Friday, September 21, 2018

Known Associates by Beau Johnson

Known Associates

Hang on; lemme swing this chair around.  

Okay.  There.  Now as I said, I have a story to tell.  It’s not my story, it’s not your story, but we’ve become a part of it regardless.  Call it chance or fate or whatever the fuck you want, but be sure, we are ingredients and nothing more.  You ready then?  Good.  Time to fuckin’ do this!
The first time I meet Bishop Rider he puts the back of Marty Abrum’ s head through the front of his nose in the restaurant I’m working at.  I’m a busboy slash dishwasher at this restaurant and had been bussing tables the night this shit goes down.  Before Abrum’s head becomes part of his pasta Rider takes out the other three guys surrounding Marty in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of scenario.  I mean, just pop, pop, pop, and then a whole buncha screams from all the other guests as they go and say their whatnots to the floor.  Next comes the shotgun, pulled from an overcoat as dark as the big man’s hair.  Sawed off, Rider places it downwards on the back of Marty’s thin head.  I hear for my sister and then BOOM, bone and marinara sauce become two great tastes that taste great together.

You old enough to remember that one, Richie?
Anyway…do I do anything?  Sure I do.  Pretty sure I stand as still as I possibly can as my mouth does its best impression of a cave.  I mean, the heat offa this guy, the anger, it came in shimmers I thought I could fucking see.  And you’ve heard the stories, I know you have, about how the Abrum brothers abducted or had someone abduct Rider’s sister and mother and then had the mother killed while the sister is fucked to death by a buncha oversized dudes in masks.  Fucked to death?  I know.  Can you imagine?  It’s what the brothers were into though, and making what I’m told they called their “special films.”  How April and Maggie Rider become involved with what usually only consisted of smuggled Mexican women I guess we’ll never know.
Or perhaps we will.  I mean, it is just us here, right?
Brings me to the second time I meet Bishop Rider.  The dude comes out from the shadows as I’m putting my key to the lock of my place.  Almost gives me a goddamn heart attack is what this does.  He’s as big as I remember him and twice as fucking angry.  And yes, yes, to look at he reminds you of Frank Castle, minus a skull on his chest of course, but whereas that bulldozer of a fuck is a work of fiction this former cop is as real as the meat shovel he has up around my neck.  Against the wall, he begins to ask me things, Richie, people things, and then known associates goes and enters the conversation.  
Now why, pray tell, would something like this happen, Richie?
Could it involve something you might want to get off your chest?
S’okay.  I think we’ll leave the gag right where it is.  Truth be told, I got this.  You see, once I realized what the man was on about, well, you know me and you, we ain’t ever been the tightest of compadres, but we’ve been alright with one another.  Small jobs here and there but never with nobody ever getting hurt.  This is me, always has been me.  I might be soft for it, sure, but it has always allowed me to sleep at night.  You, though?  You went and upgraded yourself to the big leagues, didn’t you?  
What I mean to say is this: Was there anyone else with you in the van that day?  A simple nod will do.  Richie? Honor among thieves, really?  You know that’s just a buncha made up bullshit the movies would have you believe.  

He found surveillance, Richie.  

He knows your brother was with you when it went down.  

I’ve also seen the footage and I see the predicament you found yourself in.  I’m guessing the Mexican girls in the back of the van somehow jimmy the lock from the inside.  Good for them.  Seriously.  But I also see that Bishop’s sister has parked too close to the back of your van, the arms of the women trying to escape the only appendages coming to see the light of day.  You shoulda took off is what I think you should have done, but no, you herd the sister and the mother into the van at gunpoint and now here we are, you on your couch and me in your face. Effectively, you and your brother put this entire thing in motion.  You see that?  Sure, the reins were taken over by the Abrum boys once the situation was brought to their attention, but you guys, you are the ones responsible for what it unleashed. 
Brings us to now, the fourth time I meet Bishop Rider.  Didn’t even hear them big black boots come up behind you, did you, Richie?  And yes, that object you feel is exactly what you think it is; the very same shotgun I told you about earlier.  Seems to be pointing a little lower than it did on Marty Abrum, I think, perhaps into the small of your neck it looks like. You know what that means?  Means your face and acrobats are about to have more than a whole lot in common.  Before we paint the coffee table though…before we do I think it might be fair for you to hear about the third time Bishop Rider enters my life.  I mean, in the bigger scheme of things, I can see it being pertinent to what’s about to unfold.  It’s not much, not really, but sometimes not much is all you ever truly need.
I meet Batista, Rider’s contact on the inside, and it’s here that three like-minded individuals decide to take it upon themselves to do what most in this world will not. 
Last thing, Richie: once you’ve caught up to him, tell your brother we made good on our word.  His dogs, they ate like kings.


