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At Home in the Dark (preorder)

At Home in the Dark (preorder)

Lawrence Block

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$50.00

The crime fiction canopy's a broad one, with room to give shelter to writing of all sorts, as editor Lawrence Block shows with At Home in the Dark

“Some of these stories have one or both feet planted in another genre. James Reasoner's story is a period western, Joe Lansdale's is bleakly dystopian, and Joe Hill's novelette slithers through a little doorway into another world."

 

(preorder—to be published in May)

Dust jacket illustration by Ken Laager.

The crime fiction canopy's a broad one, with room to give shelter to writing of all sorts, as editor Lawrence Block shows with At Home in the Dark

“Some of these stories have one or both feet planted in another genre. James Reasoner's story is a period western, Joe Lansdale's is bleakly dystopian, and Joe Hill's novelette slithers through a little doorway into another world. 

“And now that I've singled out those three, I suppose I should go ahead and list the rest of the gang: N. J. Ayres, Laura Benedict, Jill D. Block, Richard Chizmar, Hilary Davidson, Jim Fusilli, Elaine Kagan, Warren Moore, Joyce Carol Oates, Ed Park, Nancy Pickard, Thomas Pluck, Wallace Stroby, and Duane Swierczynski.

“If you're looking for a common denominator, two come to mind. They're all dark stories, with nothing cozy or comforting about them. And every last one of them packs a punch.

“Which is to say that they’re all very much At Home in the Dark—and we can thank O. Henry, master of the surprise ending, for our title. ‘Turn up the lights,’ he said on his deathbed. ‘I don’t want to go home in the dark.’”

Limited: 500 numbered hardcover copies, signed by the editor

Table of Contents:

  • Foreword: It’s Getting Dark in Here — Lawrence Block
  • Hot Pants — Elaine Kagan
  • The Eve of Infamy — Jim Fusilli
  • Night Rounds — James Reasoner
  • The Flagellant — Joyce Carol Oates
  • The Things I’d Do — Ed Park
  • Favored to Death — N. J. Ayres
  • Rough Mix — Warren Moore
  • This Strange Bargain — Laura Benedict
  • The Senior Girls Bayonet Drill Team — Joe R. Landale
  • If Only You Would Leave Me — Nancy Pickard
  • Giant’s Despair — Duane Swierczynski 
  • Whistling in the Dark — Richard Chizmar
  • O Swear Not by the Moon — Jill D. Block
  • Nightbound — Wallace Stroby
  • The Cucuzza Curse — Thomas Pluck
  • Cold Comfort — Hilary Davidson
  • Faun — Joe Hill

 

FAUN

By Joe Hill

(excerpt)

PART ONE: OUR SIDE OF THE DOOR

Fallows Gets His Cat

The first time Stockton spoke of the little door, Fallows was under a baobab tree, waiting on a lion.

“After this, if you’re still looking for something to get your pulse going, give Mr. Charn a call. Edwin Charn in Maine. He’ll show you the little door.” Stockton sipped whiskey and laughed softly. “Bring your checkbook.”

The baobab was old, nearly the size of a cottage, and had dry rot. The whole western face of the trunk was cored out. Hemingway Hunts had built the blind right into the ruin of the tree itself: a khaki tent, disguised by fans of tamarind. Inside were cots and a refrigerator with cold beer in it and a good wifi signal.

Stockton’s son, Peter, was asleep in one of the cots, his back to them. He’d celebrated his high school graduation by killing a black rhinoceros, only the day before. Peter had brought along his best friend from boarding school, Christian Swift, but Christian didn’t kill anything except time, sketching the animals.

Three slaughtered chickens hung upside down from the branch of a camel thorn, ten yards from the tent. A sticky puddle of blood pooled in the dust beneath. Fallows had an especially clear view of the birds on the night-vision monitors, where they looked like a mass of grotesque, bulging fruits.

The lion was taking his time finding the scent, but then he was elderly, a grandfather. He was the oldest cat Hemingway Hunts had on hand and the healthiest. Most of the other lions had canine distemper, were woozy and feverish, fur coming out in patches, flies at the corners of their eyes. The game master denied it, said they were fine, but Fallows could tell looking at them they were going down fast.

It had been a bad luck season on the preserve all around. It wasn’t just sick lions. Only a few days before, poachers had rammed a dune buggy through the fence along the northwestern perimeter, took down a hundred feet of chain-link. They roared around, looking for rhino—the horn was worth more by weight than diamonds—but were chased out by private security without killing anything. That was the good news. The bad news was that most of the elephants and some of the giraffe had wandered off through the breach. Hunts had been cancelled, money refunded. There had been shouting matches in the lobby and red-faced men throwing suitcases into the backs of hired Land Rovers.

Fallows, though, was not sorry he had come. He had, in years before, killed his rhino, his elephant, his leopard, and buffalo. He would get the last of the big five tonight. And in the meantime there had been good company—Stockton and his boys—and better whiskey, Yamazaki when he wanted it, Laphroaig when he didn’t.

