Edited by Chris Rhatigan –– All Due Respect is edited by Chris Rhatigan, who’s also had a hand in Pulp Ink and Pulp Ink 2, so it makes perfect sense that the stories in this particular collection have one thing in common: there’s no mystery. No crime solving. No charming, rumpled detective stumbling over clues. You will, however, find plenty of criminals, junkies, thieves, lowlifes, assassins, fixers, thugs and scumbags. I think you get the idea.
Ratchet by Stephen D Rogers is a quick little gem about a teen who has roused the suspicion of his school and the man hired to make sure that violence will never be on the menu. This was a standout in its subtle menace and distinct lack of violence. My favorite of the bunch, however, is the lovely and melancholy The Three Sisters by Jack Bates about the youngest of three sisters and the depth of her love for her father, and her desire to be heard. It’s just about perfect, and poetically tragic.
Another good one is Donald Duck and the Avian Snitch by Richard Godwin. A thief is convinced his woman is harbouring one of their pet birds up her bum. Yep, you read that right. Their birds keep disappearing and he’s convinced they’re hiding out in the most unlikely of places. Ultimately, it’s a heartwarming story of adultery, blackmail, and parrots that can’t keep their beaks closed. Maybe heartwarming isn’t quite accurate, but it’s one of the most darkly funny stories in the book. This one might make you smirk in spite of yourself.
Among the more than 20 stories in the collection you’ll also find pieces by Christopher Grant, Andrez Bergen, Gary Clifton, Ryan Sayles, Alec Cizak, Garnett Elliott and Nigel Bird. Although they are enjoyable, it’s hard to read the collection without taking a break now and again to avoid getting too bogged down in darkness. There is some stellar writing here, and frankly, as far as quality, there are no duds, but the subject matter itself does become stifling. These stories, for the most part, are about the lowest of the low in our society. A few are victims of life and circumstance, and a few are just plain nasty, but most of them are deplorable.
That said, All Due Respect never claims to pull its punches and if the absolute darkest of noir is your cup of tea, then this is the anthology for you. In the midst of the dirty sex, endless crime, and almost unrelenting violence, there are a few stories that pull back a little and allow some terrible beauty to shine through the darkness. 7 Seconds by Erin Cole is about a woman named Pam, stifled by the mundane and her rather tame life working in an office. Mundane goes right out the window when a disgruntled worker bursts in with an automatic, and the countdown begins. It really illustrates that sometimes mundane isn’t all that bad.
If you like to see some light at the end of the tunnel, well, the blackness in most of these short stories is almost complete. But maybe that’s part of the appeal. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though: All Due Respect is very violent, and definitely not for the faint of heart, or stomach.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars