Literary magazines and publishers don’t usually enclose books of matches when they send new books and press releases. Thieves Jargon, a weekly online literary journal, just put out an anthology of the best writing they’ve published in the past two years, and with the small book with the Tarot card cover came a matchbook, bright red, with the Thieves Jargon Press logo on it. Have a smoke. Light your house on fire. Burn these pages when you’re through. It’s rogue and renegade, a little dangerous.
And many of the stories do flame along -- short and fast and bold. Edited by Salem resident Matt DiGani, the journal, according to its manifesto, favors adventurous writing: “We’re interested in finding stories about drifters and hustlers and dreamers . . . Or stuff about fighting or gambling. Or about doin’ it.” And in the anthology, Year of the Thief, DiGani selected “thirsty stories, tales whispered from traveling salesmen to wide-eyed youngsters in bowling alley parking lots.”
Tom Meek, a Phoenix contributor, writes instructions to a football player, on the game and on life, in “Scrambling.” In a single, lengthy paragraph, Meek tells the kid how to do right by his mom, by his team, by himself. “Don’t pack. A gun for anything but hunting can land you in a cement box. Cats and jackrabbits are fair game for off-road ‘Death Race,’ but dogs and armadillos are off limits, no matter how drunk you get. Never fumble a snap from center. Always place the ball firmly in the back’s abdomen. Don’t get injured. Never pay for a lap dance at the Vixen Den, unless it’s Daiquiri, aka Cheryl Ann Travis, the head cheerleader when you were a freshman, because she usually throws in a complimentary ‘State Championship’ blowjob.”
Massachusetts writer James Grinwis’s flash fiction piece “The Toddler Somnambulists” opens the anthology. Less than a hundred words, the piece is closer to a poem about tiny humans “like rowboats half filled with brine.”
The images in Boston native Ken Ryan’s “In Dena” are raw and the rhythm of the sentences pull you along like a drumbeat. “You snap the spine of the book and lay it like a dead bird on the cash register. You don’t look at me. Then, you do. I’m thirsty. You’re coy.” It ends with booze and blood.
Eric Jones, who lives in New Hampshire, twists the tale of the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker in “The Immutable Laws of Physics,” in which the butcher taps burning embers from his pipe into an ocean that’s already aflame.
You can buy Year of the Thief for $10.95 here.
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Nina MacLaughlin: firstname.lastname@example.org