This was an impulse buy, and not a hard one to make. One of the earliest reviews I’d written was of Bracken’s All White Girls, a ragged tale set in the underside of a city that was either Chicago or New Orleans, never figured out which. Plus, I’d written for an anthology Bracken was commissioned to edit (which, in the grand tradition of small press in the mid-2000’s, never got out of the gate.) So a collection of erotic tales he’s written for men’s magazines over the years was not too much of a stretch to buy.
Sex, Violence, & Half a Million Dollars starts off with sex and extreme violence. A couple whose marriage is on the rocks finds themselves snowed in with nothing to do but eat canned goods and have sex. Between that time, they argue constantly. The ending, however, comes straight out of a Stephen King short story when the husband finds a lurid solution to his situation. Talk about starting with a bang.
In “The Naked City,” a homicide cop gets himself into trouble questioning a stripper and thinking in his pants instead of above his shoulders. Never mind that his new “friend” practically hands him the evidence. He’s having too good a time. After all, who gets to nail a stripper outside of The Jerry Springer Show?
Of all the stories in this collection, though, I liked “How to Pick Up Beautiful Women,” wherein a man in the bar hustles fellow bar rats by bragging about how he can pick up a woman on any given night with his “system.” His partner in crime will either leave you laughing or thinking, “Ew!”
All of these stories originally appeared in men’s magazines. Not Maxim or FHM. The best known is Hustler Fantasies. As such, the women are uniformly large-breasted with an affinity for performing oral feats of pleasure. Admittedly, it gets a little old reading essentially the same description of women over and over again. But consider the market Bracken originally wrote these for. Now consider how much plastic and Photoshop go into the photos they publish now.
The stories work, however, when they go beyond a Penthouse Forum letter with a semblance of a plot slapped on it. The first story sounds very much like a Stephen King story along the lines of “The Ledge” or Gerald’s Game. A few of these stories might have made it into Plots With Guns with few changes, if any. Bracken is a good storyteller who knows his market. Which is good. I’m generally not a fan of erotic literature, so a good story will grab my attention.