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Criminally Yours
by William P. Tandy, Benn Ray
Eight-Stone Press (2007)
Criminally Yours
Forget city guides and phone books. Upon stepping from the moving truck, new residents to Baltimore should be handed a copy of Criminally Yours, a true crime zine published by Eight Stone Press and the weekly email list-serv Mobtown Shank, where many of these stories first appeared. Don't get me wrong, it's not a scare tactic or wake-up call. Between television shows like Homicide, The Corner, The Wire and long standing top billing among our nation's most murderous cities, Baltimore's high crime rate is well known. No, the reason new residents should pour over Criminally Yours is to understand that there's humor, albeit dark, that can be dredged from awful circumstances. And this humor is crucial to the city's character as it keeps paranoia a bay.

On the whole, the writing in Criminally Yours is engaging, remarkable considering it was culled from an open submission and a testament to the savviness of The Shank's readers. Peppered throughout are the city's crime statistics and it's heartening to be living in the Baltimore of the late 00s rather than late 90s. Things have shaped up quite a bit. Still there are plenty of tales to be shared, from street scams, theft, break-ins, assault, misspelled graffiti to a mugger who was jacked for his knife by a pizza delivery guy. While some of the stories are horrific: beat downs, brandished weapons and a bicyclist who was inexplicably whipped across the chest with a length of cord by a stranger in the street, others are absurdly amusing. One woman found that someone had broken into her car, merely to enjoy a cigarette. They left everything behind, including the smell of smoke she discovered the next day. Or the teenage aspiring thief who was shamed, mid-crime, by an elderly neighbor of his acquaintance.

The common theme in the tales is an attitude of 'Well, that's Baltimore for you.' Contributors don't wear their crime survival as a badge of honor, but there is an air of triumph. Also, a pervasive sense of inevitability. At the very least, the zine seems to convey, you'll witness a crime. It's an attitude I have seen in many residents and have taken on myself. Of course, I have had my brushes like most others: having a carry-out order thrown at me and then being slapped by the same customer for daring to throw his food back at him; having my tip jar stolen a few times and of course, witnessing a couple terrifying parking lot five-on-one stompings. And there's the not infrequent pops of gunfire in the distance. Sure, Baltimore has some major issues, but Criminally Yours succeeds in mining both humor and strength of spirit despite its grim subject.
Posted by: R. Baker

Print Reviews (July 13th, 2007)


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