I have read everything I can find by Konrath under his various guises. What links his best work, especially the Jack Daniels series, is a wonderful pacing, the ability to create characters who may be unrealistic at times, but are always appealing. Even his serial killers are fun! In these books, Konrath's humor comes across wonderfully in the context of the story's characters.
I suspect Konrath has never had an original idea in any of his writings. What he does best is to take up tropes from his favorite genres (also my favorite genres as it happens), and give them new twists. He makes them his own and what results is enjoyable, fast paced and that word again, fun, reads.
The author prides himself on his humor, and in this one he confesses to having once attempted to be a standup comedian. As a comedian, he is a great writer. His output is prolific and his confidence that he is really a comedian misplaced as a writer is unshakable (or unstirable to stay in character). Both of these qualities are sometimes his Achilles heal. In terms of the former, nothing is left on the cutting room floor. Rather, it is recycled and diligent readers of his books are often left with a sense of déjà vu. But then again, he is such a terrific writer that second helpings are not so bad. Especially at the prices of his works in kindle versions.
Where Konrath's fans run into trouble however, is when his jokes become the premise of a story rather than a feature of it. Explaining this process in Crime Stories, Konrath notes how he saves up jokes on slips of paper for later use if they don't fit into a particular story. The result at worst is something like Crime Stories. The book tries too hard to be funny and as a result most of the stories contained here are simply tedious. A few were printed in minor journals, conference programs--or for that matter probably on cocktail bar napkins as he is sliding off his stool at the end of long and bleary night. Apparently, a monster, zombie, space alien or--most likely--a sadistic serial killer sees that these musings are found on the body the next day and added to the clutter on his disk top. Others were rejected outright. Some several times by different venues. Never one to waste a word once typed, they are simply thrown back into the hopper. Too many of these rejects are contained in this volume.
There are a few hits among the many misses however. One is a cuttingly hilarious recounting of the authors' side of cons (where the rabble seek to rub shoulders with their favorite writers). The story is wonderfully self-deprecating, and also names names in cutting observations of his fellow 'artistes'. The highpoint of this collection though is also the most telling. In this cautionary tale (a caution which J.A. fails to heed unfortunately), a truly bad story is panned by his wife, his mother, and even his house cat. Rather than take this to to heart, our hero finds a wino (umm, street person, sorry) who he offers five bucks to listen to the story and offer a critique. Having committed the atrocity on the person of the aforementioned derelict (ummm, homeless person, sorry), he then stiffs the victim in retaliation for his unenthusiastic reaction. The story is so bad however, that the enraged bum (umm, domicilecly challenged, sorry)runs him down and demands--and gets--$40 for his pain and suffering. I am sure that this story itself lurks in this collection.
The whole book costs less than $3. I do hope to see a refund of $37.00 to cover my time and disappointment. Alternatively, I would be satisfied to have the author keep my money, but but to run a warning on the cover to the effect of: "Beware, most of these stories have been rejected by publishers, family members, domestic pets and other audiences. Proceed at your own risk"