The Masters Workshop Collection by James Bryan Cornelius

The Masters Workshop Collection

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Diverse, stimulating assortment of nine short stories by a veteran short story writer and English professor at Texas A&M University.

This brief collection features a variety of themes and plotlines, but most of the stories share some commonalities: settings in the southwestern United States (mainly in the author’s own state of Texas) and characters who either drink too much themselves or are affected by the drinking habits of others. In the opening story, “Atonement Circle,” Roger, a priest currently without a flock, is camping out at his mother’s pristine, white-colored ranch while dealing with the aftermath of his divorce; ostensibly, he’s writing his book, but primarily, he’s drinking scotch from a coffee mug. His peaceful retreat, not to mention his mother’s virginal decor, is destroyed by two housebreaking ex-cons. In “Playa Conchal,” Danny is called to a nursing home where his father, Donald, suffering from a rare form of dementia, believes he is vacationing in Costa Rica. Cornelius takes a familiar enough theme—the heartbreaking effects of dementia—and twists it into a story of hope and living one’s last days to the fullest. Even “Black Stag,” despite a dubious beginning featuring a stag as the protagonist and narrator, emerges as another inspiring tale of two species caring for one another. “The Art of Brunch” is an enjoyable, if slightly predictable, cautionary tale illustrating the old saying “you can’t buy class.” Most unique, and perhaps least successful, of the nine stories is the eponymous and final offering, “Masters Workshop,” about three afflicted children who gather at the behest of Logan Stane. In this story, Cornelius tries too hard to build suspense, constructing unnecessary back stories that detract from the simple tale of a miracle. Cornelius excels at creating memorable and generally likable (despite some flaws) characters. His writing is clean and free of errors, as one would expect from an English professor.

Entertaining, well-written stories that carry a deeper message.

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1500881108
Page count: 140pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2015


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