Today’s book review of a single short story is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey. If you’d like your book reviewed or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.
Dead End by Craig Faustus Buck
Synopsis: In his Anthony Award nominated short story “Dead End”, author Craig Faustus Buck introduces Johno Beltran, a former homicide detective who fell from grace when a stupid mistake allowed a rich, sadistic sex killer to go free. This story begins four years after the trial with Johno now living out of his car and working as a parking attendant at a celebrity haunt called Kama Sushi. One night, the man who got away with murder, wealthy plastic surgeon Dr. Luke Vico, drives into the Kama Sushi lot and Johno is forced to park his $100,000 car. The humiliating reunion leads Johno down a dark, twisty road toward a deadly collision between paranoia and reality.
The noir suspense thriller novella, Psycho Logic, picks up where “Dead End” leaves off. Alyssa Lido lives down the beach from Dr. Vico. She meets Johno as a result of his ill-fated clash with the infamous killer. The sexual voodoo between Johno and Alyssa is powerful, her marriage to her former psychiatrist notwithstanding. Alyssa suspects her husband, who once treated her for paranoia, of manipulating some of his more vulnerable patients for sex. When a porn star patient is found dead, Johno is convinced that the shrink killed her to cover up his sex-crimes and that Alyssa is next on his hit list. As events spiral out of control, Johno and Alyssa are sucked into a vortex of blackmail, pornography, torture, betrayal, vengeance, love, guilt, passion, murder, muscle cars and valet parking.
This short story is available (with the follow-up novella) via http://www.amazon.com/Dead-End-Psycho-Logic-nominated/dp/1501047728 and http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dead-End-Psycho-Logic-nominated/dp/1501047728.
Review (using the Kindle’s text-to-speech function)
As we should be with short stories, we’re thrown in at the action; where the disgraced detective meets his nemesis.
We’re shown the nemesis to be a nasty piece of work by how he’s treating his current companion and then our detective, Beltran, reveals why he is where he is, and we can’t help but feel sorry for him.
When Beltran finds a potential piece of evidence, instinct takes over and we follow him as he tries to restore justice.
The story itself is left on an “ooh” cliff-hanger which, I’m sure, leads nicely on to the novella that the Kindle version of this short precedes.
Description is excellent, and phrases I liked included ‘black-and-blue sash starts to bloom on my chest’, although ‘Einstein gave us his own key’ lost me.
And now for writers:
- Every word counts in short stories and there’s no room for much (if any) backstory. With a novel, the action should start at the beginning of chapter one (although I don’t recommend having them because not all readers read them, you can have backstory in a prologue) with backstory in chapter two or three. Equating this to short stories, chapters = paragraphs.
- Characters are usually defined as protagonists (the good guys/gals) and antagonists (the bad guys / gals). Protagonists should have flaws and antagonists can have redeeming feature or two (this may not happen in short stories but can in novels). We want to care about our main character and that they’re going to be OK by the end of the story, or at least a glimmer of hope for them, and in this story, things couldn’t get much worse for Beltran so we have a low point to start from.
- I found very little in this story to pick but one phrase that leapt out was ‘I hear him scream in pain’. We don’t need the ‘in pain’ because of the context, we know why the man is screaming. As I said, a little pick… minor tightening at the final edit stage.
A short short story but one that packs a punch… or it would if it weren’t a cliché.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local county council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page). She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog.
Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.
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If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.