Shoot ’em up

Thuglit Presents: Sex, Thugs and Rock & Roll

The writers at give a much-needed shot of adrenaline into the heart of the dying genre of noir and crime lit, but the hit-and-miss, random style of this anthology, Thuglit Presents: Sex, Thugs and Rock & Roll, lacks a reader-friendly appeal that could really give the genre the life it deserves.

For a long time, crime-lit writers had scant places to publish stories that didn’t fit the standards of staple noir magazines such as Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Providing a safe haven for those who operate outside the norm, Thuglit produces a monthly e-zine that showcases the best of the deep, dark submissions that they receive from writers across the country. Providing noir tales for the last three years, this is the second anthology of stories published. It showcases the most notable stories from recent issues of the e-zine.

Todd Robinson, a.k.a. Big Daddy Thug, edits the e-zine as well as this collection. The stories on the Web are jampacked full of mob crimes, gore and sex, and these explicit themes are injected into practically every page of the book. Theft, murder, rape, gambling, necrophilia and incest are just a few of the dangerous and dirty deeds described in detail. The stories aim to expose the moral corruption in humanity, and the extremely graphic details included make these stories less than ideal for the reader who is weak of heart.

Some tales also branch out into a more urban setting, deviating from the classic mob motif to access a more streetwise strain of crime lit. One story in particular, “Bullets and Fire,” depicts a gang takedown that is much more Boyz n the Hood than The Godfather and gives the anthology a deeper profile than hit men and gumshoes. These stories not only bend the standards of noir magazines, but outright break them, bringing a new and modern twist to the classic crime-lit story.

However, in this variety, there is a distinct lack of cohesiveness. The stories seem to be ordered with no real rhyme or reason, so it’s difficult to adapt to the tone shifts from story to story. A dark comedy tale can follow a “guns and glory” action story without any introduction. That means that some of the stories may require some rereading in order to adapt to the new tone, adjust to the setting and determine whether the story is taking itself seriously. That lack of structure in organization hinders the overall flow of the anthology.

Some stories also seem to have a hard time establishing a clear voice within a particular time period. With the exception of “Haermund Hardaxe Was Here,” a story about bisexual Vikings raiding a Damascene encampment, none of the stories clearly denote a particular time period. That means that the Dick Tracy-style lingo in stories like “Viddi and the Bucharest Brawler” can seem drastically out of place. The cringe-worthy similes, some of which compare glares to algebra tests and Quakers, don’t mesh with the apparently contemporary setting of the story. Such confusing elements really show that, although crime lit certainly has a modern place, some of the older devices need serious updating before they are way too cliché to be enjoyable.

Thuglit promises Sex, Thugs, and Rock & Roll, and definitely delivers on all three counts. But the lack of an overarching organization and a concise identity for each individual story disarms them of their gritty, fascinating arsenal of crime and sleaze.