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Reviewing an anthology of short stories can be an exercise designed to drive the reviewer crazy. Great stories can be followed by mediocre ones, even bad ones. "Exigencies" is a neo-noir collection of short stories that might leave you a bit depressed about the dark side of the human condition but also elated by the language used to describe that sad condition. The opening story, "Wilderness," is rooted in individual helplessness in a situation that overruns them. The baton of crafting such a story has been handed from Kafka to Shirley Jackson to Letitia Trent. The ending story, the soul sucking "Blood Price" by Axel Taoari, is not for sunny days on the beach with a gentle breeze, a wondrous mate, and a bottle of Corona, unless of course you break the bottle and slash the throat of your mate because the waves told you to do it. In between, are a collection of exceptional stories for those who enjoy reading about the darker side of life.
If you wanted Bambi's mom to live, don't lift the cover of this anthology. In here, Bambi's mom would live, but eat Bambi.
"My Mother's Condition" also harkens back to Kafka and other magical realistic writers. It is my personal favorite as I look forward to the twilight years of my life by looking back at my parents. Only one story in here truly didn't appeal to the noir side of my mind that I occasionally let out of the corner of the room. If you love short stories, this is an upper shelf four. If you love short stories with a darker edge, this is a solid five, as is my rating.
Reviewed in the United States on December 18, 2019
I picked the wrong time to reread this stellar anthology (which I first read and should have reviewed a year ago). The holiday period is supposed to be for connecting with family and being fully present, but I'm so absorbed by the incredibly gripping neo-noir shorts featured in this book (which was generously gifted to me), I can't even THINK about stopping my reading to spend time with loved ones and worry about wrapping presents. Every story here is dark, gritty, funny and terrifying. "Monster Season" by Joshua Blair is so good, I've hired a PI to find out where the hell this madly skilled master of transgressive fiction has gone. Can't find him or his alleged novels anywhere. It's all a mystery. What's NOT a mystery is why you should read this anthology. Ridiculously recommended.
If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, a short fiction anthology is the chain that holds the drawbridge to the kingdom of great story telling against the assault of mediocre fiction; thankfully, there is not one weak entry in Exigencies. This may be because Richard Thomas is calling the shots, a writer and editor as talented as he is productive, having already proved himself with The New Black anthology, Exigencies is a daring ride into the best among contemporary neo-noir writers.
Really enjoyed this book. I know a few writers involved but most were unfamiliar, yet their voices were strong and fearless. Highly recommended. Here's my official blurb: From the shadows that dwell in some of the most creative, and gifted minds around, emerges a collection of short stories that will skulk across the footplate of literature for many years to come. Exigencies is the cloak thrown over the world, to show us that in darkness we can still find beauty, and will forever serve as a keepsake to great writing.