LOW TIDE IN THE DESERT by David Kranes

LOW TIDE IN THE DESERT

Nevada Stories
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Eleven stories set in Nevada, many of them about life in and around casinos, by the author of the novel Margins (1972), etc. Kranes writes in a telegraphic, disjointed style, a manner that is startling and effective in a set-piece such as ``The Black Friar of Fremont Street''--the tale of Call, an ordinary man who's hooked by the tables when his flight to Salt Lake City is diverted to Las Vegas. Like a jackhammer, Kranes's punchy sentences take Call all the way down, from his rich eastern life to begging on the streets. The style is less successful in ``Slot Queen,'' however, the archetypal story of a woman with a legendary feel for imminent jackpots. Kranes strives for metaphysical effects, and the piece can't bear such freight. Similarly, ``The Phantom Mercury of Nevada,'' invoking Nevada's UFO mythology, hovers uncertainly between realism and the surreal, and fails to convince on either level. It's about some wild teenagers who investigate reports of cattle mutilations, only to discover that an old Mercury and its ghostly inhabitant are responsible. Kranes offers up a nice romance in ``Nevada Dreams,'' about a dealer, Nevada, and two pugnacious men who vie for her, and in ``The Whorehouse Picnic,'' perhaps his best effort, he combines a love story with a schizophrenic man's obsession to build an atomic bomb. The volume's title refers to the most ambitious piece, here, ``Salvage,'' about a core-sampling crew's discovery of a sailing ship beneath the dead sea of Nevada. Their extraordinary efforts to raise the ship--and, metaphorically, sail it again--evoke an extraordinary series of reactions in the reader. Even so, the bold themes here need more explication; the tale would have been better served as a novel. An uneven and somewhat awkward collection. But Kranes working at his best is very good indeed.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-87417-287-X
Page count: 186pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1996