Beat to a Pulp has just put out a collection of short fiction by the writer who, in my opinion, sets the standard for all contemporary crime writers. Garnett Elliott's Scorched Noir rounds up eight tales that take place in the southwest, mostly Arizona. I've seen a lot of people attempt to compare various noir writers to Raymond Carver, but I think only Mr. Elliott actually lives up to that comparison. While Carver made the bleak lives of lower middle class and impoverished Americans fashionable with the latte' crowd, I always got a sense that Carver looked down on his characters. Garnett Elliott does not. He presents these desperate folks--prison guards, holdup artists, junkies, and even the small night staff of a local hospital--as they are, without judgment. The 'scorched' part of the title of the book is well represented throughout. One feels that a slight change of environment might help some of the characters. The sun is always present, always beating down and increasing the odds against them. As usual, Elliott's prose is darn near flawless, something I really value in a writer's work (it shows the writer has taken the time to carefully revise and think about the job each word performs in each sentence). If you want a crash course in writing contemporary noir, this collection might well be a good place to start.