MEASURES OF POISON

Dennis McMillan, Author . McMillan $35 (0p) ISBN 978-0-939767-41-0

This hefty noir anthology, from legendary small-press publisher McMillan, offers 23 original stories by many of the best writers in the field today—James Crumley, Bill Pronzini, Michael Connelly, Gary Phillips, James Sallis, George P. Pelecanos, A.A. Attanasio—plus an unpublished tale by the late Charles Willeford and an unproduced screenplay by the late Howard Browne, "The Violent World of Jake Lingle," which is mainly of academic interest. Mostly set in the '30s, the stories largely involve lowlifes adrift in their shadowy worlds. The mood is dark, but not all of the characters are losers. Some win, turning the tables on their adversaries. Willeford's "Heathscapes," about a retired businessman with an odd idea of art and commerce, provides a real chill, as does Craig Miles Miller's "Dog." James Sallis's "Drive" is a small work of art about a man who "just drives," but God help anyone who gets in his way. In Scott Phillips's "Sockdolager," an older woman teaches an adolescent entrepreneur a thing or two. Equally saucy is Rick DeMarinis's "Horse Dealer's Lover." Michael Connelly gives a fresh spin to the crooked card game theme in his excellent and atypical "Cahoots." At least another half-dozen stories are as good as these. The eye-catching dust jacket, featuring an old-fashioned medicine bottle with the contributors' names on the label, perfectly complements this quality package. (Oct. 18)

Forecast:Set for launching at this year's Bouchercon in Austin, Tex., this anthology with its big-name roster should interest a lot of booksellers who don't normally stock McMillan's limited editions.

Reviewed on: 10/07/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
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