fiction

The Bloody Waste by Red Focks

bloody waste cover

By g emil reutter

In The Bloody Waste, Red Focks captures the complexity of the new United States. The novella is driven by a cancer diagnosis of the main character, Greg Redford. There is nothing cliché in this novella. Focks uses the diagnosis as a back drop to issues from health care debt, inter cultural marriage, homelessness, drug addiction, of a family scraping by under the radar and generational political conflict within families. His characters are fully developed and tension drives each and every page.

Greg’s wife, a Mexican immigrant ironically named America is a strong female, the mother of two who deals with Greg’s light hearted reaction to his diagnosis with strength and worry. Greg’s step son is a DACA child and when his America First parents visit, she confronts them and to their shock calls them racist, not in a bitter manner but a matter of fact manner that they deny.

Focks beautifully captures the love between America and Greg as well as the interactions of their family, Nehemiah who has only known Greg as his father and the newborn, Poetry, who drove Greg to disavow drug use.

Focks artfully utilizes flashbacks to tell the backstory of Greg’s struggle with drugs, homelessness and hoboing across the United States to Arizona. Equally he captures the strength of America, his wife who gave birth to Nehemiah as a single mother abandoned by the father of her child. He meets his wife while working as a vendor on the streets of Phoenix, an immediate connection and soon they are living in a trailer on the outskirts of society, married, raising a family. They get by selling artful tee shirts on line.

Focks use of language is sometimes gentle, often harsh and in the use of this language reflects the struggle of everyday Americans. The Bloody Waste lays bare the struggling working class of America in a time when the 1% consolidate wealth leaving the majority on the edges of the American dream.

You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Bloody-Waste-Red-Focks/dp/1734440988/ref=sr_1_fkmr2_2?keywords=the+bloody+waste+by+red+fochs&qid=1584623814&s=books&sr=1-2-fkmr2

 

g emil reutter can be found at: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

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The Bear by Andrew Krivak

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By Lynette G. Esposito
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In a short poem, Robert Frost posed the question, how will the world end–in fire or ice?Dylan Thomas in his famous villanelle Do Not Go Gentle in That Good Night called for us to rage against the dying of the light. Andrew Krivak, in his novel, The Bear, published by Bellevue Literary Press (released February 2020) suggests the end of human beings is not the end of the world but more a natural cycle of events: not fire, nor ice nor rage but almost like going to sleep.  He blends mythological understandings with the quiet natural extinction of a species.
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The story reads like an epic poem with images both literal and figurative leading the reader along the path returning everything to nature before humans existed.
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He begins his novel with: The last two were a girl and her father who lived along the old eastern range on the side of a mountain they called the mountain that stands alone.  The setting, the human relationship and the naming of the mountain are all gently symbolic of the storyline. Krivak focuses on how the father teaches his daughter survival techniques handed down from one generation to another interlaced with legendary tales of a bear.  The father begins the training before the young girl is five as if he has a premonition of things to come.  The father is right.
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The father and daughter are well drawn through the educational and protective concerns for the daughter by the father. Krivak’s presentation through the father’s understanding of how to clean and tan a hide, how to weight an arrow, how to make shoes from animal skins and other skills are believable.  When the father is teaching his daughter, he is also teaching the reader these forgotten skills once so important.
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Krivak writes clearly and effectively of a girl’s journey away from and back to the only home she has known. Along the way, a mythical bear serves as her guide even while he is in winter hibernation.  If the reader allows suspension of disbelief to work, the reality of the fable becomes plausible and the storyline more pleasurable.
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The novel is made up of 223 pages and is well paced.   Krivak refreshes an old theme of the end of human existence and its consequences.   The last chapter begins:
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                  In her final years, the old woman spoke to all the living things of the
                  earth between the mountain and the lakeshore, for they came to
                  her without fear or dominion,,,
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The fiction presents a clear appreciation for nature and all life.  The mythological bear works well as a literary device and symbol of continuousness.
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Krivak’s is well skilled in using universal themes such as the symbol of  an animal guide, the journey home, the last one, and belief in all nature’s living things  This is a very enjoyable read.
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Andrew Krivak is the author of two previous novels, The Signal Flame, and The Sojourn., a National Book Award Finalist and winner of both the Chautauqua Prize and Dayton Literary Peace Prize    He lives with his wife and three children in Somerville, Massachusetts.
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The Bear is available from Consortium Book Sakes and distribution: www.cbsdcom and http://www.blpress.org
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Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University,  Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.

