EXPLETIVE DELETED has legs!
Sarah Monster emailed me this morning to let me know that the Chicago Tribune, like, totally digs the anthology!
In the introduction to "Expletive Deleted" -- a collection of 21 unapologetically vulgar short stories that pays homage to "perhaps the single most useful word in the English language" -- Mark Billingham fittingly describes the "f"-word-laden anthology as "a gratuitous orgy of bad language." The list of contributors -- which reads like a Who's Who in Crime Fiction -- includes Ken Bruen, Laura Lippman, Jason Starr, Charlie Huston, Olen Steinhauer and Sarah Weinman.
Noteworthy selections include Ruth Jordan's "Little Blue Pill," an ingeniously twisted noir gem that delves into the psyche of a sexually sadistic female serial killer; "Hungarian Lessons," by Steinhauer, about a writer's surreal erotic encounter in a Budapest hotel room; and Bruen's "Spit," a categorically cold-blooded story about love, rejection and retribution. Weinman's "Lookout" brilliantly blends multiple narratives revolving around a child abducted from a quiet neighborhood, and David Bowker's "Johnny Seven" is equal parts coming-of-age tale and diatribe against Neil Diamond.
But perhaps the most unforgettable -- and nightmare-inducing -- story comes (not surprisingly) from Huston: "Like a Lady" is about a psychotic criminal couple whose blood-chilling exploits make the Manson clan look like a bunch of prepubescent girls staying up late on a sleepover to watch "Hannah Montana" reruns.
One criticism of the collection has to be the thematic similarities between some stories. The analogous conclusions to Libby Fischer Hellman's "The Jade Elephant" and Otis Twelve's "Fluff" (both outstanding selections in their own right) lessened both narrative impacts, as did the parallels between Reed Farrel Coleman's disturbing "Pearls" and Nathan Singer's darkly poetic "The Killer Whispers and Prays ... Or Like a Sledgehammer to the Ribcage," which both revolved around similar dysfunctional relationships.
Crime-fiction fans who aren't repelled by heaping helpings of obscene language, deviant sexuality and graphic violence will find this collection, in the words of Billingham, "a dark, disgusting and fabulous treat," but those offended by the "f"-word should stay well clear of this collection.
The Booklist review:
Is it so uncommon for crime stories to contain profanity that the genre is crying out for a collection of ones that do? Actually, the titular conceit could work if the tales all hinged on swearing. And a few of the authors—including Laura Lippman, Kevin Wignall, and, memorably, David Bowker—do turn their plots on f-word usage. Others apparently just salted standard crime stories with extra swearing (oddly, a decent Sarah Weinman child-abduction story is so decent it doesn’t even boast any expletives to delete). But most of the writers took the opportunity to explore gonzo situations and themes (not that the reliably raunchy Jason Starr needed an excuse). Otis Twelve delivers an enjoyably naughty glimpse into the world of off-screen porn talent, for instance, and Charlie Huston airs out a remarkably psychotic love affair. Luckily, there are few weak stories in this hodgepodge—and Olen Steinhauer’s “Hungarian Lessons,” his scatologically vivid (but presumably fictive) recollection of a rough book-tour night with a hooker, is alone worth the cover price. It’s that effin’ good.
— Frank Sennett