersman (The Caretaker of Lorne Field), and Martin H. Greenberg (The Dean Koontz Companion; Women of the Night) present this anthology of 21 Western-themed stories designed to leave readers screaming for more. Twists of fate and wisps of pure evil subtly wind throughout these chilling tales contributed by a variety of crime fiction and Western authors (Ken Bruen, Harry Shannon, Jeremiah Healy, Bill Crider, James Reasoner, and Robert Randisi). Unexpectedly, they spring forth as the reader (immersed in the virtues of right causes championed by rugged Western heroes) becomes aware of the fetid nature immersing them all. This is classic noir fiction at its very best.
Verdict This skillfully crafted anthology will have great appeal to fans of noir fiction, pulp fiction, and Westerns. The escapism provided through journeying into the bleak shadow-side of human nature allows readers to be guided into a more hopeful reality.—Melody Ballard, Pima Cty. P.L. Tucson, AZ