Unloaded 2: More Crime Writers Writing Without Guns
Edited by Eric Beetner
Down & Out Books

"Let me assure you that poisoned fungi, sourced locally, are quite delicious."

A deadbeat husband hurls one too many insults. A 1980s-era Los Angeles teen launches an illustrious if predictable criminal career. A new tattoo is only one thing that bleeds at a tattoo parlor. Crimes of passion can taste good. Despite their variety, each of the stories in this entertaining anthology share two key components: they have a criminal element and no guns. This second volume of gun-free crime writer stories advances its message that aggressive gun control is essential in the United States. Stories without guns are the editor’s symbolic statement that guns can and should be eliminated.

Each story is interesting and diverse, with the suspense and anti-heroics that make crime fiction fun and creative. Inside these alternate realities, the criminal mind is delightfully exposed, as are the paths and ponderings of unlikely but nevertheless law-breaking people. Crime, suggest the authors, is everywhere—in all walks of life and at all times of day—and these tales showcase its varietals and versions in captivating style.

Interestingly, however, the absence of guns has the potential to (pardon the term) misfire. These stories are so effective in describing the ubiquity of criminality that they risk making the very point they seek to debunk. The gun advocacy tagline “guns don’t kill people; people kill people” is unintentionally bolstered with stories of criminals who don’t need bullets to do harm. The stories show that people with motive and opportunity find a way to do wrong; guns are a tool, but there are other means in the toolbox. That said, these engaging stories are mostly personal and small-scale, with violence as a product of focused passion rather than random lawlessness. You can’t murder a theater of people with a toaster in the bathtub. Still, if guns disappeared, a motivated criminal might try.

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