cover image Flesh and Blood: Erotic Tales of Crime and Passion

Flesh and Blood: Erotic Tales of Crime and Passion

. Mysterious Press, $12.95 (368pp) ISBN 978-0-446-67777-6

Patterned after the long-running anthology series, Hot Blood, which Gelb cofounded, this collection offers 17 original tales and one ""classic"" that combine ""hot passion and cold blood,"" as Collins describes it in his introduction. Although the original contributions were invited, the anthology often reads like a classroom assignment, with some stories hitting the mark and others missing badly. Several old pros prove adept at using the theme without losing the tight focus required. Donald Westlake's ""The Girl of My Dreams,"" the collection's classic, is a high point. Edward D. Hoch, a master of the form, sets a mini-mystery in a club for the sexually adventurous in Paris in 1933. Stuart M. Kaminsky's tale has a hook so clever it will elicit grins and groans. Loren Estleman has no trouble acing the assignment with his story, ""Evil Grows."" Lawrence Block, another master of the short story, unfortunately isn't up to his usual form. Other authors include Gelb, Michael Garrett, Ed Gorman, Vicki Hendricks, Terrill Lankford, Wendi Lee, Dick Lochte, Annette Meyers, Gary Phillips, Robert J. Randisi and Thomas S. Roche. Despite some good efforts, too many of the stories offer plenty of sex or violence or both but seem forced and artificial as they wrestle with theme and form. With some highly recognizable names as well as potential crossover from Hot Blood fans, however, this anthology should prove once again that sex and violence sell. (Apr. 1)