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Andy Cox, Editor
Crimewave 11: Ghosts
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2011

TTA Press
UK First Edition, Trade Paperback
ISBN 978-0-9553683-4-9
Publication Date: 01-25-2011
240 pages; £9.99
Date Reviewed: 02-02-2011

Index:  Mystery  General Fiction

Talk about modesty! Here is the latest premiere crime fiction, anthology, 'Crimewave Eleven: Ghosts' (TTA Press ; January 2010 ; £9.99), gorgeous to look at, solid to hold, cover-to-cover great fiction at a bargain price, and I had to search, and search hard, to even find the name of the editor, anthologist, layout designer and typesetter. Buried in teeny-tiny type on the bottom of the contents page, which is right under the cover — not a page is wasted — is the name of the man of the hour, Andy Cox. You'll recall that he has more than a little to do with both Interzone and Black Static. In these days where shameless self-promotion is a catch phrase, this sort of under-the-hood approach is greatly welcomed. Cox lets his readers focus on the good stuff — great crime fiction stories in an attractive easy-to-read package.

I'll set aside my packaging considerations for a moment to briefly discuss what is really important here, which is simply that Cox consistently puts together a top-notch collection of crime fiction that is dark, slightly gnarly (but never ostentatiously gross), and tinged with the surreal. It's precisely the sort of crime fiction that readers of Interzone, Black Static, and literary fiction will be most likely to enjoy.

This edition is bookended by David Honig's "Plainview," a textured, intense story of shoes, girls and murder. Honig captures the tenor of an American suburb perfectly, and then populates it with just the sort of human you'd hope never to meet. The work is at once utterly realistic but subtle and evocative. Cody Goodfellow also inhabits the suburbs, at a creepy level dialed to eleven in "Neighborhood Watch." Chrisotpher Fowler, on the other hand, lives the high life in "The Conspirators," demonstrating once again that he is one of our most talented and versatile writers.

Richard Butner uses a staccato setup to grab you and drag you into "Holderhaven," a little miracle of juxtaposition and storytelling smarts. It's not a feel-good story. Steve Rasnic Tem, no stranger to strangeness, examines a "Living Arrangement" with a very sinister purpose. There's a strong Flannery O'Connor vibe to this story, with its sparse prose and the unpleasant old man Monte at its heart. It's enough to make you think a few times about kids; either having one or being one. No matter what the perspective, the view is bad.

As you read the stories in 'Ghosts,' and they are all pretty damn great, a certain vibe starts to form, a long dark echo in the reptile part of your reading brain. It's Andy Cox at work, readers, pulling together a collection of crime fiction like no other. He knows how to solicit the stories, and interestingly, a number of them are from authors who otherwise specialize in science fiction, dark fantasy and horror. You'll recognize lots of the name of Interzone and Black Static; Nina Allan, Mikal Trimm, Cheryl Wood Ruggerio, Isla J. Bick, O'Neil De Noux, Alison J. Littlewood, the ever intense Joel Lane and Luke Sholer, round out the list. While the collection is named "Ghosts," the kind of ghosts we meet here are unfortunate memories, unpleasant pasts, and unchecked bad intentions that manifest in this world, in our world as damage, as damnation. Cox knows how to put this sort of thing together in a manner that is ultimately powerful and affecting, not simply depressing.

Credit Cox as well with putting this in a very nice package. The cover art by Ben Baldwin is excellent. The layout and design are better than many New York trade paperbacks. 'Crimewave Eleven: Ghosts' had better show up in some award lists. But more importantly, here is something for readers of any genre, or any stripe, to celebrate.

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