Damnation And Dames – review by Damien Smith

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Damnation And Dames (Edited by Liz Grzyb & Amanda Pillar).

Ticonderoga Publications April 2012, ISBN 978-1-921857-03-4 (Paperback)

Damnation and Dames is a sixteen-story paranormal noir-themed anthology from Ticonderoga Publications.  I remember seeing it appear in April and thinking that it sounded like a great read, but since I’d only recently got to Base Camp One of my pile of unread review books I had to sadly let it pass by.  Seeing another opportunity arise recently to review it, I couldn’t resist any longer.  Paranormal noir sounded like a really interesting spin.

What the heck is paranormal noir?  Well you know noir: private eyes, prohibition, mystery, dames with dangerous curves, characters narrating to the fourth wall.  Take that and mix in a bunch of ghosts, vampires, zombies, legendary creatures and at one point an undead king kong and you have paranormal noir.  Given the dark nature of noir it seems only natural that the unnatural creepies would creep in eventually and this collection certainly delivers what it advertises.

The collection kicks off by plunging straight into the vampiric underworld in Jay Caselberg’s Blind Pig with a full complement of dangerous (and damned) dames and collisions of the normal and paranormal worlds, and delves deeper from there.

There is an ebb and flow between paranormal and noir, with many stories being a solid mix of both.  Brian G Ross’ Hard Boiled only touched the surface of the paranormal, but with gems like “I knew never to trust a broad with a naked flame that close to my face, even one who seemed like she’d been poured out of a lingerie catalogue and dipped in perfume” you can almost hear the saxophone spilling quietly from the gramophone in the background.  Contrasting that are tales like where humans are the second-class citizens doing their supernatural superior’s bidding like M.L.D Curelas’ Silver Comes the Night or merely a background theme as in the excellent One Night at the Cherry by Chris Large, where a zombie detective has some problems with a genuinely dangerous doll.

Robert Hood’s Walking the Dead Beat is one of the only stories not written from the first person perspective and deserves a special mention if only for including a Playdead magazine in an undead bordello.

There are also two collaborative works in the collection: Burning, Always Burning by Alan Baxter and Felicity Dowker, and Prohibition Blues by Lisa L. Hannett and Angela Slatter, both of which warrant a mention because although I’ve read many offerings from all four authors, both stories were so seamless I couldn’t pick who had written what, despite the authors’ differing styles.  One bone I would pick with Burning, Always Burning though is that it hinted enough at a much wider world that it felt like a prologue to something larger, and I found myself flicking through the anthology looking for the next instalment.  Hopefully it’ll come at some point.

Which brings me to about the only fault I could find with the collection: due to the nature of the format several of the stories finished up right when I felt they were just getting good.  I’d love to see some of the authors take the worlds they’ve hinted at here and let the various beasties rampage across a longer format.

I’ve picked a handful of the sixteen stories to mention for no real reason beyond the fact they stuck in my head for a particular line on theme.  Damnation and Dames brings together a bunch of stories from authors international and local, experienced and fledgling (Three Questions and One Troll is Chris Bauer’s debut work of fiction and he should be justifiably proud of the company it’s keeping) and it’s difficult to find a weak link amongst them.

Damnation and Dames can be found over at http://ticonderogapublications.com/ Upon finding, be sure to add it to your collection.

Reviewed by Damien Smith.

Damien Smith is a regular reviewer for several publications, most frequently online zine The Specusphere. Whilst usually content with being an armchair expert on other people’s work, he recently had his debut publication in SQ Magazine. Observing the social dynamic between his young daughter and two dogs provides endless inspiration, so there will no doubt be many more stories to come. Some of them may even get published.