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Cowboys and Criminals

Eli Katz discusses and links to some of the best short fiction available for free on the Web. This week's pick: Gary Lovisi's "Old Aunt Sin."


Gary Lovisi, a crusty, 59-year-old Brooklynite, is an excellent crime writer who has yet to receive the attention he deserves. He's written numerous short stories and has even been nominated for an Edgar, but he has yet to win the prize. He has written multiple books, both fiction and nonfiction, but has yet to reach the bestseller lists. He owns and operates Gryphon Books, an independent book publishing company, and puts out Hardboiled Magazine and Paperback Parade. But other than hardcore noir enthusiasts, few people have probably heard of Lovisi. He doesn't even have a Wikipedia entry.

I stumbled upon his work about 15 years ago, when I saw his story "New Blood" in this odd but excellent anthology, 100 Crooked Little Crime Stories. What struck me about "New Blood" is that it took an overused character, the serial killer, and in three short pages upended my expectations completely. It's that kind of economy and creativity that I look for in stories, especially crime stories. Although Lovisi is best known for noir fiction, his most touching and powerful story, [url=http://blackpetalsks.tripod.com/yellowmamaarchives/id19.html]"Old Aunt Sin,"[/url] is set in nineteenth-century Texas and deals with the uneasy, often violent interaction between white and Native American society. It's told from the point of view of a young country girl and perhaps, for this reason, it may remind some of Charles Portis's True Grit. But in contrast to Portis's humorous depiction of the Old West, Lovisi describes a world of massive ignorant brutality in which kindness must be conducted in secret. This story covers some uncomfortable issues, in other words, but it remains engaging from beginning to end because Lovisi creates vivid characters and uses a distinct narrative voice. Enjoy!

Written or Contributed by: Eli Katz

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