Fresh Meat: Kwik Krimes, edited by Otto Penzler

Kwik Krimes, an enthology of flash crime fiction edited by Otto PenzlerKwik Krimes by Otto Penzler collects flash fiction crime stories told in a thousand words or fewer by over eighty different authors (available August 20, 2013).

Even more exciting than the masterfully crafted, high-octane gems contained within Kwik Krimes,the latest anthology from legendary crime fiction aficionado and editor Otto Penzler, is the much-deserved recognition of the tremendous talent that has been emerging from the web’s short crime fiction community. It’s a gratifying “high-five” to the dedicated editors and publishers—many of whom work full-time jobs and volunteer their time to create these inspired endeavors—and major props to the emerging and established writers whose work appears on these e-zines.

Quality, edgy stories were plucked from online sites such as Shotgun Honey, Every Day Fiction, Spinetingler, Out of the Gutter, Yellow Mama, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Near to the Knuckle, A Twist of Noir, Grift Magazine, and Thrillers, Killers, ‘N’ Chillers (now defunct, yet its little brother, Thrills, Kills ‘N’ Chaos has since been born). “Games People Play” by Bruce Harris, first appeared in Deadly Chaps (publisher of web & print chapbooks).

Along with e-zine entries, Penzler thought it would be fascinating “to see what authors could conjure if given the specific assignment of producing a mystery, crime, or suspense story of no more than a thousand words.”

The results pleasantly surprised him. 

Penzler advises, “Be prepared…to be at the edge of your seat as these hugely talented writers create the kind of suspense that a less accomplished practitioner would need ten times as many pages to concoct.”

Contributors include multi-award winning recipients and nominees of every major mystery award; prolific short story writers and novelists—including those with New York Times bestsellers; those whose works have been turned into films; bloggers; editors; poets; MWA authors and former Executive Board members, SMFS (Short Mystery Fiction Society) members; and professors who impart their wisdom to budding writers.

The stellar storytellers s include: Patricia Abbott (“Lambs of God” opens, “The first time Kyle Murmer’s mother tried to kill him, he was nine.”), Erik Arneson (whose entry, “Fortune,” is well worth reading for the last line), Eric Beetner, Peter Cannon, Joe Clifford, Bill Crider, Matthew C. Funk (in “David to Goliath,” a jailed preteen, wise beyond his years, shares his criminal wisdom in taking down a 400-pound “Giant.”), Rob W. Hart, Gar Anthony Haywood (In “The Einstein Divorce,” an unfaithful husband, while drowning his sorrows over his cheating wife, receives advice from a fellow bar patron on how to get away with murder—I loved the brilliant ending), K.A. Laity, Joe R. Lansdale, and many more (the works of over 80 authors appear in the collection).

Devourers of short crime fiction will also delight in tasty, bite-sized nuggets from Brendan DuBois, Steve Hockensmith, Stephen D. Rogers (in “Death Buys a Burger,” a recently released convict seeks his share of an ill-fated bank holdup from the one who got away), Chuck Caruso, Jim Fusilli, Ed Gorman, Parnell Hall, Tom Pitts, and Cindy Rosmus.

As if this anthology could possibly get any better, savory slices of murder and mayhem are also served up from Tasha Alexander (a twist or two awaits in “Preparations,” in which a young London lady marries into royalty and suffers brutally), Charles Ardai (the dreams of a struggling exotic dancer in Arizona are vividly described in “Thunder at the Horizon”), and so many others, including David Corbett, Tyler Dilts, Sean Doolittle, Chuck Hogan.

More stories were contributed by prolific, award-winning novelists and short story authors such as Raymond Benson, Jill Billheimer, Peter Blauner, Rhys Bowen, Ken Bruen, William E. Chambers, Lyndsay Faye, Christopher Coake (who cleverly composes his story in “Acknowledgments”), Reed Farrel Coleman (in “The Terminal,” the past catches up with Doc on the boardwalk of Coney Island), Jo Dereski, Bruce DeSilva, Loren D. Estleman (his “Wolfe on the Roof” story features Nero Wolfe-admirer Claudius Lyon), Christa Faust, Christopher Fowler, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera (in whose story,a private eye receives a mysterious case about Halloween night mischief in South Beach), Chris Grabenstein, Andrew Klavan, and C.E. Lawrence (aka Carole Bugge).

Bad cops get their comeuppance in Jay Brandon’s “Get the Confession,” and James O. Born’s “Sucker’s Bet,” which also includes a scorned woman seeking revenge. An astute detective investigates a murder the old-fashioned way by pounding the pavement in Albert Ashforth’s “One Person’s Clutter.” A letter carrier discovers the frozen body of Bill, a loser who regularly beats his girlfriend, known as “The Old Gal,” in the entry by Gregory Gibson. In Warren C. Easley’s “The Promise,” a smart kid figures out how to capture her grandfather’s murderer.

I read Kwik Krimes in waiting rooms; in Long Island traffic; on the LIRR; the NYC subway; at several Starbucks (after describing the book to a fellow patron, he opined, “Sounds like a great book to read in the bathroom!” I must admit, despite flashbacks of the Seinfeld ‘flagged’ book episode, I had to agree)—virtually anywhere waiting occurs—Kwik Krimes will be the perfect companion.

I’d be hard-pressed to choose a favorite among these jewels, but I must mention a story that provided laugh-out-loud comic relief: “Hansel, Gretel, and the Witch,” by Gary Alexander. The action takes place on the set of a food network, when a “witch,” the host of “Cauldron Cooking,” learns that her show is about to go on hiatus due to flat ratings, while the station manager plans to expand the Hansel and Gretel show starring two kids. “They were cherubic and adorable, him in lederhosen, a budding Hitler Youth type, and her in a ruffled peasant dress. They made the witch sick. And weren’t there child-labor laws?”

The witch contacts Phil, her fifth ex-husband (who still carries a torch for her), and was “a major-appliance repairman, having learned the trade in the state penitentiary,” and together, they scheme a way to derail the kids’ show. Hilarity and danger ensues.

Summer still has a few weeks left, yet I’m already thinking about the avid crime fic readers on my holiday gift list who will savor this compilation. IMHO, this book would also serve well for those wishing to sharpen their craft by studying these well-told tales, each skillfully composed in less than a thousand words.

The stories in Kwik Krimes— filled with surprises, thrills, shocks, sadness, twists, revenge, and the occasional chuckle — may be quick to read, but they linger long after closing the book.


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Kathleen A. Ryan’s work appears in Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer; Discount Noir; Women Warriors: Stories From the Thin Blue Line; and most recently in Grand Central Noir. “Heat of Passion,” published at A Twist of Noir, was short-listed for the 2012 Derringer and Macavity Awards. She blogs at Women of Mystery. On Twitter: @katcop13.


  1. Deborah Lacy

    Thanks for a great post Kathleen. Sounds like a really fun book.

  2. Kathleen A Ryan

    YW, Deborah! It is a fun book. It’s satisfying to read an expertly-crafted story in 4 pages or less, when time is of the essence. As I mentioned in the review, as a writer, I find KWIK KRIMES to be a helpful writing tool; reading & studying the stories provides fantastic examples of how short crime flash fiction should be done 🙂

  3. Diane Castiglione

    Would like to read this. Sounds interesting.
    Thank you

  4. Kathleen Ryan

    I think you will love the collection, Diane! They are even fun to re-read 🙂

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