House on the Edge of Town and Other Stories Just Released by Alien Buddha Press

house cover amazon

Alien Buddha Press has just released, House on the Edge of Town and Other Stories by g emil reutter. This short story collection is his first release of fiction since 2014. The book is available at this link:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1651393575/ref=sr_1_1?qid=1578180105&refinements=p_27%3AG+Emil+Reutter&s=books&sr=1-1&text=G+Emil+Reutter

 

What others have to say about House on the Edge of Town and Other Stories

“g emil reutter is the real deal. The authentic voice of weird and wild America. reutter’s stories are vivid and unforgettable. His prose is dazzling”

                                    – James Vincent, editor In Shades Magazine.

                                    – Marina Esmeraldo, creative director In Shades Magazine.

“Tight. Real. This is how g emil reutter solves the style of melodrama in House on the Edge of Town and Other Stories—with a huge dose of insight for those who fall through life and those who barely escape. Even if they are to blame in this world of blame, House on the Edge of Town and Other Stories will make you wonder how in one paragraph, or one page, or barely more than three, you are absorbed to the point of forgetting you are reading a story, the verisimilitude so real you might consider these characters could live on the next block over, that is, if you are observant enough to care. But you care about the women and men in these stories who barely scrape by, and you don’t forget them. g emil reutter tells it like it is. House on the Edge of Town and Other Stories is one of a kind.”

Sandra Fluck, editor The Write Launch Literary Magazine- bookscover2cover, LLC 

“Life jumps off the page and kicks you in the face. Its bitter taste blends with slight optimism, turning you into the right direction. reutter gives you life as it is, without makeup or glitter and leaves you to think over what is and what could be.”

Roxana Nastase Author of A Churchgoing Woman

Editor, Scarlet Leaf Review 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1651393575/ref=sr_1_1?qid=1578180105&refinements=p_27%3AG+Emil+Reutter&s=books&sr=1-1&text=G+Emil+Reutter

Cesare by Jerome Charyn

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By Lynette G. Espositio
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Just in time for 2020 reading, Jerome Charyn gives us a novel of war-torn Berlin and a love story extraordinaire.  Published by Bellevue Literary Press and just released this month, Charyn takes the reader back to a World War II timeline and the dangers and complexities of war intrigues, plot twists and character revelations.
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Before the novel’s first chapter begins, Charyn uses several literary techniques to prepare the reader.  He presents a list of major and minor characters; a glossary of definitions, and a dated letter to set up time, place and situational attitudes.  I like these techniques because it helps the reader have more intimacy with the storyline.  The letter in particular sets the time and situation:  February 11, 1943 from the desk of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, Berlin.  The reader is ready for war.
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The 367 pages of intrigue presented in seven chapters moves at a quick but controlled pace.  The reader is introduced to Erik (Cesare) in a Jewish orphanage sent there by a council of whores who, according to the narrator, sent their “little wolf” there for a better life.  The whores subsidize the orphanage.  War changes this.
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So the main character is in an orphanage going hungry, is Jewish and alone in World War II  Germany.  How can the plot twists turn to positivism?  An uncle saves him, his mother reappears, the Nazi movement flourishes.  Great reading as the characters reveal themselves and their survival techniques in troubled times.
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One of techniques Charyn uses to reveal who a character is involves common stress relievers that an average person might employ when dealing with poor solution scenarios.
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One of techniques Charyn uses to reveal who a character is involves common stress relievers that an average person might employ when dealing with poor solution scenarios.
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                              Erik went on fewer missions.  He’d walk the streets
                              at night in his black leather coat, but he could not save
                              the Jews of his own district.
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In a later section he reveals
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                               He’d kill himself, fall under a moving truck, if he had
                               to follow the admiral’s prescriptions.  He’d save entire
                               families or no one at all.
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It is easy to perceive Erik’s anguish and frustration and for the reader to identify with the character and his situation.  But yet, for all his self conflict and remuneration, Erik  survives.

Charyn  presents the journey of Cesare, rescued by a conflicted Nazi, as he finds his way from his Jewish childhood, the loss of his father at two, the disappearance of his mother, to the life of a Bavarian aristocracy through his sister’s brother and to so much more.  The search for self as the self is changed and changed again is clear and well presented.

Cesare who was Erik seems to be living the preverbal nine lives.