Fallows had met Stockton and the boys only a week ago, on the night he arrived at Hosea Kutako International. The Stockton gang were fresh off a BA flight from Toronto. Fallows had flown private from Long Island in the Gulfstream. Fallows never bothered with public aircraft. He had an allergy to standing in line to take off his shoes, and he treated it with liberal applications of money. As they were all arriving in Windhoek at roughly the same time, the resort had sent a G-Class Mercedes to gather them up and bring them west across Namibia.

They had only been in the car for a few moments before Immanuel Stockton realized he was the very same Tip Fallows who operated the Fallows Fund, which held a heavy position in Stockton’s own pharmaceutical firm.

“Before I was a shareholder, I was a client,” Fallows explained. “I proudly served my nation by feeding myself into the woodchipper of a war I still don’t understand. I crawled away in shreds and stayed high on your narcotic wonders for close to five years. Personal experience suggested it would be a good investment. No one knows better than me how much a person will pay to escape this shitty world for a while. 

He was trying to sound wise, but Stockton gave him an odd, bright, fascinated look, and clapped him on the shoulder, and said, “I understand more than you might think. When it comes to the luxury goods—cigars, furs, whatever—nothing is worth more than an escape hatch.”

By the time they spilled out of the big Mercedes, four hours later, they were all in a jolly mood, and after check-in, they took the conversation to the bar. After that, Stockton and Fallows drank together almost every single night, while Peter and Christian horsed around in the pool. When the boy, Christian—he was eighteen, but still a boy to Fallows—asked if they could come with him to see him bag his cat, it never even crossed his mind to say no.

“The little door?” Fallows asked now. “The hell’s that? Private game reserve?”

“Yes,” Stockton nodded sleepily. The smell of Laphroaig exuded from his pores and his eyes were bloodshot. He had had a lot to drink. “It’s Mr. Charn’s private game reserve. Invitation only. But also, the little door is…a little door.” And he laughed again—almost giggled—very softly.

“Peter says its expensive,” said Christian Swift.

“Ten thousand dollars to look through the door. Ten thousand more to walk on the other side. Two hundred and thirty to hunt there, and you only get the one day. You can bring a trophy back, but it stays with Mr. Charn, at the farmhouse. Those are the rules. And if you don’t have your big five, don’t even bother sending him an email. Charn doesn’t have any patience for amateurs.”

“For a quarter a million dollars, you better be hunting unicorn,” Fallows said.

Stockton raised his eyebrows. “Close.”

Fallows was still staring at him when Christian touched his knee with the knuckles of one hand. “Mr. Fallows. Your cat is here.”

Christian was all alertness, down on one knee, close by the open flap, gently offering Fallows his big CZ 550. For a moment, Fallows had half-forgotten what he was doing there. The boy nodded at one of the night-vision monitors. The lion stared into the camera with radioactive green eyes as bright as new minted coins.

Fallows sank to one knee. The boy crouched beside him, their shoulders touching. They peered through the open flap. In the dark, the lion stood beneath the camel thorn. He had turned his great, magnificent head to look at the blind, with eyes that were intelligent and aloof and calmly forgiving. It was the gaze of a king bearing witness to an execution. His own, as the case happened to be.

Fallows had been closer to the old cat, just once, and at the time there had been a fence between the lion and him. He had studied the grandfather through the chicken wire, staring into those serene, golden eyes, and then told the game master he had chosen. Before he walked away, he made the lion a promise, which he now meant to keep.

Christian’s breath was shallow and excited, close to Fallows’ ear. “It’s like he knows. It’s like he’s ready.”

Fallows nodded, as if the boy had spoken some sacred truth, and gently squeezed the trigger.

At the rolling boom of the shot, Peter Stockton woke with a little scream, twisted in his tangle of sheets, and fell out of the cot.

 

 

THE SENIOR GIRLS BAYONET DRILL TEAM

By Joe R. Lansdale

(excerpt)

The bus ride can be all right, if everyone talks and cuts up, sings the school fight song, and keeps a positive attitude. It keeps your mind off what’s to come. Oh, you don’t want to not think about it at all, or you won’t be ready, you won’t have your grit built up. You need that, but you can’t think about it all the time, or you start to worry too much.

You got to believe all the training and team preparation will carry you through, even if sometimes it doesn’t. I started in Junior High, so I’m an old pro now. This is my last year on the team, and my last event, and if I’m careful, and maybe a little lucky, I’ll graduate and move on. It’s all about the survivors.

I was thinking about Ronnie. She was full of life and energy and as good as any of us, but she’s not with us anymore. She got replaced by a new girl that isn’t fit to tie Ronnie’s war shoes, which her parents bronzed and keep in their living room on a table next to the ashes of Ronnie’s pet shih tzu. I saw the shoes there during the memorial. The dog had been there for at least three years before Ronnie died. It bit me once. Maybe that’s why it died. Poisoned. I remembered too that it slept a lot and snored in little stutters, like an old lawn mower starting.

