Somebody must sure like sex capped by murder (few crimes here less weighty than homicide), since this sequel to Collins and Gelb’s 2001 Flesh & Blood has appeared with all the impatient haste of a john circling a city block. Whether the kiss-and-kill subgenre is on a firmer basis now or this year’s contributors are more in tune with it, it’s a pleasure to report how much better this volume is than its predecessor. There are still a fair number of tales that get by, like a movie trailer, on a steamy promise or a single plot twist, like Richard S. Meyers’s report from the soft-core industry, co-editor Gelb’s account of erotic writer’s block, or Matthew V. Clemens and co-editor Collins’s jokey dissection of a Lolita complex; Bill Pronzini’s peeping Tom doesn’t even merit a single twist. But some of the one-trick ponies—O’Neil De Noux’s titillating comeuppance for a mob holdout, Jon L. Breen’s audition for a role in a nonexistent sex film, and Paul Bishop’s TV-drama triangle—are models of their kind; a few enterprising entrants like Marthayn Pelegrimas and Alan Ormsby offer more full-blooded plots without stinting the slap and tickle; and the best of the bunch, John Lutz’s sad prostitute who finds true love and Jeremiah Healy’s serial killer who likes to play with his female victims, would do credit to any collection.
The only major disappointment among the 18 otherwise-new stories is Mickey Spillane’s quaint reminder of how little it took to make a mystery look risqué back in 1973.