Reviewed by: Keith Nixon
Genre: Crime/Thriller/Mystery/Short Story Collection
Approximate word count: 20-25,000 words
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Kent McDaniel lives in Chicago where he spends his time playing music, writing & walking. His work has been published in a large number of magazines. He also publishes Dumbfounding Stories and reviews for the Chicago Writers Association.
You can learn more about the author at his blog.
Five short stories of varying length and subject. All but one previously published in various magazines and brought together in one volume.
The first and title story is set at an Elvis impersonators convention in Chicago, 1993. Larry ‘Hound Dog’ Vasquez is found murdered. The investigating cop, Lieutenant Davis, quickly comes to a conclusion on who the murderer is, but the other attendees aren’t so sure and a ‘whodunnit’ follows, led by the various characters at the convention.
One Less Elvis, comprises nearly 50% of the work. It’s reasonable, has a vein of humour within and doesn’t take itself too seriously. The characters are, like Elvis, larger than life and all placed in an unusual situation (well, unusual for most of us that is).
Or Someplace Shining is the next story, where 11 year old Rita brings a bag of grass she found in her brother Steven’s bag to Reverend McDermott. Steven is in a band and has come under the influence of Twitch, a songrwriter collaborator in the band they’re trying to get up and running – the drug profits will help pay for the album they’re going to cut.
This and That is the best of the bunch. A jumper atop a tall building starts a conversation with a woman watching him from a window. It’s neatly done and has a degree of tension about it.
In The Great Escape, Stu plans the perfect murder of his parents, with his sister firmly in the frame. The trouble is his father’s joking around causes a problem for the would-be killer.
And finally is Pizzazz about Jimmy Stu Sloan, a pastor and true man of God.
Overall the stories are well written in themselves, the author clearly has an ability with words. But for me the biggest issue was a lack of tension (except This and That) where it seemed the reader was an observer, rather than someone along for a ride. A case of stepping through a door, seeing what goes on behind it, then move on. Without any sense of excitement or being gripped by the events.
Or Someplace Shining is the best example of this. The premise is good – conflicted sister looking out for her brother, reverend trying to do the best by both of them and somewhat manic sidekick stirring things up. But unfortunately the contents left me with stacks of questions and unresolved strands. McDermott mentions he has an ex-girlfriend – so? Twitch storms in and causes trouble and McDermott comes up with a solution to the problem that closes the story but in a way that produces a so what? All the build-up for…?
It’s a pity because McDaniel can write.
A few punctuation and layout errors.
Rating: *** Three Stars