What I gleaned about the stories: Gold-diggers sometimes turn out to be great business managers, but that don’t matter a hill of beans if you gave away your son at birth.
Find this book on Amazon.
Note: This is a short story collection, so the rules are slightly different from standard Immerse or Die: instead of reading on every time I lose immersion, I stop reading that story and move onto the next one. As usual, I stop reading after the third WTF.
Analysis: The first story opens with a somewhat stylised description clearly intended to echo hard-boiled detective fiction. While this wasn’t seamless, it wasn’t rough enough to lose my interest. However, toward the end of the opening paragraph the protagonist was described as a “still just a ‘regular guy’”. My mind parsed the scare quotes as a signal that the author didn’t intend the words to be taken literally; however, as the preceding sentences were clearly stylised, this signal caused a reinterpretation of the entire story: was this an attempt at gritty mystery, or a parody of that style?
Unsure whether I should be parsing phrases to emphasise or ignore the inherent comedy of prose noir, I moved on.
Analysis: The second story opens with a prologue about (presumably) a key location in the tale. The prologue is written as a series of statements rather than character experiences. The absence of clear context for the information combined with the lack of emotional connection made the reader struggle to decide which parts were key information, while also caring little about the prologue
As is likely for many readers, this reader moved on.
Analysis: The third story opens with the protagonist in poor straits. After a brief establishing snippet, the focus moves to her grotty apartment. A few paragraphs in I encountered: She sat on her old thrift store couch in her low rent apartment and glanced at the clock. It was 9:45 a.m. She had a decision to make and she had to make it fast. I was starting to feel the tension; this woman was in trouble and she didn’t have much time – this was the stuff noir was made of. Then the story jumped to 10:00 with a straight statement about someone from the adoption agency arriving and her signing the papers.
Having been immersed deeper and deeper into the protagonist’s head by the shift from general life of poverty to specific urgent decision, this jump from “she’s about to struggle with the coils of the dilemma” to “15 minutes later she’d made the decision” without even being told what her dilemma was gave me a sense of being cheated.
Denied the visceral ambivalence that distinguishes hard-boiled fiction from a newspaper report of a crime, I pulled the plug.
Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Download one of these free short stories, in the format of your choice, and decide for yourself.