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December 2021

'St. Louis Noir' Reveals the River City's Mysteries - and Missteps

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American pop culture has long been dominated by the stories of its two most notorious cities: New York and Los Angeles. With the book-publishing industry set in one and the movie industry in the other, the narratives of the great flyover heartland have never really had their due. My hometown in particular is wildly underrated as fodder for entertainment, so it was with great interest that I picked up St. Louis Noir, a collection of short stories (and poetry) set in the River City, written by local writers.

Much like St. Louis itself, the collection is uneven, with a few gems, a fair number of decent stories, and a couple that probably shouldn't have made the cut at all. But the overall project and the gems it contains move me to highly recommend it nonetheless. It is a deeply satisfying experience to read stories set in a place you know well, one so few people get to know in fictional form. As a contact zone extraordinaire with an intense and complicated history, it's a crying shame St. Louis isn't taken up as a fictional setting more often. 

The collection is organized by geographic section within the metropolitan St. Louis area, which includes Southern Illinois. The best stories capitalize on the subtle distinctions between them, such as Laura Benedict's "A Paler Shade of Death," set in the suburb of Glendale. The deliciously unreliable narrator describes it this way, "Neighborhoods didn't come much more established than this one." It's a jarring backdrop for the dark deeds to follow.

Another gem is collection editor Scott Phillips' "One Little Goddamn Thing," a delightful revenge romp that doesn't take itself too seriously. Following close behind are L.J. Smith's "Tell Them Your Name Is Barbara" and LaVelle Wilkins-Chinn's "Fool's Luck." Smith's story is actually the only one in the entire collection that falls into the category of traditional noir, and the writer gives us a refreshing take on the complicated antihero in lawyer Kaycie Crawford. I would happily tag along on more adventures with that one. And "Fool's Luck" takes character quirkiness to a level you can only see from St. Louis' own Gateway Arch, epitomizing the down-home Midwestern storytelling I've come to know and love.

Where the collection suffers is when writers make the project primarily a political one, with stereotypical renditions (one story actually features a white male villain named "Bubba") and a serious lack of character and plot development. The poetry - ersatz Ginsberg - also seems out of place. But short story collections are like boxes of chocolate, and there's no harm done when you can reach for the next potential gem, of which this one has many.


Check Out the Smashwords End-of-Year Sale for Your Last-Minute Gifts!

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I've enrolled the entire Dreamslippers Series - all 3 books plus the boxed set - in the Smashwords end-of-year sale, with discounts of 25-75% off the ebook price across the series. If you already own copies of the novels, consider giving the ebooks as gifts. The sale lasts through Jan. 1.

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ABOUT THE SERIES

The Dreamslippers solve crimes using their psychic ability to 'slip' into your dreams. But that isn't easy. 

"The launch of an intriguing female detective series" - Kirkus Reviews

Book #1 - Cat in the Flock - 75% Off!

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Cat McCormick comes of age both as a Dreamslipper and a private investigator in this debut. Following a mother and daughter on the run, she goes undercover in a fundamentalist church.

"Gripping, sexy, and profound..." - Jon Talton, author of the David Mapstone Mysteries

Book #2 - Framed and Burning - 25% Off!

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It was supposed to be a much-needed vacation in Miami, meant to snap Cat out of a persistent depression. But when her great uncle’s studio goes up in flames, killing his assistant, Cat must find out who’s really to blame.

"A brilliant, suspenseful whodunit..." - Qiu Xiaolong, Author of Shanghai Redemption, named one of the Wall Street Journal's Best Books of 2015

Book #3 - Bound to the Truth - 25% Off!

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What happens when your client thinks she knows who the killer is, but you don’t believe her? Cat and Granny Grace don't believe Nina Howell fell under the spell of a domineering, conservative talk show host... until he starts to look guilty.  The case brings powerful new developments in Cat’s dreamslipping skill as she works to find the truth.

"A great mystery with lots of action." - JBronder Book Reviews

The Boxed Set + Bonus Story - 50% Off!

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Get all three books in this boxed set, plus a bonus novella prequel--Work of Light, Granny Grace's origin story--only available in the boxed set.

As always, thank you for your interest in this psychic detective series, and I wish you a Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year!


'Cat in the Flock' Now a BooksShelf.com Editor's Choice Book of the Week!

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If you've ever thought to yourself, "There are just so many books, and so little time," you're not alone. That's the BooksShelf.com motto. A look through their wide range of offerings - everything from mystery to manatees - proves that we could all definitely use more time to read books. The BooksShelf.com team is a group of seven book lovers who work to promote authors and their books. And they've chosen Cat in the Flock as their Editor's Choice Book of the Week!

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The BookShelf.com portal is a great place to discover new authors, or find out more about your favorite writers. I myself discovered a talented new author in Cam Lang, whose mystery novel The Concrete Vineyard is the latest addition to my Kindle library.

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And if you're a writer looking for a way to get noticed, BooksShelf.com is offering 50 percent off services now for the holidays.

All thanks to the BookShelf.com team for the Editor's Choice Book of the Week spotlight, and happy reading, everyone!