Online Issue 12: Zombie Cat

Lots of good stuff in this issue, as well as some news, so let’s get to it.


Willie Davis chats about his novel Nightwolf. Davis has some keen insights about the benefits of being an author, a razor sharp wit and some interesting anecdotes to share. Plus, there are links to where you can find him on podcasts. Check it out! And don’t miss my review of Nightwolf by Willie Davis.

Paul D. Brazill is back, sharing all the tunes referenced insharing all the tunes referenced in Small Time Crimes and the link to his playlist. In case you missed it, Paul dropped in a few issues back to talk about Last Year’s Man.
Gray Basnight is here to chat about alternate history thrillers, New York City, hurricanes and more.
Tom Leins is back to talk about Meat Bubbles and Other Stories. In case you missed it, he was here a few months ago, talking about the perfect cast for this collection.

dscf1052-0Who is this man that is not my husband? Who is Allan Guthrie, you say? Brian shares thoughts on the author he now considers to be a cult writer. The tragedy is that there are now a whole crop of hardboiled/noir writers coming up who don’t know who Al is and this needs to be remedied. The next time someone tells me that they are brave or redefining the genre because they killed the dog I have two words for them: Allan Guthrie. Oh, and did you do it to be shocking or did you earn it on the page? Being a shock jock doesn’t take talent. Anybody can say or write something inappropriate that will upset people. Earning every horrific moment of pain and violence you write? Making someone writhe in their chair as they read but having them so deeply hooked they have to keep turning the pages? That’s raising the bar in writing, and few will match Allan Guthrie’s talents at that. I sense a re-read of Savage Night in my near future.


zombie cat header wordpress final

Since so many people have forgotten (or don’t know) who Allan Guthrie is, there are also a lot of people in the crime genre circles who may not even know about Thuglit, Demolition, Pulp Pusher, Spinetingler and the far too many other notable ezines that were prevalent a decade ago.

When the owner of Spinetingler shut the site down, I was keenly aware of how much stuff I had out there that was lost. I was also aware of how many short stories no longer had a home. As a writer myself, I’ve had a number of short stories that were published online that have disappeared when other sites shut down.

That’s why I’m announcing today the launch of a sub-site for Toe Six Press: Zombie Cat.

Zombie Cat will publish reprints of short stories… maybe more. For now, we start with short stories that have been previously published. As long as they don’t conflict with rights bought, if the story has previously appeared in print or online it can be considered for republication. However, I don’t want things that are presently posted on an author’s website. The priority is stories that do not currently have a home online.

We kick things off today with “Absolution” by Mindy Tarquini, a story originally published in Spinetingler’s 2006 Spring Issue.

Thoughts on Reviewing

Reviewing is one of the toughest things for me to do sometimes. On the one hand, it’s easy to give an overview of a plot-driven story and be enthusiastic about how it got its hooks into you and kept you turning the pages. That’s a certain type of story in its own right.

There are other types of stories. Literature was the perfect marriage of thriller and commentary, for example.

I wouldn’t even hazard a guess about how many books I’ve reviewed in my life. I was taught to review back when I was 20, in college studying journalism. And I had to produce things back then. When I started Spinetingler I wanted to talk about books I liked, so I started reviewing again.

These days, I review for Toe Six and Underground Book Reviews. Reviewing for UBR has changed my reviewing system, because I also judge the Book of the Year award for them, and have for the past two years. I was thrilled to see novels like Brian Cohn’s The Last Detective win BOTY last year and The Last Great American Magic win the year before. Hell, I don’t even know what genre The Last Great American Magic is, but I don’t care. Fantastic read. Enjoyed every page of that.

The great thing is that this means I get to read a variety of works that don’t always fit into neat genre categories.

It’s also meant that over the past few months I’ve had to revise my ranking system. I used to say mentally every book starts out as a 4 out of 5, which is a great read to me. 5 stars was reserved for books that really blew me away or stood out as special for some reason. Books that had major developmental and technical issues would fall down the rankings.

However, since the BOTY system relies on reviewers giving books 5 star reviews, and since that’s subjective, I realized that any book that does it’s job should get top billing, or it won’t be considered for the annual awards.