Bio Beau Johnson has been published before, usually on the darker side of town.  Such fine establishments might include Out of the Gutter Online, Shotgun Honey, Spelk Fiction, and HST.  Come August 2017, a collection of Beau's shorts titled A Better Kind of Hate will be released by Down And Out Books.  Once that happens, perhaps he'll take the hint and stop with the dancing.  If yer so inclined you can connect with him at the usual hangouts, Facebook and Instagram.  He is also new to twitter @beaujohnson44 where he fails at tweeting spectacularly.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Man of the House by Billy Dennis

Man of the House

The lamp near where the man sat had been covered in scarves, its light muted, casting wild shadows against the wall. The boy stood out in the hallway, his ragged shirt torn, nearly falling from his slight frame. Blood trickled from his nose as he watched the man. The boy stood stock-still, not moving even to wipe wet blood that he could now taste. 
On the bed next to the man was a woman.  She lay still in the low light, the bottom of her nightdress soaked black by blood and offal. The boy could not see well enough to tell whether she still breathed. The man in the chair wept beside the bed and spoke to the woman in low whispers that the boy could not make out. 
When the man noticed the boy standing in the hall, he rose from his chair. The boy’s hand rose with him. In his hand, the boy clutched his father’s revolver, the same .357 his father had taught him on last summer. The boy held it still despite its weight, and with the other hand drew back its hammer with his thumb, it clicking in to place. 
When the man spoke, the boy fired. The boy’s ears rang, and the man slumped back against the wall, blood coloring it crimson as he fell to the floor beside the bed. The lamp toppled with him, losing its scarves and shade. The boy walked around the bed to where the man lay wheezing, a neat hole in his chest, blood slowly starting to pool around him. Farther up still, the boy inched until he could reach the woman. 
A hand flailed about the boy’s ankle. The boy put his hands on the wall for leverage and kicked the man in the side—again and again—each kick harder than the last. The man coughed and gurgled, thick bright blood spewing from his mouth. 
The boy turned back to the woman and laid a hand on her chest. He held it there a time. When he was certain, he squatted down and pressed the nozzle of the revolver to the man’s nose and fired once more. The pistol bucked hard and mists of blood freckled the boy’s face. He dropped the gun, took one last look at the woman, walked out and shut the door.

The boy walked to the living room and sat on the couch. He picked up the phone on the table next to him and dialed. “Yeah.” There was a short wait. “Yeah. Jimmy. Yeah. Dolan. Mom and Dad are dead. Yeah. Yeah. Dad did. Yeah. He’s dead too, yeah. Yeah, I’m sure. I shot him. No. Okay. All right.” 
Jimmy sat on the couch a few minutes longer, looking about the room, at the pictures on the floor, the overturned furniture, the holes in the walls from his father’s fists; and then he stood up, walked to the TV, cranked the dial until he found Saturday morning cartoons, and then he sat back down on the couch and waited for the police, his face still freckled. 


Bio Billy Dennis grew up in the Shangri-La of North Texas, Mesquite, a place known for its outlaw roots. Billy’s first occupation in life was that of a PGA golf professional, but after a collision with drunk driver, he found himself back in college at thirty-five, with an amputated leg. After attending Eastfield College for two years, he earned a full scholarship to the University of Texas at Dallas based on his writing, graduating with a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing. Billy is also fiction student with Writing Workshops Dallas, where he continues to learn and grow in the craft under the guidance of his mentor Blake Kimzey. In 2014, Billy won the prestigious Eleanor Jones Award in Creative Writing. His work has been published in the Dallas Morning News, The Et Cetera, The Alternative Magazine, and various other outlets.  

He currently lives in Carrollton, Texas with his beautiful and supportive wife, Margot, and their beagle Abby. The best novels he’s read this year were Where All Light Tends to Go and Weight of This World by David Joy, with Don Winslow’s The Force as a close runner-up. At the time of this submission, he was reading Wiley Cash’s celebrated novel A Land More Kind Than Home. 
You can find Billy on Twitter @PlebeianCritic and his website 


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Ink-Quisitions with Alec Cizak