There is a love story that propels the storyline forward.  Joyce Carol Oates says of Charyn in a New York Times Review. “Among Charyn’s writerly gifts is dazzling energy—a highly inflected rapid-fire prose that pulls us along like a pony cart over rough terrain.”

I agree. The prose keeps the reader aware and interested throughout the novel. The storyline shows how love does not conquer all but at least gives life meaning.  Cesare is a well-crafted book and well worth reading.

Cesare is available from www.b.press.org and www.cbsd.com

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Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University,  Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.

Venusberg by Anthony Powell

venus

By Ray Greenblatt

Anthony Powell (1905-2000) is primarily known for his 12-volume series of novels A Dance to the Music of Time. It took him some twenty-five years  (1951-1975) to develop this massive work covering fifty years in the lives of his many characters. From its publication came fame, riches, and a BBC series. After reading this accomplishment, I grew curious to know what he had first written in the 1930’s.

I chose to read Venusberg (1932) to see if Powell’s style had changed over the years. Indeed it had: before the high seriousness of the Dance series, he had used comedy as his major device.

I –Characters

Since people are the mainstays of any novel, let us meet them first. Powell sometimes tosses a number of characters at the reader; however, his acuity in  defining them helps make each person memorable. Lushington, a journalist, is our protagonist. “He was a serious young man with a pink and white face who believed implicitly in eventual progress on a scientific basis although he had had Anglo-Catholic leanings in his City days.” (5) Powell sees religion as just one of the many interchangeable traits that make up a twentieth century person. “An almost absolute business inability and perhaps some hereditary flaw in his character had led him to journalism and being ambitious he hoped one of these days to become dramatic critic on a paper with a decent circulation.” (5) People seem to stumble into jobs pretty much by chance.

Lushington’s friend Da Costa, working in the Venusberg embassy, was the man Lushington was going to visit. “A dark young man with a greenish, horse-shaped face, stood beside him, also watching the sea, his mouth a little open as if at any moment he were going to laugh.” (37)”Da Costa like Lushington was shy. But whereas Lushington’s shyness took the form of creeping about rooms pretending that he was really not there at all, Da Costa’s manifested itself in shouting loud and laughing and upsetting things to counteract this feeling of personal inadequacy.” (5)

Pope, Da Costa’s butler, nearly steals the novel for his eccentricities. “Pope had an unhealthy complexion, strangely discoloured, mineral rather than flesh, and hair so fair that it was nearly white.” (38) “Pope always found difficulty in leaving a room expeditiously. Undisciplined, he gave out vitality in such wrong directions as Da Costa with enormous force.” (67) In a moment of extreme tension, “at the other end of the line Pope gobbled in a kind of ecstasy of fright and refinement, at intervals making a sort of clucking noise as he poured strings of unconnected, ingratiating words into the transmitter.” (136)

Many of the minor characters are also intriguing. Waldemar is a captain in the army and friend of Da Costa: “Waldemar, regarding him as a typical Englishman and as such prepared for the worst, was a little afraid of him. Waldemar himself was a quiet, studious young man whom circumstances rather than taste seemed to have brought to the high calling of arms. He was shy and his tunic was a great deal too tight and whenever Da Costa asked him whether or not he would eat a certain dish he always said ‘Perhaps’ as a polite method of throwing the onus on Da Costa.” (44)

Powell can also depict the nature of children well. Little Panteleimon is a five- year-old:  “Little P’s face was large and round and he stood there, leaning, with all his weight on one leg, gazing in front of him with an expression of convinced and dogged cynicism. “ (93) Then Powell goes more deeply as the mother confronts him: “Little P fixed her with his fishy wide eyes and moved away slightly, crossing one leg behind the other and pointing his toe in the First Position. He was an elderly, world-weary child dressed in the travesty of a sailor suit.” (93)

II – Humor

Already we have been getting hints of humor in the way Powell expresses himself. Some of the humor borders on pathetic often with a comic double punch line. Da Costa was going to take a job with a relative but “his relative, as it happened, retired soon after his arrival but this was due to a personal whim and was unconnected with Da Costa’s shortcomings.” (7) “He had never been in love before, except slightly with one of his first cousins, who was already engaged to a man in the Treasury.” (6) “But she was a girl who felt that life should be full of meaning and she broke with her second husband, a film producer, because he adapted one of the minor classics too freely.” (10)

Many of the people are just downright silly. The French minister’s wife: “She came from Rennes and almost all the fun she got out of life was being rude to the German minister whose surname happened to be of some international significance.” (64) Lushington has been having an affair with a German woman:

“’I do not know,’ she said. ‘Perhaps you will remember me when you see your English girl again.’