The simple reality is that I hate ranking systems. They are wildly inconsistent. Ask 20 people how they decide what a 5-star read is and you’ll probably get 23 answers. Art, by its very nature, is subjective. So my objective with written reviews is to give people enough information to decide if the book is right for them.

Online Issue 4

We’re moving to Wednesdays with an issue packed full of author articles, author interviews, reviews and more!

Patricia Abbott Talks About Bringing Sorrow in Short Stories

Patricia Abbott is the author of more than 125 stories that have appeared online, in print journals and in various anthologies. She is the author of two print novels CONCRETE ANGEL (2015) and SHOT IN DETROIT (2016)(Polis Books). CONCRETE ANGEL was nominated for an Anthony and Macavity Award in 2016. SHOT IN DETROIT was nominated for an Edgar Award and an Anthony Award in 2017. A collection of her stories I BRING SORROW AND OTHER STORIES OF TRANSGRESSION will appear in 2018.

She also authored two ebooks, MONKEY JUSTICE and HOME INVASION and co-edited DISCOUNT NOIR. She won a Derringer award for her story “My Hero.” She lives outside Detroit.

Patricia takes some time to share insights about her latest work, I Bring Sorrow and Other Stories of Transgression and what she likes about writing short stories.

SR: You’ve released a short story collection. Tell give us a teaser for the oldest story in your collection.

51ayt8fwizlPA: According to the TOC, it would be “Are You Going To Take Care of This Guy Or Not.” During the vice-presidential debate in 2000 much was made about the gentlemanliness of the two candidates. This story is about a recent convict who considers emulating Cheney after his release and how well he succeeds. I used various quotes from Cheney throughout the story, hopefully integrating them with the plot.

SR: Where did the title come from?

PA: The title comes from Cheney’s own words.

SR: Tell us about one of your favorite stories that’s included in your collection.

PA: My favorite story is the title story because it’s a story of an obsession that leads to madness. But whose is the mystery. I loved incorporating some tropes from fantasy and horror in it. I loved using the cello as the object of desire.

SR: What is it about writing short stories that appeals to you?

PA: That you get to tinker with your story a lot. There’s time to consider every word. And also you get to leave the characters behind in about six weeks.

SR: How do you think short story writing has strengthened you as a writer overall?

PA: I think it has taught me to be succinct. To consider carefully what is needed and what is not. Although it also handicapped my ability to write in more detail with the novels.

SR: Do you have any recurring characters you feature in more than one short story? If so, what is it about the short story format that suits those characters?

PA: The only characters that I repeated was in the novel in stories HOME INVASION. Or at least I think that is true. Although to some extent I write about the same sort of people quite a bit. They are usually blue-collar types, struggling to make it, damaged.

SR: Which story in the collection is the most personal story for you? Why?

PA: “We Are All Special Cases” happened to me in its entirety save the last paragraph. It is rare for me to use my own life.

SR: Is there something you hope the reader carries away with them after they’re done reading? An insight or philosophy that you wanted to come through in your work?

PA: I hope the reader carries away that we neither all good or all bad. That we are all injured in some fundamental way. Because of this we need to feel empathy for our fellow man.

SR: When you looked at your stories as a collection did you notice anything about your writing or themes that hadn’t really stood out to you before?

PA: I think I realized once again how hard it is for me to not write dark stories. When I looked for one to read aloud at a few events, it was impossible to find one that wouldn’t repulse or scare or worry the audience.

SR: What was the first short story that you had published? Tell us a little about it and how it got published. How did that experience impact you as a writer?

PA: Well, it was when I was a student and our professor insisted we send out a story. So I sent one to the North American Auto Show. It was about two robbers, (The Imprint) nothing to do with cars at all. But it got an honorable mention and they published it on their website. It gave me enough confidence to try again.

SR: What’s one of the first short stories that you really remember reading and how did it impact your approach to short stories or your writing style.

PA: I have always loved short stories and can’t remember the first one. But I do remember the writer whose stories I read the most early on and that was Alice Munro. Her stories spoke to me from the start. Her characters seemed like the kind of people I knew.