294 pages, cover price $14.9
Release date: 2011
294 pages, cover price $14.9
Forty years working in government honed Bob Strother’s cynicism, heightened his appreciation for irony, and gave birth to a new career in creative writing. His work has appeared in a number of literary journals and magazines, and he was recently nominated for the Small Press Pushcart Prize (www.bobstrother.net).
Bob Strother serves up a heaping helping of Southern short stories in a collection which defies easy categories, with vampires, cheerleaders, debutantes, ghostly little girls, hitmen (and women), Ma Barker, a Marine gunnery sergeant with his own unique method of rehab, and my personal favorite-a septuagenarian soviet sniper who takes the theft of her welfare check unkindly. Well-crafted, with sharply drawn characters, wry wit, and a touch of darkness, they breathe with life and a deep and obvious fondness for the South of his heritage … warts, chittlins’, and all.
~ David Weber,
best-selling author of the Honor Harrington series
This is a smart collection. Strother is at his best when he choreographs the dance between a man and a woman: from Zelma and Jeff, teenagers teaching each other to kiss in “Baby Don’t Say Don’t” to the burglar, Brody, held at gunpoint by the old woman he’s robbing in “Sniper.” The faces are familiar, but Strother effectively surprises and unnerves. A clever and engaging read.
~ Carla Damron,
author of Death in Zooville, A Caleb Knowles Mystery
By Anne M. Hicks
Bob Strother never ceases to amaze me with his provocative prose. In this short story collection, I traverse a literal and emotional menu to sample the often greasy, sometimes bitter, always entertaining sides of life.
From Alabama to California, Detroit to New Orleans, Bob presents a feast of themes, settings, and characters. These stories cover it all-sex, drugs, innocence, war, greed, love, death, and even rock and roll. Bob’s main course of steady tension and ironic humor allow us to savor each story, even if we do occasionally have an uneasy aftertaste.
Protagonists (and antagonists) range from troubled adolescents to grotesque capitalists. These scattered characters often follow dark paths-and find even darker truths. Some chase fame, some seek comfort, others struggle for understanding. Often smothered in conflict, the main characters rarely swallow their refection, but the reader enjoys a whole dinner of Bob’s uncanny perception and keen description.
These plots are hearty portions, juicy with “ah ha” moments to sink your teeth into. The action simmers until reduced to exquisite endings that only tempt us to consume more. Despite a Southern influence, this collection is hardly a blue-plate special. On the contrary, Bob shows an expert chef’s understanding of the essences he cooks with-spicy beginnings to whet the appetite, savory plots to advance the palate’s interest, and cream-filled endings to satisfy our every taste.
By the last story, we relish the tenderness with which Bob infuses his stories, giving us just the right blend of creative ingredients to reveal to us both the darkest and brightest points of human nature.
From “Treetop Province”
My breath fogs the plexiglass wall of the holding cell as I stare at the surreal scene unfolding before me. On the far side of the intake area, orange-clad prisoners stare back at me from similar cells. One, sporting a shaved head and a black soul patch, gestures wildly and mouths unheard obscenities at the passersby. A large, dark blue shadow moves in from my right and obscures the view.
“You wanted something?” the deputy says through the small rectangular notch in the glass.
“Yes, I need to make a phone call–they said I could make a phone call.”
The deputy looks at me with an expression that is not unkind and removes the ring of keys from his belt. I smile, relieved–grateful for any consideration.
He inserts the key into the lock. “Can you remain calm, sir, just like you are now?”
“Yes, I’ll be calm.”
He gives the key a half turn and asks, “Who did you want to call?”
“My wife–I need to call my wife. She’ll be worried.”
The deputy’s expression changes, registering something between amusement and revulsion. He removes the key and clips the ring back onto his belt. “You can’t call your wife, sir.”
Now the deputy laughs out loud and says, “Because you murdered her.”
From “Madison 2-Forever”
Roger Dougherty caught a glimpse of his humped shadow on the hallway wall and immediately looked away. Gnome, he thought. And then he smiled. Not at his grotesque, arthritic image, which had sent more than one Trick-or-Treater scurrying wide-eyed back to mommy, but because he had remembered an appropriate word. He said the word aloud: “Gnome,” then, “troll,” then … that was as far as he got. Arthritis and Alzheimer’s–another big double “A” battery that kept going and going and going. He could recall the propeller beanie he’d worn as a child but not where he’d hung his hat the previous evening.
The eight-pound sledgehammer connected with McConnell’s forehead at a velocity of almost ten feet per second. He dropped like a cow in a slaughterhouse.
Malcolm Leatherby stepped down off the chute and, struggling just a little, pulled the body free of the passageway.
McConnell’s eyes were fixed and dull already, and there was an inch-deep indentation midway between them and the line of curly brown hair. Malcolm maneuvered a chain and pulley device out into the center of the room, placing a large washtub underneath. “Go out the side door, Hannah, and fetch Warren to come help me with the lifting. Oh, and may as well tell your momma to fire up the smokehouse as soon as she finishes in the kitchen. This part won’t take too long.”
The girl was almost through the door when her father called to her. “You did good, honey. You’re a real asset to the family.”
From “Flying Jenny”
The summer of 1935 was as hot and dry as any I could remember. Sixty-two years later, I can still feel the peculiar tickle of that harsh season’s sweat snaking its way down over my ribcage as though it were something alive and seeking escape. I can see the sun-parched grass and the initials “A” and “J” etched with a finger on the toes of my dusty Buster Browns. It was the summer I was forced to abandon forever all my eleven-year-old certainties.
If you want to read the conclusion to these and other stories, order Scattered, Smothered, and Covered by Bob Strother