‘But you are coming back with me to England.’

‘Oh yes. I forgot.’”

Play on words is another device Powell uses effectively:

“’Woman has become her own master.’

‘And very often someone else’s mistress.’”(118)

At an embassy dinner the American minister says:” ‘Isn’t this party great? It takes you back somehow. The pictures, the armour, the old paneling. Even the dresses and the uniforms. Why we might be at the court of Catherine the Great or the Roi Soleil. Don’t you get me, Lushington? See how I mean?’

‘This sandwich takes me back further than the armour.’”(130)

And there are physical moments: “Da Costa, all legs and arms, sitting in an armchair, as if his limbs had been thrown there without arrangement.” (56) “His wife, whose immense proportions seemed as if they might at any moment evade the neo-classic creation she was wearing.” (125) “His overcoat hung on him quite loosely as if it were suspended from a hook somewhere beneath his neck.” (75) “There were two doors at the entrance, one of them so heavy that only very strong people could get into the hotel at all without help and even those who managed to push it open, unassisted by the hall porter, were often swept back into the street at the very moment when they had seemed on the point of gaining admittance.” (35) “

Other moments of humor are more sarcastic, ironic: “Her father, a captain retired from the Marines, who had lost his wife’s money by judicious investments, lived in a bungalow on the south coast with his eight children and this used sometimes to make him appear a discontented man.” (10) “The girls at the next table were not interested in Waldemar either as they and the manager were equally familiar with the rates of army pay.” (47) “The American minister, who with the help of the German leading-lady was energetically lowering his country’s prestige at the far end of the room.” (49) “Baroness Puckler, who said that in the days before the war when anarchists were an adjunct to any public function of any importance, no royalty would have dreamed of taking so much trouble to remain alive.” (87) Even a couple deaths at the end of the novel did not suppress the humor.

III – Style

Anthony Powell’s novel is only 152 pages long with 37 chapters, which averages four pages per chapter; some of those chapters are one paragraph.  These techniques blend to make the plot move quickly.  Strangely enough, the title Venusberg is never used in the book; we must conjecture that that foreign city is where men and women are searching for love.

He employs vivid participles to good effect: “A group of cavalrymen stood behind him, leaning romantically on their sabers, mopping and mowing at their friends in other parts of the hall and assisting the room’s chiaroscuro with a solid background of red breeches.” (124) He often juxtaposes opposites in one sentence to subtly demonstrate the vagaries of life: “The boat was small. It smelt of cocoanut oil and was to call at Copenhagen on the voyage.” (24) Sometimes he totally omits details, as we do in life: “’To speak of morals,’ said the host, ‘have you heard the latest story about Madame Gomez?’

It was a good one.” (71)

And Powell’s run-on sentences capture life’s awkwardnesses: “Art and letters exhausted, Pope began to roam among the litter of his personal reminiscence, exploring the cramped furtive lanes of memory, winding this way and that through the tinsel by-ways of his past, petting and cosseting his ego, warming it at the glow of innumerable self-congratulatory episodes that had, it seemed, lighted the road.” (74)

But for me metaphors are his most powerful stylistic tool, assisting to convey his humor. Regarding people, “His presence, slowly getting to work like the warming up of an engine.” (41) Lushington gets a job: “But there was a circumstance that gave to the appointment some of the tang of a stale joke, a flavour used-up but at the same time forceful and disturbing like a tune running tiresomely in his head.” (5) “She looked at Lushington under her heavy lashes and he became aware of contact with her. She dropped her eyes suddenly, like pulling down a blind with a snap.” (20) Sometimes the image becomes an abstract artistic one: “The younger one turned and looked at him too and in profile her cheek bones and long, blacked eyelashes made an angular pattern against the varnished walls of the dining room.” (18)

Things and places also come into three-dimensional focus. “This last person carried a heavy instrument as for jacking up a lorry. With this contrivance, which proved to be a survival from the early days of printing, he stamped all the passports which he considered to be in order.” (34) “The food and wine in the restaurant were like the decorations, heavy and pretentious.” (45) “Ortrud and Baroness Puckler were there wearing all their coats and scarves and standing beside a cairn of suitcases.” (33) The start of a day: “Shrill voices that jarred against the thin atmosphere of morning.” (134) The cleaning of a room: “The atmosphere, the fumes of sweat and disinfectant, was midway between an operating theatre and a corner of the monkey house.” (139) A newspaper office: “Lushington went down the stairs which were of stone like those of a prison or lunatic asylum and were, in effect, used to some considerable extent by persons of a criminal tendency or mentally deranged.” (4) “The North Sea, an engrailed tract of sheet iron, heaved a little.” (14) Whether it be metaphor or simile, the image is unique and forceful.

IV – Philosophy

Through his characters Powell has little positive to say about ocean voyages: “The sea was calm and the hard clearness of the night limited the illusion of space and accentuated the claustrophobia of sea-travel. The sea seemed shut in closely by the waves and the bright wastes of stars.” (26) “What’s she like? Well I imagine you know more about her than I do. You were almost alone with her in an open boat for several days. For all the privacy there is on those boats coming out here one might as well be on a raft.” (49)

Embassy life is constricting too: “I met one of their secretaries the other day at a tea party. We were both lodged in a corner and he thought I was an American engineer on his way out to some mines in Russia and I thought he was a French author on his way back. They have invented an entirely new form of boredom, like the worst moments of being in the boy scouts at one’s preparatory school.” (40)  “All around him was the used-up atmosphere of the end of a party.” (132)

Powell has a chance to highlight some American traits: “Lushington shook hands with Cortney who said with a conversational burr as sweet and low as the vox humana of some mighty cinema organ . . .”(43) “They give their best diplomatic posts to business men who need a rest or lawyers who have flown a bit near the wind in their own country. They send publishers to the more important capitals but the people here have to put up with smaller fry.” (41)

The view of policemen is also jaundiced: “There were two gendarmes at the entrance to the block of flats. These, stage policemen out of a knock-about farce, stopped him shaking their heads. They stood in front of the door, grunting and intransigent, making signs that he could not go in, their expressions that of highland cattle.” (137) However, death is feared and respected: “Here then was that rather astonishing mystery about which so much had been said that when the fact itself was there no further comment was possible. For the moment no near at hand formula seemed at all adequate. This was something well-defined and at the same time not easy to believe in.” (138)

Anthony Powell opened his novel with a mystical view of the city where ships somehow meld with the houses: “There were streets and houses among the docks and looking between these it seemed that ships were moored in the thoroughfares of the town itself.” (34) And he concludes: “This was the last outpost of the unreal city and, prodigally dramatic, a soldier was standing on one of the bastions of the central tower leaning on his rifle, humped out by his helmet and pack into a gargoyle against the snowy castellations and pale stars.” (146)

Anthony Powell’ A Dance to the Music of Time considers so many major areas of life: politics, the military, history, business, the arts, etc. All of this is done in a very somber manner which does not detract from its power. The earlier writings were after something else: the comic adventures of a young man. Our author succeeded in this venue as well, joining the ranks of P.G. Wodehouse, Evelyn Waugh, and the also young Aldous Huxley.

You can find the book here:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/p/anthony-powell/venusberg.htm

Ray Greenblatt is an editor on the Schuylkill Valley Journal. His book reviews have been published by a variety of periodicals: BookMark Quarterly, Joseph Conrad Today, English Journal, the Dylan Thomas Society, and the John Updike Society. His new book of poetry, Nocturne & Aubades, is newly available from Parnilis Press, 2018.

 

 

Big Headed Anna Imagines Herself by Stephanie E. Dickinson

big head

By g emil reutter

We are introduced to Big Headed Anna at birth. Her child mother, boy bodied suffers in child birth. Her baby’s head so big that Anna’s feet were roped to free her from the womb, upon looking at her the young mother fled. Anna took to a cow when left for dead, survived to go on. Or so it is imagined by Anna.

Dickinson has crafted a series of flash fictions that chart the adventures of Big Headed Anna through time and space, of viewing the living and dead, of the life of an outcast from birth who encounters a wide array of characters. Imagined or real? For many who take the time to read this vivid collection, who have suffered from the cruelty of human kind there will be no doubt that the life of Anna could be real. Dickinson’s use of flash fiction to tell the story is simply brilliant as are the images and metaphor that populate this collection.

