[For the previous countdown post, click here.]
10. “The Mojave Two-Step” (1999)
Partridge has made a career out of mixing the genres of horror, dark fantasy, hard-boiled crime, and the western, but this entry stands out for its combination of crime noir with science fiction. The story is set “in the twilight days of global warming,” when cars are necessarily electric and “the licensing fees for luxuries which negatively impacted the sorry remains of the the ozone layer cost more than the cars.” A pair of armed criminals, Anshutes and Coker, are driving a hijacked ice cream truck (whose hot goods will be like frozen gold when sold on the black market) towards the air-conditioned oasis of Las Vegas. En route they run across, and nearly over, a robotic one-armed bandit. Even stranger than an “ambulatory slot machine” walking down a desert highway is the sight of the young woman lashed to its back (the titular punishment, handed down by gangster/casino-owner Johnny Ringo over Kim’s gambling debts). The omen-seeking Coker believes Kim on the “Cogwheel Kid” is Lady Luck personified, but their acquaintance is destined to be unfortunate. Double-crosses between the trio of Anshutes, Coker, and Kim mount up quickly, but for all the bloody mayhem this remains a fun read. Wonderfully offbeat, “The Mojave Two-Step” is on the mark when it comes to inventive and entertaining genre fiction.