Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Reloaded by Ron Earl Phillips, Jen Conley and Christopher L. Irvin (editors)

I love short stories, though I don’t get to read as many as I’d like to nowadays. People think that writing a novel is hard, but in my eyes writing a short story and getting everything right is even harder. With a novel you have the time and space to create a whole world and expand on it, whereas with a short story the limited space asks a lot of you, since if you don’t manage to get everything perfectly right you’ll fail.

The first question that comes to mind then is: ‘Did some of the authors here fail?’ Well, let’s say that some did a better job than others. However it would be amiss of me not to say that that is not something unexpected, since once you decide to host 25 authors under a single volume their differences are destined to emerge. On the other hand, especially when it comes to short stories, most of the time taste takes centre stage; what works for me doesn’t work for you and vice versa.

Regardless, I have to say that one way or another I really enjoyed reading this book, as I found bliss in variety. Whilst going through its many stories and meeting dozens of characters I felt like I was taking an interesting and at times funny ride into crime country; a country where everything can and does happen. Once there one meets lethal… hairdressers, dogfights, runaways, Bonnie and Clyde style bandits, hitmen and kidnappers of dead people, bagmen and enforcers.

Trying to choose a favourite story among those on offer in these pages was not an easy thing to do because, as I’ve already said, in the end it all boils down to personal taste. That though doesn’t mean I shouldn’t make a special mention to the ones I enjoyed the most, and those were “How to Clean a Gun” by Joe Clifford, ‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation” by Nick Kolakowski and “What Goes Around” by Terence Butler, a kind of parody with echoes of tragedy, if that makes any sense.

The characters portrayed in the aforementioned stories remain with the readers for long, as they somehow manage to infiltrate their thoughts and stay put. The first is the story of a family whose only law is breaking the law, and its current and permanent victim is a young girl who tries desperately to escape the misery imposed by her mother. The second one talks about a company of young people who seem to have lost their way in the world and seek refuge and fame in crime. And the last is all about a bull of a man who’s desperately in love with a woman that hates his guts and is determined to kill him.

In almost every single one of these stories tragedy seems to await just around the corner. The heroes live in misery, in a world in which only the strong survive while the rest are doomed to vanish. And in most of the cases there’s no redemption to be found anywhere and no hope. People dream of happiness, yet they keep living in sorrow, and they dream of freedom, though none of them escapes their destiny.

If you like crime fiction you’ll surely enjoy this collection. It could be better, that is true, but as someone who’s read a lot of similar books in the past let me say that this is one of the best.

This review was published in Crime Factory magazine

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