From Big-Headed Anna Believes Herself as a Strange, Beautiful Name:

“I am eleven years old today and hungry since I ran away from the other place. If I cut my eyelashes there would be no feeling. I would have to move my ear lobe between the grist’s flint or the tip of my nose to understand about touch. To show you how orchids thrive in snow and spongy soil, an earthworm loses its head and grows another. Tallow, bone flesh. My neck thinks of me as its lily. Wandering toward the French Quarter under talon of moon, I sing in a beautiful whisper. Hush little brittlestar who lives underewater. My big head hides under my bigger hat. I shiver listening to the river, the cotton barges.”

Big Headed Anna suffers the indignity and violence of rape, unable to see her attacker, a bag covering her head. And when she gives birth, her child stolen from her, carried away her only comfort is knowing the child has a normal head. Many of the flash describe her efforts to find her child.

From Big Headed Anna Listens to the Last Sound in the Grass:

“I am braised with malaria and yellow fever, and I sink deeper into the bittersweet. I am haul and lumber. An unmarked grave on Rampart Street where traveling workers make prayers has seen my child alive. A raven brings them bread and flesh. The lost Creole spirits sheltering them on houseboats tell me to lift the tablecloth where oysters are set down with comets.”

Dickenson has weaved these stories together as a master quilter, each strand interwoven, each resulting image full of color and metaphor. The stories take place between 1900 and 1933, a harsh time in America, a harsh time for those who appear a bit different from the majority, a harsh time for the poor during a time of exurbanite wealth and decline. Although dream like in its presentation the supporting characters are developed with words and images reflecting a beauty and realism to this work. Yet like a master quilter, Dickinson has created a body of work in this collection always with an underlying love for its central character.

You can find Big Headed Anna Imagines Herself here: https://www.amazon.com/Big-Headed-Imagines-Herself-Stephanie-Dickinson/dp/108723655X/ref=sr_1_1?qid=1572125064&refinements=p_27%3AStephanie+E+Dickinson&s=books&sr=1-1&text=Stephanie+E+Dickinson

g emil reutter can be found here: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

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Nobody Move by Philip Elliott

nobody

By Charles Rammelkamp

Philip Elliott’s prizewinning 2018 flash fiction chapbook, Hunger and Hallelujahs, features a junkie mendicant in search of her soul; the sequence ends up in Los Angeles, the city of so many broken dreams. As if picking up where he left off, in his new noir novel, the main character, Eddie Vegas who, as his name suggests, is a small time criminal, is likewise influenced by a hazy idealism that, in his case, leads to his undoing. Criminals need to be ruthless, as Eddie’s buddies, Floyd and Sawyer, remind him, but Eddie is moved by “love” – his love for Dakota, a woman he meets at a strip club.  She’s come to LA to find her long-lost sister.

There’s an almost Sophoclean dynamic at work here, too, because halfway through the novel, we learn that Dakota, the object of Eddie’s devotion is the sister of a woman he murdered in cold blood at the start of the story, a witness who had to be removed, simply for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Remember how Oedipus kills his father and marries his mother but doesn’t realize it? Eddie is no King Oedipus, but when he understands what has happened he, too, realizes his irredeemable mistake with that agony of self-awareness. All he can do is hope Dakota doesn’t find out, but of course she does.

At the novel’s end, when Eddie is in San Quentin serving a thirty-year sentence for his crimes, we find him in the prison theater group playing the role of Casca in Julius Caesar.  “…those that understood him smiled at one another and shook their heads; but, for mine own part, it was Greek to me….”  In a noir novel featuring unequivocally bad characters all over the place, Eddie’s ambiguity makes this tale more than crime fiction. Of course he’s responsible for all the horrible things he does, but we want to forgive him, if only because his devotion to Dakota seems so pure.

Likewise, where the noir genre never features “good guys” – Nobody Move is full of sketchy, scary, contemptible characters, from Eddie’s small time partners, Floyd and Sawyer, to their sadistic boss, Saul Benedict, the mysterious killer Diego (aka, The Puerto Rican), Gay Larry, a shady porn mogul who owes Saul big time, Mandy and the other “dancers” at The Pink Room strip club, and the over-the-top serial killer Rufus Kane, brother of the original murder victim, Bill Kane, whose death gets the whole drama rolling – this novel features a heroine, Alison Lockley, LAPD detective, a force for justice. If we feel ambivalent about Eddie, there’s no mistaking our positive reactions to Alison. She stands up for women in the face of sexism. But even “justice” has its limits when she puts her job ahead of her son.

