An exquisitely moody, searing assemblage of tales, each distinctively contributing to the atmosphere and desperation of The...

HARD SENTENCES

CRIME FICTION INSPIRED BY ALCATRAZ

A collection of jarring prison stories centers on Alcatraz.

Editors Keaton (Stealing Propeller Hats from the Dead, 2015) and Clifford’s (Trouble in the Heartland, 2014, etc.) group of 19 crime tales is influenced by the historic, notorious Alcatraz Island penitentiary. In his witty, dynamic introduction, Keaton writes of being inspired by the iconic fortification soon after his relocation to California, where he discovered a basketball tournament held in the Alcatraz prison yard. “Combine an island with a prison, and you’ve got a recipe for mythmaking,” notes Keaton, who, along with this band of talented writers, seems bewitched and enchanted by the eerie, mysterious legend of The Rock. Author and New York radiologist Glenn Gray contributes the riveting opener, “Break,” narrated by a brittle-boned prisoner who commemorates his 1941 incarceration in Alcatraz with a contortionistic escape plan. Nick Mamatas’ taut, psychedelic “Being Whitey” channels a malevolent Whitey Bulger through the use of LSD, resulting in a trippy, imaginative treat. In “Dream Flyer,” Les Edgerton, an ex-con and award-winning author, evokes the frighteningly authentic voice of a tough convict eager for his day of reckoning. The volume derives much of its strength from the variety of its contents even while all of the stories orbit a common theme. Crime fiction author and Civil War buff Rory Costello offers a unique history lesson with his 1865-set tale “The Sympathizers,” as does Mark Rapacz’s “Bodhisattva Badass,” a hardcore, 1932-set meditation on bedeviled incarceration. The assortment is accented by a raw, edgy, historical photo collage of Alcatraz, which lends the book a spooky, grim spirit. Each story has merit, whether reflecting the solemn hopelessness of the concrete tomb or capturing the essence of the inmate experience. As none of the pieces approach novella length, readers can enjoy them in the amounts they choose. These tales—infused with raw characterizations, singular narrative voices, and fictionalized situations—vividly conjure the cynical chill of the prison experience. Closing out the anthology are novelist Rob Hart’s potent, food-themed yarn “The Gas Chamber”; Southern author Leah Rhyne’s gorgeous ballerina love song “The Music Box”; and Nick Kolakowski’s unvarnished glance at the institution, where one character, dubbed the “Man in Black,” laments that there’s “nothing good about a prison you can’t walk out of.” But these hardened tales demonstrate that Alcatraz certainly provides bracing entertainment.

An exquisitely moody, searing assemblage of tales, each distinctively contributing to the atmosphere and desperation of The Rock.

Pub Date: May 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-940885-37-7

Page Count: -

Publisher: Broken River Books

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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