06 December 2022

No More Guns, No More Tacos

This month saw the release of the final episode of the Guns + Tacos novella anthology series, a project that Trey R. Barker and I created and edited that involved 22 writers (including ourselves) who produced 24 novellas and four bonus stories over the course of four years.

Trey, Frank Zafiro, and I wrote about the project’s genesis back in 2019 (“The Genesis of Guns + Tacos,” SleuthSayers, April 2, 2019), but the short version is this:

Temple and I met Trey and Kathy Barker for lunch at the St. Petersburg Bouchercon in 2018 and somehow wound up discussing Trey’s two favorite things: guns and tacos. Later, Temple suggested that “guns and tacos” might be a good premise for an anthology. Over the course of the afternoon, Trey and I batted the idea around, and that evening, while sitting on the veranda of the Vinoy, we suggested the idea to Eric Campbell of Down & Out Books.

Eric asked if we could turn the concept into a “novella anthology series” similar to A Grifter’s Song, the series Frank Zafiro had already successfully pitched to Down & Out. At some point, Frank joined the conversation, offered advice and suggestions, and later let us crib from his successful proposal for the creation of our proposal. (He also contributed a novella to the first season.)

And for four years Frank’s series was released each year January through June and ours July through December.

It is possible, given the open-ended nature of the Guns + Tacos concept, that it could have lasted longer, but Trey—who has an incredibly busy life—wanted to spend more of his available time writing and less of it editing. So, we decided to bring the series to a close.


Guns + Tacos novellas are set in and around Chicago and share one thing in common: Each story involves a visit to Jesse’s Tacos, a taco truck that is rarely in the same place twice and that sells weapons as the special of the day. Contributors were tasked with telling the story of why people would purchase guns from Jesse’s Tacos and what they would do with the guns once they had them. This allowed for a wide range of stories, though they tend toward action and hardboiled.

The mystery writing community is small, and chances are we all have less than six degrees of separation. Even so, Trey and I were able to bring together a variety of contributors who were not known to us both, which is one of the joys of co-editing, and seeing how each writer responded to the challenge makes for a great deal of enjoyable reading.

Trey and I contributed to the series, as did Ann Aptaker, Eric Beetner, C.W. Blackwell, Alec Cizak, James A. Hearn, David H. Hendrickson, Hugh Lessig, Adam Meyer, Karen E. Olson, Alan Orloff, Gary Phillips, Neil S. Plakcy, William Dylan Powell, Ryan Sayles, Mark Troy, Joseph S. Walker, Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Stacy Woodson, Frank Zafiro, and Dave Zeltserman.

If you’ve not yet experienced Guns + Tacos, all of the novellas are available as ebooks from the publisher and at your favorite online bookstores. For those who prefer reading traditional books, at the end of each season, that season’s novellas are collected into a pair of paperbacks. The first three seasons are currently available as paperbacks and the final season’s paperbacks should be available in early January.


Keep your eyes peeled for a new serial novella anthology series coming in 2023.

I’ve created and am editing Chop Shop, a series about car thieves in Dallas, Texas. Contributors to the first season have been lined up and will be announced sometime next year.

My story “Kissing Cousins” appears in the first issue of Starlite Pulp Review, due out this month.

Also coming this month from Down & Out Books:
Mickey Finn: 21st Century Noir, vol. 3, with stories by Ann Aptaker, Trey R. Barker, C.W. Blackwell, John Bosworth, John M. Floyd, Nils Gilbertson, James A. Hearn, Janice Law, Steve Liskow, Sean McCluskey, Adam Meyer, Alan Orloff, Jon Penfold, C. Matthew Smith, Joseph S. Walker, Michael Wegener, Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Sam Wiebe, and Stacy Woodson.


  1. Congratulations on your story and good wishes for the new and forthcoming anthologies.

  2. I consider being invited to participate in Guns + Tacos as one of the highlights of my writing career. Thanks much for the opportunity--and for a ton of great reading. Anybody who hasn't checked this series out is doing themselves a real disservice.

  3. Congratulations on the anthology! And your story in it!

  4. Well done, Michael, and I echo the congratulations.

  5. I was honored to be a part of this group of writers. It was great premise, and a fun exercise to get out of my comfort zone.


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