The genius of Nobody Move, though, is in its relentless action. If the term “page-turner” ever applied to a novel, this is it. Elliott juggles the different stories focusing on Eddie, Alison, Rufus and other characters to reach a breathtaking climax. Like something out of a Coen Brothers movie, the novel begins with the grisly murders and the slapdash burial of  Bill Kane, one of Saul Benedict’s “clients” who is late on a drug-business payment, and Dakota’s sister Kaya White. The bloodbath continues throughout, with a huge shootout during a bank robbery and a bloody car chase that makes the one in Bullitt look like kiddie cars.  “Nobody move, nobody get hurt,” Floyd advises the customers in the bank at the start of the robbery, which is  where the novel gets its title; it doesn’t work that way, of course. Certainly not as slick as Robert De Niro in Heat, to which Floyd aspires.

One of the potent themes of Nobody Move, indeed, is the movies. This is LA, after all. Indeed, one of the novels epigraphs comes from Quentin Tarantino: I steal from every single movie ever made.  From the murders to the car chases to the robberies and more, so many of the scenes feel “cinematic.” When Eddie is the airport stashing a duffel bag full of cash into a locker – also a film noir cliché – he cons a young model who is at LAX to catch a flight to Prague. Eddie lies and says that’s where he is going too. When asked why he is going there, he says he spun the globe and pointed with closed eyes and his finger landed on Prague.

“You Americans,” the girl exclaims, “you are all so dramatic. Everything is like a movie to you.”

“You know,” Eddie replies, “that’s probably the truest statement I’ve ever heard.”

Dakota is similarly a movie buff and has modeled her accent from the voices she’s heard on the big screen.

Elliott places the action in the real world of Donald Trump’s America, in which violence is always bubbling just under the surface all the time.  At the makeshift graves in Angeles National Forest where Eddie and his cohorts have dumped the bodies of Bill Kane and  Kaya White, Alison speaks with Mike, one of the cops at the scene. “Criminals are getting dumber these days,” Alison notes when he describes the sloppy work Eddie and Floyd and Sawyer did in hiding the bodies.

“Dumber or bolder,” Mike says.

“Both,” Alison says. “Like our dipshit president and his bullshit wall.”

You go, Alison!

You can find the book here: https://intothevoidmagazine.com/product/nobody-move-by-philip-elliott-print/

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Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for Brick House Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. A chapbook of poems, Jack Tar’s Lady Parts, is available from Main Street Rag Publishing. Another poetry chapbook, Me and Sal Paradise, was recently published by Future Cycle Press. An e-chapbook has also recently been published online Time Is on My Side (yes it is) http://poetscoop.org/manuscrip/Time%20Is%20on%20My%20Side%20FREE.pdf

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The Wreckage of Eden by Norman Lock

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By Lynette G. Esposito
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The Wreckage of Eden by Norman Lock has a storyline that includes literary giants such as Emily Dickenson, Thoreau and Emerson. Written in the first person narrative, the reader becomes deeply involved in this semi-confessional fiction
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The pre-chapter introduction uses a love letter to Emily (Dickenson) written to her before she secluded herself.  When the writer (Robert) asks Do You Blush?  He states he hoped for intimacy and speaks of only being welcome in her ante room where the lights are dim.  When the first chapter opens:  After Chapultepec, I succumbed to vainglorious fantasies unworthy of a man of the cloth, Lock has set a complex scene of introspection and observation, pleasure and regret, understanding and confusion into motion.
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Lock uses literary convention and technique to reveal the human side of a man who both admires and loves Emily, the poet and the woman.  For such a legendary seclusionist as Emily, the fiction here is very believable and realistic.  Presented in plain language, the suggestions pop as do questions of how far did this love affair go outside the conjectures of the narrator’s mind.
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Mixed in are references of historical events discussed in letters between the narrator and Emily and in the narration of the story.  The literary convention of letters to and from each other is used throughout the  278 page novel.  The characters of both are revealed as politics and conflicts of the day are discussed with conversations included about Abraham Lincoln, the Mexican War and the Mormon Rebellion.  Lock is excellent at giving detail of time, place and situation. Even though this is fiction, it is artistically presented as real.  Lock uses references that work historically. For example,  he quotes “The day of compromise is past…  There is no peace for the South in the Union?”  decried the Charleston Mercury. He references events in history throughout the book as an  effective tool for place and time.
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In traditional literary technique he uses the “letter” convention.  The novel begins with a letter and it ends with a (post script) letter written, of course, to  Emily.
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             I have wronged you in this effusion as often a I have shamed
             myself. To my mind, one cancels out the other, and by the
             arithmetic of compensation, we are acquitted—you by me
             and I by you.
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It is as if Lock has framed the story with book ends  This novel is both interesting in technique and storytelling. Lock quotes Emily Dickenson::: She dealt her  pretty words like blades– .  Lock does much the same in this novel.
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Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University, Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.  Her articles have appeared in the national publication, Teaching for Success; regionally in South Jersey Magazine, SJ Magazine. Delaware Valley Magazine, and her essays have appeared in Reader’s Digest and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her poetry has appeared in US1, SRN Review, The Fox Chase Review, Bindweed Magazine, Poetry Quarterly, That Literary Review, The Remembered Arts Journal, and other literary magazines. She has critiqued poetry for local and regional writer’s conferences and served as a panelist and speaker at local and national writer’s conferences.  She lives with her husband, Attilio, in Mount Laurel, NJ.
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Amazing Things Are Happening Here by Jacob Appel

