Edited by Paul D Brazill — Zelmer Pulp is an indie publisher using a core stable of new writers along with the occasional guest to produce themed genre anthologies. A lot of effort goes into producing great looking books with a diverse range of takes on any particular theme, but they Zelmer doesn’t take itself too seriously and is pretty irreverent attitude to genre rules. Last year’s 5 Broken Winchesters, a Weird West anthology featuring Heath Lowrance, is a good example of what they are about.
So for a very small price, Maybe I Should Just Shoot You in the Face delivers seven stories of markedly different styles and a brief introduction by editor Paul D Brazil. Six of these noir-styled stories are new whilst the seventh, The Roach Motel Reputation, is a Crime Factory reprint.
I was particularly interested to read Last Exit by Chris Leeks as I enjoyed his recent novella, Gospel of the Bullet, so much. Here a washed up New Jersey Detective hunts the mean streets of Atlantic City for the murderer of his former girlfriend, a prostitute named Kelly. Leeks delivers a classic noir populated by low-lives and losers with some great lines including: “Just once I’d like to meet a pimp who drives a Prius.” It’s a great way to start the collection but proves something of a hard act to follow.
Give a Good Day by Isaac Kirkman is a very short story of an old man called Otto who, while walking around his neighbourhood, meditates on the damage drugs have done to his city. This is more of a mood piece than a narrative and was an unexpected pleasure. Once Upon a Time in the Woods is more typical Zelmer fare. Brian Panowich’s story is a twisted fairy tale wherein two goons get their comeuppance for kidnapping the wrong princess.
In Talking Flesh, Chuck Regan captures the desperation of a struggling artist. The narrator of his story is a down-on-his-luck photographer, once feted but now reduced to doing weddings, who has returned to the scene of his first success, the carnival, in the hope of finding some inspiration. However his muse is a cruel mistress and there is a bitter sting in this tale. Again, this is a finely written story, replete with a sombre atmosphere of regret.
The next story, Lazarus, Come Forth, written by Gareth Spark, is a pacier affair that could have been written by Paul D Brazil. Greg and Csilla, an ex-Army man and a stripper respectively, attempt to rip-off a Romanian people-smuggler, but in time-honoured fashion discover they can’t trust each other. Stories by Benoit Lelievre and Chuck Regan round out the collection.
Maybe I Should Just Shoot You in the Face is brief, and a little hit and miss, but excellent value for money. Last Exit is probably worth the admission fee alone.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars