The Night of the Flood: A Novel in Sto­ries

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews - JOSEPH S. PETE

Sarah M. Chen, E.A. Ay­mar (Ed­i­tors) Down & Out Books (MARCH) Soft­cover $17.95 (286pp), 978-1-946502-51-3

The Night of the Flood uses an orig­i­nal and in­trigu­ing premise as a play­ground for sea­soned crime writ­ers to spin sor­did but cap­ti­vat­ing tales.

A group of strong ac­tivist women protest­ing the first ex­e­cu­tion of a woman in Penn­syl­va­nia in mod­ern times blows up a dam, flood­ing the fic­tional town of Ever­ton and ush­er­ing in a night of chaotic law­less­ness and loot­ing. This “novel in sto­ries” uses this premise; a hand­ful of writ­ers present their unique riffs on the sce­nario.

They write about truck thieves, loot­ers, lowlifes, thugs, tough guys, kid­nap­pers, and killers who run ram­pant while the town is par­tially sub­merged. The writ­ers think through all the var­i­ous reper­cus­sions of an an­thro­pogenic dis­as­ter, such as the sud­den abil­ity to make a quick buck fer­ry­ing the stranded out of town, prop­erty own­ers hell-bent on de­fend­ing what’s theirs, and op­por­tunists see­ing the per­fect chance to strike.

One sce­nario in­volves a hit man who pays an un­friendly visit to a lo­cal bar­man, who clev­erly sends him to a neigh­bor­hood watch meet­ing where the would-be vig­i­lantes are armed with base­ball bats. The nar­ra­tive does not go as one would ex­pect, a credit to the au­thor’s gift of sto­ry­telling.

Al­most all of the sto­ries veer off the well-trod­den path. They are writ­ten by ac­com­plished, ac­claimed thriller au­thors who have con­trib­uted to es­teemed pub­li­ca­tions. The var­i­ous en­tries crackle with ten­sion and high stakes.

One quickly warms up to the pa­rade of new char­ac­ters, who in­vari­ably find them­selves in danger or at least ex­tremis. Though the sto­ries are not ex­plic­itly in­ter­re­lated, they’re tied to­gether ex­pertly, in­clud­ing with an epi­logue that in­cludes a killer, mas­ter­ful, drop-the-mic twist. While the col­lec­tion in­cludes var­i­ous styles and voices, it feels as though it was mas­ter­minded by a sin­gle in­ge­nious au­thor.

The Night of the Flood shines, show­cas­ing tal­ented writ­ers mak­ing the most of an in­ven­tive start­ing point.

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