Magner (Free to Decide, 2015) explores the concept of treasure hunting in this debut collection of short stories and essays.
Since ancient times, the promise of gold has captivated people’s imaginations. After all, stumbling upon wealth in the form of buried treasure, lost shipwrecks, or untapped mines is much preferable to acquiring it the old-fashioned way. Owners of such prizes can also go to great lengths to keep them safe. These subjects inspired a favorite subgenre of campfire tale, and with this collection of 12 short stories and four essays, Magner continues that legacy, addressing humanity’s capacity for imagination and ingenuity. In “Gold for the Taking,” an apparent homage to Edgar Allan Poe’s 1843 tale “The Gold-Bug,” a perennially broke man learns that his father hasn’t left him his hoard of gold coins in his will, but rather has hidden them—with instructions indicating that whoever solves the riddle of its hiding place will become its owner. In “The Combination,” a man finds the combination to a safe written in an old library book about chess and seeks out the granddaughter of the man who wrote the note. In “Miracle in Montana,” a man discovers that his ailing uncle is sitting atop a literal gold mine. In both the stories and essays, Magner’s prose is light and relaxed: “The May sunshine was pleasantly warm on the back of his neck and shoulders,” one tale begins. “The young Catholic priest’s black shirt absorbed the afternoon rays as he strolled slowly on the sidewalk near the red brick church.” The stories present many compelling get-rich-quick scenarios, but they generally eschew the darker aspects of human nature, such as greed and treachery, and almost always find their ways to quick, easy endings. The essays are about more abstract types of treasure (including the spiritual kind) and, as such, don’t fit perfectly with the fiction. The book is highly readable, nonetheless, and most readers will likely find something to enjoy here—particularly if their dispositions are as sunny as the author’s seems to be.
A set of cheerful works about searching for gold of all kinds.