Friday, December 30, 2011

FFB Review: "Shot To Death: 31 Stories of Nefarious New England" by Stephen D. Rogers

It is Friday and that means it is time for Friday’s Forgotten Books hosted by Patti Abbott. Patti is taking this Friday and the next off which means Todd Mason is filling in for her. Somebody else you should be reading on a regular basis by the way.

Despite recent events, I seem to be getting more and more requests for reviews--- especially on books that are anthologies or collections. Of course, some of that is due to the ease of self-publishing. At least, many folks seem to be claiming it is easy to submit and publish through several different portals. I have no idea if it is easy since I have not tried to put out my own collection of published work yet.

Something that I now plan on doing in the coming weeks as Sandi has made it clear, regardless of her health and our future together and how short it may now be, that she absolutely wants me to keep writing as much as I physically can despite my own worsening health issues. Right now, I can’t say no to her on anything. How I am going to make anything fiction wise happen, when everything seems so fractured and forever broken, I have no idea. That is a thought for another day.

The surge the last few months in requests for collection and anthology reviews also seems reader driven to me. I suspect that e-book devices such as the Kindle have something to do with that. Whatever is causing it, it should hopefully bring back an appreciation for the well done short story. To me, a very well done short story far shorter than the traditional novella, has always struck me as the ultimate mini novel. If done right, the short story could easily have nearly as much complexity as a novel.

Today’s review from earlier this year showcases one of many good anthologies/ collections I have read this past year.


Reviewing anthologies and collections is always tough. A novel can lag in spots providing an uneven and yet enjoyable read. That same effect can happen in an anthology or collection where not every story is going to work well for a particular person. Then there is the fact that space limitations often prevent the reviewer from ever going into any depth on all the stories. These situations and others make reviewing such books problematic.

At the same time, readers are asking more and more for anthologies and collections. Subsequently, the last couple of years there has been a surge in publication of anthologies and collections. Most collections and anthologies pass right on by due to time constraints. However, when this was made available for review by Stephen D. Rogers it seemed like one that should be a good book.

My expectations were met with a few personal favorites being:

“C.O.D.” points out that damaging a mailbox is both a federal crime and a personal offense with repercussions for all in the area.

“Fill It with the Cheapest” isn’t just about the gas, the road trip, or the unnamed driver in a story that isn’t clear until the very end.

Twists are guaranteed in this book and that certainly is also the case in “Last Call.” Training the new employee can come back to get you in not so obvious ways.

“One-Eyed Jacks” blends a unique drinking game, several friends with secrets, and a need for final justice.

Justice along with making things right are the twin themes of “Smoking Gun” where a mother simply has no more choices.

While the New England settings of these tales is often vague or not defined at all, meaning the tales could be located anywhere, the sense of desperation comes through clearly in each one. Whether told from the perspective of the good cop, the bad cop, the petty thief, the hard working parent, or the many other character choices the author uses in each story, the sense of immense desperation comes through in every single case. Often the reader is left with the feeling that characters involved never had a chance because everything always had been and always would be stacked against him or her.

While bodies and crimes abound in the collection, that sense of desperation makes this a good book that is not easy reading. These are stories that nestle under your skin like chiggers and don’t go away easily. The fact that they linger is a basic part of what makes a good writer and a good book.

Shot To Death: 31 Stories of Nefarious New England
Stephen D. Rogers
Mainly Murder Press
February 2010
ISBN# 978-0-9825899-0-8
Paperback (also available via Kindle)
270 Pages

Review copy provided by the author in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2011

No comments: