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Monterey Shorts 2: More on the Line



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Success Stories

edited by Chris Kemp, Byron Merritt and Ken Jones

shorts2.jpg

ISBN 0 9760096 0 9
FWOMP, 2005
Retail price $15.95

The title tells us exactly what to expect from this book: this is a collection of short stories produced by a collective of writers living and writing around the Monterey Peninsula. For those unaware such as me, the Monterey Peninsula is situated on California’s Central Coast and contains such heard-of places, again to me, as Big Sur, Carmel, Cannery Row and Monterey itself. Looking at the handy map which is provided at the beginning of the book, it also contains such interesting sounding places as Point Lobos, Pico Blanco and Hidden Place. I mention this because, as well as providing where these writers live and work, the Monterey Peninsula also exclusively, in this volume at least, provides the setting for all the stories. That is not to say that these stories are at all uniform. Although the geographical setting is the same for all of them, the styles and, indeed, time periods are not.

There are 10 authors represented and each gets 2 stories. These are not short, short stories; they vary in length from 12 to 26 rather large, tightly written pages. Thus each story has time to develop both its theme and its characters, which it does successfully.

This is an excellent collection of work. Unusually, in an anthology of the work of different writers, I didn’t find even one dud amongst them. I also didn’t find one writer that stood out, also somewhat unusual, but what I did find was a consistent high quality of writing (and production, typos definitely a rarity here), interesting stories and much pleasure and information for the reader.

Some of them explore the history of the Peninsula. Charlotte’s Light by Ken Jones is an example of a feminist lighthouse story of the mid-nineteenth century based on fact. A Break in the Trail by Byron Merritt is a fictional story based on the life of a historically documented person. There are ghost stories, there is a vampire story, there is, in Framed by Frances J. Rossi, a simple, but quite elegant love story. There is, as can be seen, considerable variety in content and approach, but consistency of quality.

I would like to finish this review by mentioning a pair of stories by Walter E. Gourlay, not because they are better than any of the others, but simply because I liked his approach. Lavinia and Theo are two halves of the same, tragic love story. They are set in the early nineteenth century and deal with the ill-fated love of the title characters, each taking the point of view of its title character. It shows how misunderstandings occur and how each person’s personal tragedy inflicts on others and yet remains personal. Finding out what Theo was doing while Lavinia was dying, made the whole thing more poignant. The whole was more powerful than its parts.

And that just about sums up Monterey Shorts 2. The parts are good, but the book as a whole is better.

Open Book

Review by Chris Williams