Ronnie has a gold plaque on the wall back at the gym, alongside some others, and if you were to break that plaque apart, behind it you’d find a little slot, and in that slot is her bayonet and her ashes in an urn. I guess that’s something. Her name is on the plaque, of course. Her years on the team, and her death year is listed too.

There have been a lot of plaques put in the gym over the years, but it still feels special and sacred to see them. You kind of want to end up there when you’re feeling the passion, and the rest of the time that’s just what you don’t want.

Ronnie also has a nice photo of her in her uniform, holding her bayonet, over in Cumshaw Hall, which is named after the girl they think was the greatest player of all, Margret Cumshaw. Cumshaw Hall is also known as the Hall of Fame.

To be in both spots is unique, so I guess Ronnie has that going for her, though it occurs to me more than now and again, that she hasn’t any idea that this is so. I’m not one that believes in the big stadium in the sky. I figure dead is dead, but because of that, I guess you got to look at the honor of it all and know it matters. Without that plaque, photo, ten years from now, who’s to know she existed at all?

Sometimes, though, the bus ride can be a pain in the ass, and not just because you might get your mind on what’s to come and not be able to lose your thoughts in talk and such, but as of late, we got to put up with Clarisse.

Clarisse thinks she’s something swell, but she’s not the only one with scars, and she’s not the only one who’s killed someone. And though she sometimes acts like it, she’s not the team captain. Not legitimately, anyway.

It’s gotten so it’s a chore to ride with her on the bus to a game. She never shuts up, and all she talks about is herself. She acts like we need a blow by blow of her achievements, like the rest of us weren’t there to perform as well. Like we didn’t see what she did.

She remembers her own deeds perfectly, but the rest of us, well, she finds it hard to remember where we were and what we did, and how there have been a few of us that haven’t come back. She scoots over the detail about how our teammates’ bodies, as is the rule of the game, become the property of the other team if we aren’t able to rescue them before the buzzer. You’d think she saved everyone, to hear her rattle on. She hasn’t. We haven’t.

We managed a save with Ronnie’s body, but we’ve lost a few. That’s tough to think about. The whole ritual when you lose a team member to the other side. The ceremony of the body being hooked up to a harness that the other team takes hold of so they can drag the body around the playing field three or four times, like it’s Hector being pulled about the walls of Troy by Achilles in his chariot. And then there’s the whole thing of the other team hacking up the body with bayonets when the dragging is done, having to stand there and watch and salute those bastards. That happens, the dead teammate still gets a plaque, but there’s nothing behind it but bricks.

When we end up dragging one of theirs and hacking on it, well, I enjoy that part immensely. I put my all into it and think of teammates we’ve lost. We yell their names as we pull and then hack.

Thing was, Clarisse’s bullshit wasn’t boosting me up, it was bringing me down, cause all I could think about were the dead comrades and how it could be me, and here it was my last game, and all I had to do was make it through this one and I was graduating and home free.

A number of us were in that position, on the edge of graduation. I think it made half the team solemn. Some of the girls don’t want it to end. Me, I can’t wait to get out. There’s a saying in the squad. First game. Last game. They’re the ones that are most likely to get you killed.

First time out you’re too full of piss and vinegar to be as cautious as you should be, last time out you’re overly cautious, and that could end up just as bad.

Clarisse thinks she’s immortal and can do no wrong, but sometimes you go left when you should go right, or the girl on the other team is stronger or swifter than you. Things can change in a heartbeat.

Clarisse, for all her skill, hasn’t learned that. For her, every day is Clarisse Day, even though that was just one special day of recognition she got some six months back. It was on account of her having a wonderful moment on the field, so wonderful she was honored with a parade and flowers and one of the boys from the bus repair pool; the usual ritual. Me, I have always played well, and I’m what they call dependable. But I’ve never had my own day, a parade, flowers, and a boy toy. I’ve never had that honor. That’s okay. I used to think about it, but now the only honor I want is to graduate and not embarrass my team in the process, try to make sure no one gets killed on my side of the field. Especially me.

We may be the state champions, but the position can change in one game. More experienced players you lose on the team, through graduation or death, less likely you’ll make State Championship. You can train new girls, bring up the bench team. But it’s not the same. They haven’t been working together with us the same way. They don’t move as one, the way the rest of us do. They’re lumps in the gravy. They would need to survive several games before they were like a part of us.

Of course, listening to Clarisse you’d think she was the team all by herself. I’ve heard of some teams who would leave one of their members to the blades, for whatever reason. Maybe haughty teammates not unlike Clarisse. But no matter how annoying she is, that’s not the way we play. That’s not team work. We stick with her, like her or not. She’s a hell of a player, but she’s not the official team captain. But with Janey in the hospital they’ve given her the team for a while, so I guess, like it or not, she does have that position, but I just can’t quite see her that way, as a true leader.

Additional Information

Free Shipping for Select Preorders Yes
Artists Laager, Ken
Binding Hardcover
Type Anthology
Edition Limited
ISBN 978-1-59606-917-6
Year 2019
Print Status Pre-Order
Shippable Yes
Shipping Class Preorder
Length 360 pages

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