I was given a copy for review. The thoughts an opinions are my own.
First, Christopher Acker spins a good tale. He uses well trodden tropes that play well in contemporary fiction (actress trying to make it big but something unchangeable about her is a hinderance which later turned virtue or down-on-his-luck journalist fights depression). The prose are solid and the stories read well with clever endings. My favorite was the closing line of "Lady, You Shot Me."
On the down side, Acker's stories require a bit of commitment to the start. In the story mentioned above the second paragraph introduces a first person character with "My throat feels like sandpaper." We don't hear from the POV character directly for another three pages, making it difficult to discern her (something we don't find out for another page or two) place in the story.
However, once we learn who she is the story picks up and becomes a delightful read. Certainly contextual in a world where we see riots on TV, question whether the civil rights movement is progressing or failing, and watch groups such as the BLM movement grow. In "Lady, You Shot Me," Ackers gives voice to a population we seldom hear from but know are plentiful in a country where everyone should be equal: mixed race Americans. I appreciated his prose and loved as I said before the ending - a good reminder that even in a personal story that ends well there is still work to do.
My second favorite of the four stories is "The Salazar House of Horrors." It too suffered from the opening pages where the reader has to work a bit to sort through names in the italicized news report verses the characters introduced in the primary narrative. But with a name like "House of Horrors" it is easy to predict the two will meet in pages to come. I loved the incorporation of HO scale buildings and models. It was reminiscent of my childhood experiences... but without the horror. The other two stories are equally good. Overall, I would recommend Acker's work and wish we had more "medium length" fiction. These were a bit more than a traditional short story but less than a novella. It made for a great short read. Pick up a copy and introduce yourself to a solid author writing in our current political-social context.
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