Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Short Story Wednesday Review: Mysterical- E: December 2021

In recent days, the Mysterical-E: December 2021 issue dropped after more than a year since the last issue. The new issue is a mishmash of good short stories and other content that is sorely lacking. In short, this issue does not rise to the long-established level one expects from this zine.


After a short publisher note by Joe Demarco, it is on to the stories that lead off the issue. Quality stories have always been the heart of Mysterical-E and such is the case here. There are six tales and all are good ones.


“Benny’s Luck” by K.A. Williams leads off where Benny is on a quest because his woman wants jewelry. One way or another he intends to make her happy. With his record, his options are few.


Sheriff Lucy Valentine does her best to keep the peace in “Gas Pains” by John M. Floyd. Things tend to escalate quickly in this fun tale that starts with the good Sheriff witnessing illegal posting of signs.


One does not expect to set out in the morning and find the body of a dead neighbor. Jane Howard did in “Murder in Little Venice” by Andrew Smith. The nylon rope probably had something to do with it as did the small oval bruise on each side of his neck.


Linda knows exactly what her step mom is and what she wants in “The Deceivers” by Jan Christenson. Somebody needs to help Dad see the light. Or, for that matter, just remove the problem.


“The Third Monkey- A Gill Tanner Mystery” by Tom Woodward is a classic mystery set in the 1930s. A broke private detective, a bar that serves as the detective’s second office, a beautiful babe who is as dangerous as she is beautiful, and other classic ingredients mix well in this highly atmospheric story.


Deputy George Tanka has been watching the thunderheads build and headed into Bridger County in “The Ghost of Maitland Scarp” by Carl and Jane Bock. While the rain is good for ranchers and their livestock, it means flooded washes and trouble in places like the Maitland Scarp. A place that already has a well-deserved negative reputation.


If you are on FB, especially on Mysterical-E FB page, you probably have seen the constant and often several times a day book promo by Joe Cosentino. In this issue, “Book Excerpt: Drama TV” he has a book blurb and extended excerpt from his recently published book along with numerous social media and buy links for more information.


Next up is “Mysteryical-Eye: Getting Back To It” by Gerald So. Much of the tv news in the piece is very old information by now. Nearly all of the shows discussed in the piece have not been new for a year and are deep into their second seasons with another one long since cancelled as planned. The movie referred to in the piece debuted last spring, had little to do with the book that it came from, and bombed so badly it has killed that franchise for some time to come.  


Next up is Christine Verstraete with “Some Books for Winter Reading.” This is a roundup of news and excerpts of various books and anthologies as well as some background info on the authors and how the books came to be. The emphasis is on cozy mysteries.


While billed as from the publisher the “What’s Your Process” feature is still written by author Kay George. This time she features Cathy Pickens, L. C. Hayden, and Michele Drier. In each case, there is a short bio and discussion of how each author creates their stories. Interesting and informative as always.


Next up are two “Interview with a Reader” segments by Barbara Hodges. I see absolutely no point in naming the two individuals featured as there was zero explanation of who these people are, why or how they were selected, and what relevance they have with anything. It was not explained at all why anyone should care about their answers any more than why we should ever care what some random person on the street has to say when questioned by a media personality of the day.


The issue concludes with two items that are billed as reviews and are absolutely not reviews.


First up is the non-review, “Book Review: One of Us by Lorrie Ham.” Written by Vero Caravetta who opens with “In this well plotted mystery….” followed by a blow-by-blow regurgitation of much of the plot. There is zero analysis of any aspect of the book.


The issue concludes with “Review: Justice For All” anthology by the publisher Joe Demarco. He also happens to be the co-editor of the anthology. Beyond the ethics in that one never reviews anything one wrote, edited, or published, this piece is in no way a review. This non review is nothing more than publisher promo content for the anthology.


Mysterical-E has always been known primarily for the stories and how good they have been over the issues. Such is the case here with six enjoyable mystery short stories. While I had three definite preferences, all six are well done tales sure to please readers.


The rest of the issue features outdated program information, reviews that are not reviews, and irrelevant segments. The sole notable exception is Kaye George’s interview of various authors regarding their writing process. This feature is consistently good and informative, issue to issue, and the sole redeeming aspect of the back half of this issue.


Overall, the new issue has a very slapped together and sloppy feel. The names of the author who wrote the pieces are often missing from the TOC, misidentified at the article, and titles are often not properly capitalized at the article. This suggests a lack of attention to detail as does the inclusion of reviews that are not reviews, very old tv and movie news, and other previously noted problems. While the stories and the Kay George piece meet reader expectations and do it quite well, the rest of the issue absolutely does not.


Mysterical- E: December 2021 certainly does not meet the normal expectations of this reader for this publication. 


Kevin R. Tipple ©2021


TracyK said...

Kevin, you do such a good job of describing a story succinctly and getting the gist of it across. I wish I could do that.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Big time thank you.

Kaye George said...

I have to thank you for your kind words, Kevin. I am merely the collator of the info, as the authors are the ones who answer the questions and give meat to the bones of the Process articles. The whole thing is the brainchild of Joe, but I do put it together. Thanks!!