Cold Blood: Fatal Fables, by Bill Kieffer – Book Review by Fred Patten
by Pup Matthias
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Cold Blood: Fatal Fables, by Bill Kieffer.
Capalaba, Queensland, Australia, Jaffa Books, May 2018, trade paperback, $17.00 (323 pages), Kindle $5.50.
Readers had better consider Cold Blood an adult book for all the graphic M/M sex in the original stories.
This is Kieffer’s collection of six anthro “furry noir” novelettes set in his Aesop’s World universe. Five of them feature his Brooklyn Blackie wolfdog private investigator. The sixth features Frosty Pine, a Bearded Dragon roadie of another Bearded Dragon who is a rock star. Two of them are reprints; “Brooklyn Blackie and the Unappetizing Menu” from the anthology Inhuman Acts: An Anthology of Noir, edited by Ocean Tigrox, and “Unbalanced Scales” from ROAR vol. 7, edited by Mary E. Lowd. If you liked those samples of Kieffer’s furry crime noir stories, here are more of them.
Cold Blood does not have a Table of Contents. Allow me to add one:
“Welcome to Aesop’s World”, a four–page Introduction, p. 
“Shepard”, p. 11
“Brooklyn Blackie and the Dude-Less Dude Ranch”, p. 61
“Brooklyn Blackie and the Rainbow in the Dark”, p. 110
“Brooklyn Blackie and the Unappetizing Menu”, p. 177
“Brooklyn Blackie and the Reverse Badger Game”, p. 233
“Unbalanced Scales”, p. 272
Kieffer’s “Aesop’s World” furry stories are set in the city of New Amsterdam, in the nation of the United and Independent States. It’s our world with differences, from barely-changed names to real supernatural forces. There are languages like Aenglish and Gallish; states like Tejas; religious figures like Xrist. The species names are the same (Dogs, Cats, Rhinos, Anoles, Roadrunner), but they’re divided into Warms, Colds (or Repts), and Avis.
Blackie is a minor character in “Shepard”. Police detective Andrew Shepard, an Alsatian, is not corrupt, but he is a sadist who gleefully beats up suspects and anyone he doesn’t like. But he’s loyal to his friends. Young Blake Black, the son of Waldo “Big Blackie” Black and his wife Lynne (wolves) is the seventh son of a seventh son, and is believed by the superstitious to be cursed. When little Blackie is kidnapped by the Illuminati Arcana cult to be sacrificed to their god, Shepard bursts into their church to rescue him. (He is really Shepard’s and Lynne’s illegitimate child.) But things aren’t what they seem:
“Ursine features registered surprise and then amusement. ‘Detective… That’s a Wheel of Exorcism, not a Wheel of Sacrifice. No one was supposed to die tonight. Once the demon is out of the boy, we are going to release him.’ The sound of a gun cocking was like punctuation to his next statement. ‘You will not be so fortunate.’
‘Lycanthropes are only one of the curses the seventh son of a seventh son might be inflicted with. In the case of Blake Black, it seems that he’s a Black Dog… the Incarnation of Death. Death is going to follow him everywhere, unless he’s purged of the demon. Brother Bleu’s death is proof of that.’” (pgs. 42-43)
Shepard’s attack interrupts the exorcism – which may not be needed if young Blackie is really not the son of Big Blackie, after all. Except that, in the following stories after he grows up, Death does seem to follow him everywhere:
“The Rhino gave the knife to the Fox. ‘You’ve released this Black Dog, this walking death, into a world ill-prepared for it. I know in your heart you believe yourself a good man, but you have always been blind to the truth. […] I forgive you for that, but will that child? You’ve condemned him to a life without satisfaction, without peace, without love.’” (p. 55)
The remaining “Brooklyn Blackie” stories are narrated by Blackie himself. “Brooklyn Blackie and the Dude-Less Dude Ranch” is set about 15 years later:
“It was 1945 and the world at large had trouble accepting Repts as people and not the alien monsters they looked like. Still, given the choice between a Warm Pervert and a Cold Xeno, they’d take the Reptile any day. My recent disgrace had me reconsidering my birth father’s advice when he’d packed me off to college in Europe. I needed to get straight. Stay straight.” (p. 62)
When Blackie became an adult, he joined the New Amsterdam City police force, but he got caught as a homosexual, which in 1945 is a huge no-no. In disgrace, he resigned from the PD and became a P.I.
The stories are so similar that there is no need to review each of them. They are all full of stereotypical cynical hard-boiled crime noir action. “I was so tired I was almost surprised that there weren’t goons waiting for us inside my room. That seemed to be how it was done in the movies.” (p. 98) “I hadn’t completely emptied yesterday’s bottle of whiskey. I poured a shot for Cecil and a shot for Ivory. I threw back the last whisper of the stuff onto my tongue. “I am [tracking a murderer]. I have no doubt the Rept I followed here killed the body they found in Harlem.” (p. 99)
It also humorously acknowledges why this world’s animal civilization ought not to work, or at least should cause Blackie constant inconveniences. “I grabbed the whiskey and practiced the complicated art of drinking out of a narrow neck bottle without spilling any out of my muzzle.” (p. 82) “I wondered how much fur I’d left behind on my own bed. Well, shed happens.” (p. 83) “Two [professional groomers] hardly spoke, except to tell me how perfectly black I was for a Wolf and that they ought to be paying me for my shed fur. Pure black was so hard to find. My privates got quiet clinical treatment while my tail was offered a braid.” (p. 84) “I didn’t dare go shirtless [in Las Vegas] with this heatsink hair growing out of my skin. I’d only cook that much faster.” (p. 85) “She called over the floor-walker to show me where the Cosmetic counter was and I thanked her. Then it occurred to me that she could have been a male as easily female. Cuckoo genders are hard to tell.” (p. 87)
Cold Blood: Fatal Fables (cover by Lew Viergacht) is for fans of what Kieffer calls “furry noir”; hard-boiled with much brutality, told with a cynical sense of humor. “Six stories of love and violence.” (blurb) The graphic M/M sex makes it very adult.
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