Genre: Short Story
“What goes through the mind of a man lingering on Death Row when he falls in love with a country western singer-songwriter he has never met?
A guitar picker is convicted of a crime he cannot remember committing. He is sentenced to die by lethal injection for a murder he may not have committed. While being booked into jail he is introduced to the music of Kayla Ray. Her down to earth style and southern twang captivates him. The words of her songs move him.
As the condemned man is waiting for his appeal to make its way through the court system Kayla’s music fills him with melancholy and yearning he had not experienced in years. He falls in love with her voice and the lyrics of her songs. His love for the woman he’s never met sustains him though the lonely days and the even lonelier nights in prison. As his date with death approaches, the convicted killer tells his life story to a reporter. The young writer promises to share the tale with the world.
Learn how an unrequited love can alter a doomed man’s outlook. How does his love for a woman he will never meet affect his thinking? Will it help him remember the details of the crime for which he’s been sentenced to die? Does he ask forgiveness from a god he has never had any use for? And, how does the reporter deal with the information that has been shared?”
A review of J.R. Wheeless’ available biographical information leaves me better than clueless, but barely. It appears that he’s currently living a nomadic lifestyle, mainly bouncing around the southwest US in an RV. He has several books available that range from short stories to short story collections, to collections of random thoughts, with a novel or two thrown in. For more, visit his blog or page on Facebook.
It feels like I should lead off with a disclaimer. Whether a story appeals to a specific reader or reviewer has a couple big factors. The first is the obvious, how skillful the author was in weaving an entertaining story that would appeal to many, if not most people. We differ enough that even this isn’t always straightforward. This story got me in that way. The second is the unpredictable factor, what is there in the story that resonates with the specific reader that might not be nearly as meaningful to a random potential reader. This story got me in that second way as well.
As mentioned, this story has both aspects for me. I found the story compelling. The protagonist, Lyle, had stumbled through life, sometimes struggling and other times seeming to be on top of the world. Music is one aspect of life that is important to him, not only as a listener, but as a sometimes performer. Then something happens and he finds himself arrested and waiting for the end on death row. How the story evolves and works out kept me involved. I liked Lyle, as I think most readers will. Whether or not he is guilty is up in the air. A reporter, who makes a brief appearance at the beginning and end isn’t sure either. Reading this may get you pondering the death penalty, whatever your thoughts on it.
To most of you, Kayla Ray, the singer Lyle has fallen for from afar is probably not one you’ve heard of. This is where I find myself in a different place than the average reader. Music obviously plays a big part in this story and I find Lyle explaining his musical likes and the names he drops falling right in line with the music I gravitate to. Even Lyle’s obsession, Kayla Ray, is someone I’ve heard a few times performing online on a Facebook page called Sequestered Songwriters. Had someone set out to pull me in and to feel a kind of kinship with the story’s main characters they couldn’t have done better.
No significant issues.
Rating: ***** Five Stars
Reviewed by: BigAl
Approximate word count: 10-11,000 words