One Percent, The: Tales of the Super Wealthy and Depraved “Presented by” Rock And A Hard Place Press, 221 pgs.

Mar 19, 2024

From the mid-1940s until his 1980 death, director Alfred Hitchcock lent his name to a series of short story anthologies. A representative title is Alfred Hitchcock’s Happiness Is a Warm Corpse. (The books continued after his death.) The stories had usually—probably always—been previously published, frequently in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, the first issue of which came out in 1956 and which is still going. The appetite for short crime fiction, while of course diminished by television, has never gone away.

Rock And A Hard Place Press, publisher of the noir magazine Rock and a Hard Place, has published The One Percent: Tales of the Super Wealthy and Depraved, a collection of short fiction in which there’s usually a very moneyed villain, but not always. In one story, not a crime story, the wealthy guy is just a huge asshole. Another non-crime story concerns a day in the life of a guy who’s won an eight- or nine-figure lottery.

Some of the stories are charmingly old-fashioned. In Lin Morris’s story “Trust Me,” the first line of dialogue is “Welcome to Death, Incorporated, Mr. Smith.” The title of C.W. Blackwell’s story “The Block and the Chain,” about a blockchain-touting douchebag, tells you how the story—a neatly wrapped-up story of vengeance—is going to end, but that somehow makes the story more fun.

Vengeance as a theme is something stories in The One Percent have in common with many stories of the Hitchcock era. But one thing you never (or “never”) saw in crime fiction during, say, the Eisenhower years was political, social, or economic anger, anger that’s all over The One Percent. Fictionalized targets include Wayne LaPierre (as I write this, a ProPublica headline from three days ago says that “Secret Recording Shows NRA Treasurer Plotting to Conceal Extravagant Expenses Involving Wayne LaPierre”), Jeffrey Epstein, and Ghislaine Maxwell.

Sixteen stories, objectively not a dud in the lot.

And now to praise the cover art by Heather Garth. Look it up. The book will for a period be sitting cover-out on a shelf in my apartment that’s usually reserved for 7”cover art. –Jim Woster (Rock And A Hard Place Press, rockandahardplacemag.com)


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