Q. Welcome to Ink-Quisitions, Alec. Your life in crime has taken you down a number of dark alleys—as a writer, an editor and a film maker. What first drew you to Pulp? And when was your first story in this genre published?
A. I’ve always been attracted to genre fiction, which is the slightly less-maligned designation for pulp. I wanted to write horror and science fiction when I was a kid. For whatever reason, I found writing hardboiled crime fiction came naturally. Probably because I wasn’t the most law-abiding citizen when I was younger. I like the language possibilities in crime fiction as well as the economic commentary the genre, when done properly, naturally makes. My very first professional publication was a piece of flash fiction called “Dr. Ziggy Kafka’s Terrible Mistake,” which appeared in a Texas publication called Altered Perceptions back in 1998.
Q. Nowadays you edit and publish Pulp Modern, a print anthology that runs twice a year. The tales in Pulp Modern range from hard-hitting crime and horror—to fantasy and science fiction. What aspects of these genres spurred you to create a publication as diverse as Pulp Modern? And how many issues have you published so far?
A. When I started Pulp Modern in 2011, there were no journals that featured all the major genres. Lots of good crime journals. Some horror, some science fiction, etc. But none that I could see that allowed readers a buffet of sorts. If you like the old pulps, chances are you like all the genres. While romance was definitely part of the classic pulps, I didn’t think it fit with the other genres, which tend to be more action oriented—not that romance doesn’t have action of its own!
The first volume of Pulp Modern had ten wildly disjointed issues. Those who witnessed the constant experiments I tried, nearly issue-to-issue, know what I’m talking about. I quit for a year and then, after communicating with Richard Krauss, editor and publisher of the outstanding The Digest Enthusiast, brought Pulp Modern back for a second volume with Richard in charge of ‘the look.’ The results have been fantastic.
Q. Folks like writer and educator Kate Laity—an associate professor at The College of St. Rose in Albany, New York—have a deep historical knowledge about crime in literature. While me, myself, and I know diddly and decided to toss our hats in the crime writing ring last year. But I imagine both the modern film industry and the Internet have contributed to significant changes in how crime, horror and noir are currently being shaped and presented.
How do you think the landscape has changed since your early endeavors in film and writing?
A. I think crime hasn’t changed all that much. Horror (films, at least), on the other hand, has gone through a major transformation since the late 60s, 70s, and early 80s. The boomer filmmakers didn’t like the end of Psycho and set out to make horror movies that didn’t talk down to the audience by explaining (or over-explaining) the horror. Today’s audience, for whatever reasons, doesn’t want any mystery in its horror product. If things aren’t overly-explained, many members of the audience will deem the film a failure. In my own attempts to write horror fiction, I’ve found a lot of editors have this same attitude. I wrote a story called “Cancers” that requires readers to put some things together on their own. No story I’ve ever written has gotten more polite, personalized rejection notices. And they all say the same thing—“We didn’t understand the end.” Well, I’ve wrestled with how much I’m going to insult my perceived readers. I refuse to make things too easy, too transparent.  If that means the story never gets printed in a journal, so be it. This trend toward over-explaining things is part, I believe, of a bigger movement toward literalism. I could theorize how this has happened: Reality television? Abridged attention spans? Social media draining the general public’s imagination? But I honestly don’t understand the shift.
Q. You teach college students. And I know from reading some of your short stories that you have a sense of humor. But you also write noir. Your latest novel, BREAKING GLASS was just released by ABC Group Documentation September 7th—and you’ve described this book as your attempt to give a “Woman from Down on the Street” a shot at redemption. You also kindly warned Facebook readers not to expect any Disney bullshit.
Despite the fact that BREAKING GLASS is not a Pixar production, you seem to have concerns that some artists might be taking dangerous ideas too far in terms of graphically explicit material. How are you addressing this philosophical issue in your own writing—and also as an editor?
A. I like dangerous ideas. Truly dangerous ideas, that is. Ideas that the average person might not want to confront. If you slather those ideas up with blood and guts, you limit the number of people you’ll expose those ideas to. I’ve long believed movies were more intelligent when the Hayes Code was in effect. This was a set of guidelines insisting direct depictions of sex and violence be avoided. Look at the film version of Double Indemnity—here is an adult film that can be showing on television with children in the room, and the children will have no idea what’s happening in the movie. The adults, meanwhile, will add up everything that isn’t shown or said.
The experience, I think, is more rewarding. I get a kick out of gratuitous sex and violence, but the older I get, the more I appreciate subtlety. I’m reminded of Tobe Hooper, who called the Motion Picture Association of America every day he was shooting Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and asked them how he could shoot one gruesome thing or another and still get a PG rating. The movie ended up being rated R, but it’s a classic example of a movie with almost no gratuitous violence that has a reputation for being extremely violent. That’s because the audience has filled in the blanks on its own. I like fiction that does the same. Any time I read a story where bone and cartilage are being described in macro-detail, I’m taken out of the story and into a medical journal. Another example along the same lines is when a writer insists on telling me the make, model, and serial number on a firearm. That’s not important to me. Story and ideas, that’s what we’re supposed to be dealing in.
