(this review originally appeared at Outsider Writers Collective)As much as I hate disclaimers, this review warrants one. I am quite unfamiliar with the hardboiled “pulp” genre from which this book comes, and even less familiar with the gender identity issues that it touches upon. Though, perhaps because of that, as a voice of the majority, I am uniquely qualified to review Let Me Die a Woman. Call me a doorway. But one only existing because of the doorway that this, Alan Kelly’s first novella, was for me. This short, brutal book absolutely amazed me.For anyone familiar with my bookshelf, it may come as a surprise that I enjoyed Let Me Die a Woman so much. It lacks the character subtleties and dependence on internal struggle that typifies my favorite books. However, based on the cover design, the press’s About page, and my familiarity with the author’s work (writing for Pretty-Scary.net and Fantastic Horror, for example), I knew before I cracked the spine that I was diving into something unabashedly plot-focused and, dare I say, pulpy. So, with expectations set, I allowed myself to be captivated.Let Me Die a Woman follows a vengeance arc, putting Blood Rag Magazine passionista, Bunny Flask opposite Blood Rag Magazine destroyer, Mick Jones. Though the feud begins mildly, as most stories of job terminations might (over a whisky and a moan at the pub), it quickly escalates into something far larger and nefarious than a simple tale of joblessness. Bunny boils, ultimately given no other option than to fight against the oppression that, she discovers, has been simmering since childhood:“The voices of every person who had ever shit on her, ripped her off or violated her in one way or another came crushing down on her – Jones, Josh, Alice Fiend, her parents. She turned on the shower and taps until steam filled the small room, blinding her to her own bruising. She removed her clothes and forced herself under scalding water and screamed hard, expelling the rage that was burning up through her. The rusty water was the colour of spoilt fruit. She slapped and punched at the tiles, the water searing her skin, and carried on until she passed out.” (pg 37)“She wondered how people got thrown into these lives. How they were made to lead them whether they wanted to or not and, paradoxically, they’d often rather live than not. No matter what people were expected to endure – that world just out there was lonely and cold and brutal – but people’d always rather, above all else, be hopelessly alive. She was on her way to Hell and it didn’t even bother her. The train had arrived.” (pg 49)Kelly manages to incorporate a conspiracy plot into the narrative, one I have never read before (again, I am not intimately familiar with the hardboiled pulp pool, so maybe Kelly is stealing every word…though I doubt it). Riding the ruse of a hard genre story while sneaking in larger cultural discussions (specifically gender identity issues), Let Me Die a Woman reminds me of Rayo Casablanca’s 6 Sick Hipsters, though Casablanca’s thriller base and hipster cast would be replaced by Kelly’s sci-fi horror and empowered female mercenaries.