I’m on record as not being a fan of neo-noir stories in general. Too often the depravity of the setting is the reason for the story. The author revels in it, finds humor in it, likes rolling around in it, and, in so doing, forgets there needs to be at least one character for readers to care about, even if we don’t like him. I don’t read much of it anymore, though I’m still a fan of modern stories written with traditional noir sensibilities. Ray Banks comes to mind. There are others.
Like Dan O’Shea.
O’Shea’s current anthology, Old School, has several stories I’d read before. That doesn’t mean I skipped over them. His balance of darkness, humor, and dark humor blends with characters who might well be real people to create stories that straddle the traditional noir/neo-noir border with confidence.
I first became aware of his writing through Patti Abbott’s flash fiction challenges, and his flash pieces are first rate. The longer stories also bear close scrutiny. The dialog rests well on the ear, there is exactly as much description as is needed, and the situations, while dire, never show the reverse (perverse?) deus ex machina used by too many purveyors of neo-noir to make things worse than they could reasonably be expected ever to become. Every O’Shea situation leaves you thinking, “I can see that happening,” which makes what does happen even more powerful or unsettling.
Old School is three bucks on Amazon. A little pricier than Worst Enemies at $2.99—he’s clearly aiming at the carriage trade-- but it’s quality stuff, well worth the time of anyone who likes a good story, well told..