Monday, April 25, 2022

Terrific Short Crime Fiction in July Anthology, JACKED, from Run Amok Books

If your crime fiction reading is dominated by the books that get advertising dollars, that's completely understandable -- because those are the ones you hear about often.

But where's the adventure in biting the hook when it's baited with those ad dollars?

Great news: Run Amok Books, a small "indie" press near Princeton, NJ, has a new crime fiction imprint. JACKED is part of that launch. Pulled together by author/editor Vern Smith, who's already had a finalist novella for Canada's Arthur Ellis Award, this new release includes 21 stories of murder, mayhem, and wry mystery that rise way above expectations. 

That's because the authors providing the stories are already seasoned in this field. Take the story "Killing in Periot," a short pithy tale of family disfunction. It's by Allison Whittenberg, who's racked up three Pushcart Prize nominations. A cross between a hard-boiled approach and a YA revenge tale, the story builds to the perfect finale in a single word: "Good." Unforgettable.

"Len Bias" turns crime fighting and the war against drugs inside out in completely unexpected ways. Setting it in Portland, Zephaniah Sole offers a cop with a bad back  (don't they all have that?) who proudly reports that "I'm the FBI guy embedded in the team." The team turns out to have a brilliant way of infiltrating the worst drug business, and I shook my head for quite a while after I figured it out. Sole gives a clean, clear, well-paced approach to the twist, and an astute reader may get it, just before the author pulls back the curtain.

And what about that creepy approach that made Edgar Allan Poe a trailblazer? Meagan Lucas, highly experienced as both author and editor, shapes "Picking the Carcass" into a women's updated version of "The Gold Bug." Shivers. More shivers. What a mom will do to get by, right?

My favorite might be Ricky Sprague's "The Gryfters," but then again, that might be because it takes root in some of the best of both hard-boiled and caper fiction. The first line is, "I handled by first carjacking with real sang-froid." Could that be you?

I could go on, crooning over this nest of snarky, crazy, neatly twisted stories until I've had a chance to find a reason to name each one of them "the best" in some aspect. But it makes a lot more sense to stop here, and let you look ito JACKED for yourself.  It's coming out July 1 (can be pre-ordered now!) and in the meantime you can check out the press website ( and some cool readings by the authors on the Run Amok Facebook page ( Make sure to check out the very lively and intriguing blog attached to the website, too.

PS: Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.


Anonymous said...

Looking forward to it!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a worthwhile read!