CRIMEWAVE 6: BREAKING POINT

edited by Andy Cox

TTA / 136 pages / 20 May 2002

ISBN: 0952694778

In the genre of dark realism there are few contenders to Andy Cox’s Crimewave; it is a magazine truly unlike any other. Just ask any of its legions of avid fans. Or, better yet, do the smart thing and pick up a copy to experience it for yourself. Or subscribe, even. This is the kind of magazine you don’t want to miss any issues of, because there are good and even superb short stories in every one.

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For those who like their fiction deceptively mild, with a velvet sap at the far end, Shelley Costa delivers “The Generator,” a story with all the makings of heavenly respite and a character (or is it “characters”) who spins wider and wider until they are out of control. Or Tim Lees’ sorrowful “Head Crimes.” As you read both stories, think a time you or a friend has been in a similar situation; that should give you the chills. Or maybe you prefer the twisted reasoning of the heroine of Gary Couzens’ “Miss Perfect.” Catriona is pointed toward trouble from the first sentence and you know she going to find it… eventually.

A contribution from Steve Rasnic Tem is always welcome, and “The Crusher,” with its monstrous and tragic character who reluctantly shares his tale with us. He knows that some things never change, but we, the readers, keep hoping for a miracle. At least, he admits his fatal flaws, but the same can’t be said for the demented, obsessive creature walking down “The Street Where You Live.” You see it coming, but you really don’t — a tribute to Barry Fishler’s mesmerising short-short. It is a bitter rush of ice through your veins, unlike the well-written but inevitable conclusion of Martin Edwards’ “Bare Bones,” which you see coming from so far away.

Marion Arnott chooses to come out of the gate with full-on creepiness in “Marbles.” The situation goes from unsettling to chilling in subtle hints and tiny pieces. Expect more of that sinking sensation in “Overland,” where the best the reader can do is hang on and hope that somehow things can turn out all right. Just keep hoping as Ryan Van Cleave’s characters unravel. Try to hold out some of than peculiar form of cautious optimism shown by the narrator in the dark and disturbing “If All Is Dark.” You can tell just by Mat Coward’s upbeat title, can’t you?

I wonder if anyone else reading “Remains of the Richest Man in the World” will be reminded of the powerful film The Limey? Avery’s prose reads like the bleak, brutal script, but with its own dark vision. It is a lose-lose situation, but you can’t tear yourself away even after the last word; you’ll find yourself thinking about it later and at the oddest times. Combine Avery’s brilliant piece with Conrad Williams’ harrowing “Crappy Rubsniff” and you have a pair that are worth the cost of Breaking Pointall on their own.

But, that’s how Crimewave hits you: always a couple magnificent body blows and a parade of other knockout punches, just for good measure. And it is very good measure, indeed.