The characters in Michael Gills's sagely ironic connected stories work though their pasts as they lay to rest the ghosts of violence and love than haunt them.
Kirkus ReviewsAn Arkansas redneck with his eyes on something bigger and better flails drunkenly through life, in a promising but limited debut collection of linked stories. The ever-so-blankly-named Jack Smith hails from an off-the-beaten-path armpit somewhere in the depths of Arkansas and acts as though he were intent on fulfilling most of the stereotypes out there for people like himself. Gills starts off with Jack-back home in his mother's trailer after flunking out of his college-football scholarship-and his brother Jimmy trying to figure out how to cook a freshly road-killed deer in "For Everything About To Fall." From there, it's a quick slide down to Jack doing contracting work and having issues with his black boss in "Conviction," an uncomfortable piece of work that wrestles with some tough problems without unfortunately delivering much in the way of good fiction. The book leaves Arkansas with "Paradise," where we find Jack living in codependent hell with his girlfriend Louisa in Washington, D.C., but the home state's humid smell lingers over everything Jack touches. Throughout, he seems to flirt with the idea of being a writer, a novelist, a something, but generally his drinking, temper, and habit of looking at the stars through the scope on a high-powered rifle get the upper hand on his best intentions. The latter part of the collection is concerned mostly with Jack's schizophrenic relationship with East Coaster Louisa, who can generously be described as tempestuous. There's not much of an end to all the noise and anger, but Gills doesn't try to layer his stories with more importance than they deserve. As such, he has delivered a modestly successful and occasionally gripping volume. Theauthor does what he can with his fish-out-of-water protagonist who won't let much get between him and a drink. Some harsh gutter poetry is etched out of the downward spiral of a life poorly lived.
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