There’s a big difference between pulpdom’s fixation on “sexy crime” stories and an anthology like The Dark End Of The Street from Jonathan Santlofer and S. J. Rozan, which offers 19 stories “of sex and crime”. One will likely be about titillation, shoehorning sex scenes into mysteries or sprinkling some peekaboo male gaze voyeurism into hard-boiled tales, perhaps with a token femme fatale tossed in for balance.
But I don’t think novelist and artist Jonathan Santlofer and Edgar/Shamus award winner (and MWA and Sisters In Crime board member) S.J. Rozan would’ve been content with that. “There is much more to this collection than dark-haired vixens and crimes of passion,” the book says. Much, much more.
There are no author bio’s or notes included, but with a roster listing the likes of Lawrence Block, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Laura Lippman, Val McDermid and Joyce Carol Oates, just to name a few, I suppose no introductions were needed. Pro-since-forever Block appears second in line with a story that at first feels like it could’ve been comfortably at home in a vintage issue of Manhunt magazine…but it really couldn’t at all and belongs in much more nuanced company like this antho. The Hereditary Thurifer by Stephen L. Carter’s is provided generously ample space to slowly lay out a unique and genuinely creepy ecclesiastical mystery. Co-editor Santlofer’s own Ben & Andrea & Evelyn & Ben is a deliciously dark twist on sunshiny Mad Men era suburban adultery. Well, the list goes on.
This 2010 Bloomsbury quality trade paperback really is a handsome book, from its Marina Drukman designed cover to the unexpected but darkly delightful India ink wash illustrations by editor Santlofer himself, a few of those shown here.
There are no sexy romps in The Dark End of The Street (not that there’s anything wrong with those, and I enjoy some saucy mayhem myself…in fiction, that is). The 19 stories are more likely to trigger dark thoughts in your brain than any stirrings between your legs. Relentlessly grim throughout, this anthology may not have been the best choice for the isolated, gloomy times we’re in, but I loved it. But then, I’m usually comfiest on ‘the dark end of the street’ myself.