Last March I heralded the inaugural edition of Murdaland, a semi-annual journal of crime fiction. Its submission page decares We’re looking for well written, finely crafted tales of crime, dissipation, violence, dread, lust, greed and all manner of mayhem. So it’s admittedly sensational and lurid and I love it. Nothing pretentious in here, but, surprisingly, nothing cheap either. You’ll find in this edition an excerpt from an out-of-print novel, Hard Rain Falling, by an out-of-print author named Don Carpenter who had some notoriety in the sixties, but whom I’d never read before and am sorry I missed after reading these superb pages. It’s about a hard-time convict held in solitary confinement and judged insane as a teenager trying to hold on to enough of himself to make it in society.
He had managed in all the time of transition afterward to keep tight control on himself, and his eyes helped. His eyes hurt so fiercely that he concentrated on the pain as a way of keeping from thinking of murder; and by the time they let him out of the insane asylum, he had himself under control.
And that’s the sort of off-center psychology you’ll find in Murdaland stories. It’s hard for most of us to imagine what goes on in the criminal mind, and Hollywood cliches are no help on that score. “Roachkiller” by R. Navarez is pretty much a match for Hard Rain on that score.
The one weak point in this issue, to my mind anyway, is “Vivian and Bobby Ray” by Harry Hunsicker. It’s got one of those endings I hate–a surprise fact that should have been organic to the story gets pulled out of the hat at the end for shock effect.
One bummer out of eight “dark tales for tawdry times.” A fine per centage. Read ‘em.