I know it’s confusing for some writers who have submitted work to Pulp Modern recently. The guidelines say anything goes, and that’s true. There are subjects most journals consider taboo, and we don’t. However, if you’re going to write a story about, say, torture, focus on the ramifications of a world where torture exists. I don’t need six paragraphs describing a compound fracture. And yes, I’ve been guilty of this same thing in the past. Folks are free to call me a hypocrite. My only excuse is that my thinking and my approach to writing and storytelling has evolved.
Q. You’ve mentioned “taboos” and “ideas” that the average person might not want to confront. My short story, “Inside Pandora’s Box”—which was kindly published by avant-garde Red Fez, features a necrophilic psychopath. And I didn’t write the story to promote necrophilia—or to downplay the horror experienced by people whose deceased loved ones may have endured such acts. I penned this tale largely because the world is filled with people who do outrageous things most of us will never understand. Folks like Jeffrey Dahmer. When my college psychology professor announced she would be on the team of shrinks that had been approved to interview Dahmer and try to glean what made him tick my first thought was: good luck.
 Meanwhile, my favorite story by Story and Grit publisher Mark Westmoreland, entitled “Country Fucked” was turned aside a few times before the brave folks at Near to the Knuckle gave his graphic tale a home.
On the other hand, while I don’t advocate censorship, I must admit I have “my limits” as to the types and nature of the stories I write about—or that I would publish in the role of editor.
So although you embrace dangerous ideas, can you envision any subjects or types of tales you have or might turn aside? And do you consider the types of stories you sometimes write and publish as “thought experiments?” For example, are you trying to encourage people to exercise their analytical and critical thinking skills as well as their imaginations? Or do you tend to view stories containing dangerous ideas primarily as a source of entertainment? Or perhaps a bit of both?
A. I can’t think of any subject I would consider taboo. Having been raised by a wild pack of self-proclaimed intellectuals, there would have to be a deeper purpose to writing about a dangerous subject. Thus, a story about, say, child abuse, that revels only in its depiction of child abuse, wouldn’t impress me. What is the writer “saying” about this subject? That’s very important. I come from the Kubrick school of thought when it comes to what a piece of art should do. Kubrick said if a film has both form and function, meaning, it’s thought-provoking and entertaining, then the film is a success. This is very much how I approach writing. I want people who simply want entertainment to be entertained. If someone does a little thinking after finishing a piece I’ve written, even better. All that said, I’m not at all interested in a piece of fiction whose singular purpose is using suffering as a means to entertain its audience.
Q. In a similar vein what factors led you to name your blog, “No Moral Center”—I’m assuming this wasn’t an attempt on your part to promote world-wide anarchy? Especially since you have a reputation of reprimanding some of your college students each year for committing Plagiarism?
A. The name No Moral Center is a reference to the famous essay by Nietzsche, “The Madman,” from Live Dangerously, in which he suggests “God is dead”—this, of course, is the quote from this essay the average person knows and repeats without any concept of what Nietzsche was actually saying. Nietzsche says humanity has lost its moral center and, as a result, murdered God. I’m not pushing religion or anything, but I do feel there’s going to be trouble any time a society loses its moral center, whatever that moral center may be.
Q. Besides the August release of your novel BREAKING GLASS, you also have a collection of weird fiction stories called LAKE COUNTY INCIDENTS that’s expected to hit the streets in December or January. What kinds of genres, characters and topics will folks encounter in this collection? And how many stories does this book contain?
A. The stories in Lake County Incidents take place in three different northeastern Indiana towns I invented—Haggard, Lublin, and Pawpaw Grove. They’re somewhat traditional horror stories in that the horror is in the situation, as opposed to heavy reliance on blood and guts and other shock elements. I want to bring back horror that isn’t overly-explained, so the stories are focused more on the characters dealing with whatever strange element is introduced in each story. We’re living in a literalist age and it annoys the hell out of me. I like to think these stories would have been at home in the original pulps. About half of the dozen stories have been published in various independent journals. Most recently, a story called “Broke” appeared in Horror Bites and a piece of body horror called “Useful Things” will appear in the next EconoClash Review.
Q. So what’s next for you on the writing front? Are you looking to take a break after the release of two books in about a six-month period? Or are you hoping to ride this writing wave further? 
A. I’m working on the final book in the Unholy Trilogy (named after rock and roll’s unholy trio, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, and David Bowie), which started with Down on the Street (named after a song on my favorite Stooges record, Funhouse). Breaking Glass (a song on my favorite Bowie record, Low) is the second in this series. The last book takes its titled from my favorite Velvet Underground album, Loaded (I’m keeping the actual song secret for the time being). The final book follows the adventures of Lester Banks in Florida, where he’s changed his name and watches over a massage parlor for a local gangster. I’m still working on plotting the book, so who knows when it will actually be written! In the meantime, I’m writing short stories to make sure the writing muscles don’t atrophy.

Anyone in the mood for noir can find BREAKING GLASS in a number of places including here on Amazon:
You can also read Alec’s latest story, “The Bag Girl” for free over at Tough magazine, which is run by notable writer Rusty Barnes:
Readers can also visit Alec on Facebook—or find him on his blog: