Twenty-one stories in protracted homage to what the publisher calls ”the granddaddy of all cusswords.”
The project was spawned, Mark Billingham says in his rather rancorous introduction, by years of priggish complaints from readers he characterizes as “shocked and disgusted by a little bad language.” On hearing him rant, he says, editor Jordan was “inspired” to gather stories from the 21 writers represented here, among them such veterans as Laura Lippman, Olen Steinhauer, Ken Bruen and Charlie Huston. The only noteworthy entry from these leading lights is Steinhauer’s “Hungarian Lessons,” a twisty, offbeat yarn in which a writer named Olen Steinhauer learns some bitter, near-fatal lessons having little to do with language study. They do, however, result in his becoming for a time notorious, “more famous than Dan Brown—in Hungary.” Among the work of lesser-known contributors, Otis Twelve’s “Fluff,” which portrays the unhappy world of porn stars vividly enough to evoke empathy, is certainly readable. That’s the extent of the good news. The rest of the collection is meretricious or repetitious or both; two stories have exactly the same “surprise” ending. What you’re left with after the last expletive has been used is a collection that has succeeded in making “expletive” boring.
It’s possible to write decently about indecent things, but by and large that doesn’t happen here.