Friday, February 22, 2013

Voices in the Field, by J. Allen Fielder

Many things have conspired to keep me too busy to read more than one book in the last two weeks, and that book was an epic fantasy, which I don't review here.  But I've some good news! At times, I go on binges of reading short story compilations.  In 2011 I came across one written by indie author +J. Allen Fielder, and reviewed it on my fantasy review blog, Best in Fantasy, because I loved the book and only had the one venue for reviewing books. In fact, this was why we created The Dark Side Book Review and began reviewing the many fine books NOT in the fantasy genre here.
I met the author in January 2011 through ABNA and was immediately struck by his wry wit and crazy sense of humor. Based on my impressions of him I bought his book as soon as he published it. 
I loved  'Voices in the Field' because Fielder went back to the roots of science-fiction.  I felt then and I still feel that this book is a thinking-person's sort of book. There are morality tales, and tales that are simply meant to make you go "hmm...."
The Blurb:
"Voices in the Field" is a collection of short stories by J. Allen Fielder. Titles include previously published and unpublished short stories, from the eponymous "Voices in the Field," to the humorously creepy "Mom's Eye View," these stories were written to thrill, chill, and make the reader wonder "What the hell is wrong with this guy?" Other titles include "Liquid," "Truck Stop Love," and "Homemade Pie." Stories range from horror, to mystery, to children's . . . and various points in between

I must say, Fielder delivered on his promises!
My Review:

In the first tale, which the book takes its title from, Fielder introduces us to a man whose car has broken down along a rural stretch of highway. This tale is both homey, and frightening, with a sort of Stephen King intensity. Harold is a 71 year old academic who has taken a less traveled route from Kansas State college on his back home to Corinthian College. Alas, this road is exceedingly less well traveled, and Harold's car breaks down. Being a naturally cheerful sort, he settles in to wait for a passing car to get help. To while away the time, he records his thoughts on the machine that he uses to record his notes on. He is a bit old fashioned, and doesn't have a mobile phone. He soon regrets having taken the back road. This is an unsettling story and it sets the tone for the rest of the book very well.

For those of us who are fans of horror, the fourth tale, 'Liquid' is one of the creepiest tales I have ever read. A doctor at the top of his craft is the victim of an attack that completely changes his life. It is a terrible case of 'There but for the grace of God go I', taken to an appalling extreme.

I must say, that I may never eat a pot pie again, having read 'Homemade Pie'. The twist at the end of this tale is a real surprise, and gruesome though the tale is, it is one of my favorites.

'Cowboy Up' is the tale of an urban cowboy with an identity crisis, and a marriage proposal gone awry.

'The Party Pooper' is an extremely graphic tale of two buddies who make porn films in their spare time. These are men whom I wouldn't want to know, but hey - it's all in good fun. (NOT!)

The book ends with 'Weight' a tale of a young man who has suffered a lifetime of abuse for being obese. It is not a long tale, but it is the sort of tale that would have found its way onto 'The Twilight Zone' back in the heyday of morality tales.

I could practically hear Rod Serling 's voice introducing each of these well crafted and deliciously thought-provoking tales!

All in all, J. Allen Fielder has written a wonderfully creepy series of short stories. This book is firmly on my list of keepers, and you can find it at for the reasonable price of .99.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Adventures of Don Valiente and the Apache Canyon Kid, John A. Aragon and Mary W. Walters

Today I am reviewing a book that is unique in it's approach to telling the story. Let me begin by saying  The Adventures of Don Valiente and the Apache Canyon Kid is NOT your daddy's western! I've long been a fan of both the authors, John A. Aragon and Mary W. Walters, and I did expect big things from this collaboration.  I was not disappointed!
The Blurb:
The West will never be the same . . . .

New Mexico, 1922.

The orphaned eighteen-year-old stablehand Rosalind Grundy is seduced by a married woman, and faces a lynching after the pair is surprised in flagrante delicto. But she manages to escape with the aid of a strange and aristocratic old man who calls himself Don Valiente.

Don Valiente, having read too many dime westerns, has come to believe that he is a famous gunfighter. He thinks Roz is a young man named Ross, and he takes her under his wing, intending to teach her and to revive "The Code Of The Caballeros."

Don Valiente and Roz embark on a series of comic adventures. But when they come upon a grisly murder scene and the trail of three escaped-convict killers, Roz realizes that her only chance to survive the imminent showdown and to reunite with her true love lies in her ability to separate Don Valiente's madness from the eternal truths in his teaching.
The Review:
Let me just say I fell in love with Don Valiente the moment he began speaking!  He is wild, wise and completely committed to living The Code of the Caballeros.  In one very moving scene, after Roz has been forced to kill a man in self defense, she sheds tears for her vanquished foe, wondering why he had to go and put himself in the position where she had to shoot him in self-defense. Don Valiente tells her that the path of the Caballero is full of compassion for the misguided souls he must usher into the next world. "Do you not think that the executioner does not recognise that even those who must pay for their bad deeds with their lives are also human beings, like him, who live, love, and know the beauty of creation?"
The wisdom Don Valiente imparts to Roz over the course of the tale is beautiful and moving. His spirituality is deep and is such a part of him that he has an enormous influence on his young apprentice. I myself have taken much of it to heart! His truths are universal, and as she begins to understand what he is trying to teach her, Roz begins to know who she is, and to be comfortable in her own skin.
Roz is young, beautifully human and is just a girl who is caught up in something that is so much larger than she is. Her motives are simple and honest. In reading this book, I felt every one of of Roz's trials and sorrows as if they were my own.  She's an unlikely hero, but she is the sort of hero that made the legends of the old west come to life.
The bad-guys in this tale are awesome, in part because they aren't all men.  Leta, Kruger and the Beast have few redeeming qualities, and they are quite frightening.  I never knew what they would do next. They are as nasty and evil as any villains I've ever met. 
If you are looking for a real adventure, a book that will widen your horizons and will keep you turning the pages into the wee hours of the night, this is definitely the book for you.