The Dark End Of The Street.

The Dark End Of The Street

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.

The Dark End 1

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.

The Dark End 2

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.

The Dark End 3

It’s Not Just Beer & Brats

Milwaukee Noir

Let the coastal types snicker at flyover cities. Residents of the megapolis hugging the southern end of our own ‘inland sea’ (Lake Michigan) know what’s what. From Menominee Falls down to Milwaukee, through Kenosha, Racine and crossing the border into snooty Lake County, all across big bad Chicago itself and then into Northwest Indiana’s shuttered mills and abandoned factories, it’s all one long piece of familiar turf. It’s John Dillinger and Al Capone, Indiana roadhouses and rural Wisconsin mob hideouts. It’s Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits’ tunes with a Midwestern spin. It’s crooked, gritty, dirty, down to earth, beautifully bungalow-lined blue collar-ville. It’s home.

Milwaukee Noir - Crime Reads

Spotted the news that Akashic Press is releasing Milwaukee Noir edited by Tim Hennessy this week. Akashic’ global city-by-city Noir Series has never disappointed me yet. Milwaukee’s filled with good and bad like my home digs, just on a smaller scale, and much more than clichés about brats and breweries. Milwaukee Noir should be out the day I’m writing this, and the bookstore closest to work is pretty reliable when it comes to new releases in the Noir Series. If it’s not on-shelf within a week or two, they’ll be glad to order a copy for me, and I’m looking forward to this one.

The Lethal Sex

the lethal sex 1959

This important (and overlooked for decades) 1959 anthology was reissued by The Mystery Writers Of America in 2018, and is available in print and Kindle editions. Something tells me equal representation for women writers wasn’t top of mind for editors, publishers or even the MWA sixty years ago.

The original paperback edition showcases a wonderful Robert McGinnis cover illustration, though in keeping with the times and then prevailing trends, it’s a needlessly sexy picture for the deliciously dark but not necessarily saucy content of the 14 stories selected by MWA Grandmaster (though not at the time this book was done) and editor John D. MacDonald, who only broke out of the pulps himself and into the big time (relatively) just nine years earlier with The Brass Cupcake, then went on to bigger success with The Executioners, filmed as Cape Fear in 1962, and of course, his long running Travis McGee P.I. series. MacDonald provides a terrific introduction as well as lead-ins for each of the fourteen stories written by women, some of them full-time mystery/crime fiction writers, some working in other genres from science fiction to romance and even children’s books. MacDonald adopts an appropriately apologetic stance, noting that some of the talented writers in the anthology deserved much wider recognition.

Some did get it (back then, at least), while some, sadly, did not. So there are some names I’ve never heard of and been unable to learn more about. And there are luminaries from that era, like Margaret Millar, the 1956 Edgar Award winner for Best Novel, who wrote more than two dozen mystery novels including three different series. Somehow Millar (previously Margaret Sturm) managed to snag Mr. Kenneth Millar in between pounding out successful novels, the Mister better known as ‘Ross MacDonald’, hard-boiled maestro of Lew Archer fame.

Death In High Heels Montage

And there’s the incredibly prolific Christiann Brand, who wrote more books than I can count, with multiple mystery series, stand-alone novels, general fiction, children’s series and more. Her Death In High Heels (above) is a favorite. In fact, The Lethal Sex gives fair representation to U.S. as well as UK writers like Brand. The book was published later in Britain, though from the look of it, lost some of the stories along the way.

The LEthal Sex UK Edition

The complete US edition of The Lethal Sex also included stories by Ursula Curtis, Bernice Carey, Margaret Manners, Anthony Gilbert, Jean Potts, Miriam Allen DeFord, Gladys Cluff, Carolyn Thomas, Neda Tyre, D. Jenkin Smith, Veronica Parker Johns and Juanita Sheridan. I had a crumbling 1959 paperback bought on Ebay in a bulk-books purchase which barely made it through an initial reading, so I was thrilled to see that it was re-issued, and in mighty handsome packaging this time, even if it’s not a McGinnis painting. Look for this one. It’s a worthwhile read.

The Lethal Sex 2018 Edition

 

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