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Review: "The Stark House Anthology" edited by Rick Ollerman & Gregory Shepard



The Stark House Anthology

edited by Rick Ollerman
& Gregory Shepard

Stark House, 2024

The Stark House Anthology, edited by Rick Ollerman and Gregory Shepard, celebrates Stark House Press’s silver jubilee. And oh boy is it a worthy gift to readers! Its 30 stories, all from authors previously published by Stark House except for Gregory Shepard—but he’s the publisher so some leeway is easily given here—are exceptional.

The most interesting work is Jada M. Davis’s not-quite-noir “So Curse the Day” because it is a previously unpublished novel with a Gold Medal vibe, a rotten protagonist hitting a new town with big dreams—dreams the reader knows from the first page will fall to ruin. All because no matter the breaks Dun Lattner gets, a kind and generous old landlady, a beautiful girlfriend, a good job, a business of his own, he will make the wrong choices and mess everything up. Every time…but the book’s ending makes “So Curse the Day” a little different than the general noir fare. It works, too, and it is worth the entry fee all by itself.

Charles Runyon’s “Hangover” is a dark and disturbing look at marital misery, cheating spouses, alcohol, and bad behavior. “Art for Money’s Sake,” by Dan J. Marlowe, is a clever and surprising tale about art forgery—with a forger too smart for his own good. Sleaze king Orrie Hitt’s “Nothing in My Way,” is a tricky and surprising riff on the old fake-my-death-for-the-insurance gag. The climactic twist, dripping with irony, made me smile because, in a phrase, it was perfect.

“Angie,” by Ed Gorman—another story loaded with irony—is a literate and dark tale about a woman dreaming of a sugar daddy, but somewhere along the way she hooked-up with a sleazy and poor bank robber named Roy. Worse, Roy talked her into having his named tattooed on her perfect breasts. And wow does it end with a beautiful surprise. Fredric Brown’s short and wicked “Beware the Dog,” is an ironic cautionary tale about murder and making friends. “Hit Me”—by the co-editor of the anthology, Rick Ollerman—is a pitch-perfect murder-for-hire story told from the perspective of a greedy husband. The climactic twist is smile-inducing and just right.

“Axe,” by the other co-editor and owner of Stark House, Gregory Shepard, is a smart and troubling tale about a guy with a legal problem. The narrator is unreliable, but by the end it is clear to everyone, including the reader, what happened. There are other excellent stories by Wade Miller, Lionel White, Stephen Marlowe—a Chester Drum tale no less—Frank Kane, Harry Whittington, Day Keene, Helen Nielsen, Bill Pronzini, Fredric Brown, Robert Silverberg, Bruno Fischer and many, many others.

The Stark House Anthology is as close to a perfect hardboiled story collection as I have read. Every tale is a smash, every writer is worth reading. My only gripe: its 30 stories and 458 pages just whetted my appetite. I want more.

Click here to purchase the Kindle edition or here for the paperback at Amazon.

Click here to purchase this book at Stark House’s website—to celebrate its 25th anniversary, every book at Stark House’s website is 25% off during the month of June.



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Review: "The Stark House Anthology" edited by Rick Ollerman & Gregory Shepard

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