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By Lynette G. Esposito
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Bryn Chancellor, author of:,  When Are You Coming Home? says of Amazing Things Are Happening Here: Jacob Appel writes with an assuredness and verve that is mesmerizing.  The Stories in Amazing Things are Happening Here kept me riveted with their vivid places, surprising turns, and unflinching examination of all the complex, flawed ways we live.—and reckon with—our lives.
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The eight short stories in Appel’s Amazing Things Are Happening Here are amazingly fun to read. Chancellor is right.   The 152 page collection, published by Black Lawrence Press, presents vivid locations, surprising twists that explore the human condition, and  stories with clear and unflinching examination of complex truths of everyday people.
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In the lead story, Canvassing, Appel presents a love story gone wrong as he reveals the passion political campaign workers have for the man they are supporting. The story focuses on the political bias in a love triangle situation that twists into a murder mystery.
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The story opens with I was once— briefly— a suspect in a murder investigation.  Bam! The reader wants to know more about this narrator who appears to be direct and honest with an outlandish story to tell. Yet, how do we get to the end of the story and wonder if the narrator is the actual killer of the beautiful Vanessa?
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Appel controls the storyline in all of his presentations.  In Embers, the third story in this collection, infatuation with a lovely young girl by an inexperienced teenager is the plot. The surprising turn is that this lovely creature has leukemia which changes her physical appearance so drastically that the young man cannot see her beauty.  Appel twists the story again to reveal how this has changed the young man to understand he will give up his dream to be a professional archer and that he will become a doctor like his father and give comfort where there is need.  The over concern the girl has for her firefighter father is a bit much for me but the subtlety of the characters becoming who they are make a wonderful read.  The title Embers is a well chosen symbol of a story that is coming to an end but isn’t quite gone yet as fire still sparks. This works well with the girl’s father coming through smoke and flame with the teenager who started a fire on his back. This is a fitting ending to a story of self realization. The ending does not close the door but suggests on-going situations.
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In the title story, Amazing Things are Happening Here, the sixth story in the collection, Appel begins: We were short one lunatic.  How do you save your job from a Code White because a mental patient has escaped?  You cover it up.  The story twists and turns on hiding the fact a lunatic has made his way back into society like a shadow when the light is turned off.  Much like a slap stick comedy, the psychiatrist, Dr. Brilliant, can’t see what is right in front of him.  The final paperwork discharges the lost lunatic and all is well. Jobs and reputations are saved with the exception that a mentally ill person is now free, on the streets and unaccounted for.  In order to protect our jobs and our lives, most of us have this flaw of self preservation.
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Appel uses standard fiction techniques in all of his stories.  His remarkable writing skill reveals his keen observations of people and their many idiosyncrasies. He has a light touch with symbols that makes the reader want to take a second look.  The book is a great read who likes complications and well-plotted logical resolutions.
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The book is available from Black Lawrence Press. BLP » Amazing Things Are Happening Here
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Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University,  Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.  Her articles have appeared in the national publication, Teaching for Success; regionally in South Jersey Magazine, SJ Magazine. Delaware Valley Magazine, and her essays have appeared in Reader’s Digest and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her poetry has appeared in US1, SRN Review, The Fox Chase Review and other literary magazines. She has critiqued poetry for local and regional writer’s conferences and served as a panelist and speaker at local and national writer’s conferences.  She lives with her husband, Attilio, in Mount Laurel, NJ.
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