The good news is that the first, relatively weak anthology in this series sold well enough to call for a follow-up, but the bad news is that, apparently, if you have sex, you'll immediately murder somebody. Following the format established in Flesh and Blood
(2001), the editors again present one "classic" reprint plus 17 new stories intended to answer a question posed in the introduction: "But what is noir these days?" In the hands of O'Neil de Noux in "Death on Denial" and Bill Crider in "Top of the World," noir seems as atmospheric and doomful as ever. John Lutz, Bill Pronzini, Stephen Mertz, Jon L. Breen, Catherine Dain and Jeremiah Healy do respectable genre duty, if by no means living up to the sexual promise of the whip-wielding dominatrix whose leather-clad leg dominates the cover. Other stories have hotter sex hampered by major narrative disconnects, which might pass as surprise plot developments if they made any sense at all. Mickey Spillane's fast-paced 1973 reprint, "The Gold Fever Tapes," concerns a murdered pal and stolen gold while the sex is merely ornamental. Readers who comprehend Spillane when he writes, "Time was always on the side of the killer when these things happened. You can't just let them drop when you trip over them no matter what the score is," will have no trouble understanding the other tales. Those who avoid prurient material as a rule can pick this one up without shame. (May 1)
Forecast:A similar horror series cofounded by Gelb, Hot Blood, has run to several volumes. This series promises to do the same as long as the editors continue to draw big names to contribute.