Queen and Other Stories, by Lincoln Crisler

IOD-QueenToday marks the first in a series of four guest reviews being contributed by Dave Higgins. For the four Saturdays in October, Dave will be reviewing a different short story collection. He’ll be working the same genres that I cover, and using essentially the same process, except as outlined below. Feel free to chime in and tell us what you think.

And let me just add a big thanks to Dave for picking up an area of slack in the IOD universe.

Jefferson

What the collection seems to be about: People who are a bit gritty – but not too much – like going to places with wood in their construction and that haven’t been professionally cleaned recently; most of which are bars.

Find this book on Amazon.

Note: The short story format is almost perfectly designed for short periods of reading: waiting for an appointment, commuting, riding a treadmill. So, the short story collection seems a solid candidate for providing 40 minutes of distraction.

However, the transition from one story to the next by definition breaks actual immersion. Therefore, a new test of immersion is needed. A test that better reflects how short story readers treat the short story, not as something to get lost in for hours, but as something to enjoy and move on; or flick past to find a more engaging one.

To balance these two facets of the lower cost of engagement, I will ignore transitions between stories but move onto the next story as soon as I lose immersion. The overall time and number of WTFs remain the same as Jefferson does with full-length material.

WTF #1: …he ordered two double Jack-and-Cokes…

Analysis: Compound phrases are hyphenated to avoid the default reading that the parts are separate. So, the first half is fine. The character orders 2 {double Jack-and-Coke}. Normally, a “double” anything means to double the amount of alcohol, however, the hyphens make the drink into a single entity, so I read this as 2 drinks, each with {{double Jack} and {double Coke}}, which threw me. Was the character actually asking the barman for twice as much Coke or were the hyphens misplaced?

This triggered off a brief internal discussion of how, not having hyphens in spoken English, you might order two drinks with a double measure of each part with minimum confusion.

As this wasn’t the first hyphenated compound that had caught my eye, it triggered a WTF.

However, had it not been for the one WTF and move on rule, this would not have stopped me continuing with the story.

WTF #2: “There should be two hatchets out back,” Jim told Jerry as they made their way to the bedrooms at the end of the hallway. “And don’t take off your coat just yet. It’ll be warm enough for that when we start cutting, but Bill’s dad always hiked a ways in before cutting anything down and we’ll do the same.” That explains the unspoiled beauty surrounding the cabin, Maggie thought as she closed her eyes and sank into Bill’s worn but comfortable chair.

Analysis: Each sentence is fine on it’s own. However, transitioning from James talking to Jim to Maggie thinking about it without a paragraph break threw me out completely.

In the interest of fairness, I went back and reread the paragraph to make sure it wasn’t me accidentally losing focus and discovered the remainder of the paragraph contains two further changes of actor.

This happened at the top of the third page of the story, so I wasn’t invested enough in the story to face having to potentially untangle more paragraphs.

WTF #3: “Mickey Rourke didn’t need to know the particulars, and he wouldn’t care as long as Stephen MacKennelly’s crew gave him his taste.”

Analysis: Mickey Rourke is the name of a famous Hollywood actor known for playing tough-guys. This Mickey Rourke isn’t the famous Hollywood actor, and based on the rest of the story the reference isn’t intentional.

As soon as I read it, I saw the face of Mickey Rourke. And not a generic Mickey Rourke, Mickey Rourke buying a hot dog in Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Which reignited my thoughts about the film. Not just a pit stop of immersion, but an entire side trip.

I fought the image down but couldn’t escape completely. I wanted to know if the reference was deliberate, so I read on.

For the rest of the story I saw the character as Mickey Rourke the actor as a gangster. This left me wondering what was deliberately off-key for effect and what was me casting Mickey Rourke then discovering he wasn’t readings the lines the way they were written.

Which was unfortunate, because I would have read the entire story through without an issue if it weren’t for that name.

Song of the Summer King, by Jess E. Owen (6:35)
Black Jade Dragon, by Susan Brassfield Cogan (5:42)

About the author

Dave Higgins has worked in law and IT for both public and private sector organisations. When not pursuing these hobbies, he writes poetry and speculative fiction.He was born in Wiltshire, England. Raised by a librarian, he started reading shortly after birth and has not stopped since. He currently lives in Bristol with his wife, Nicola, his cats, Jasper and Una, and many shelves of books.