Crime Novel Review – The Carrier

Preston Lang’s discreetly funny debut crime novel The Carrier is an amoral story about semi-decent, semi-depraved, mostly-human people who eat and argue and screw genuinely enough as they pursue their proverbial pot of gold in parts unknown of the U.S.A. Some get what they got coming, some get less, others more, but always around the corner is another day and another twist of the knot and who knows if it’s money, drugs, gold, or death that awaits.

the-carrier

Readers may not know that the man behind Preston Lang spent the late 90’s living in a dusty little corner of Southern Africa, where both his unique outlook on crime and his affinity for the off-beat were entered into evidence: his home-alarm system of Carlsberg empties mustered around an unlocked wooden door; his entertainment for high-end guests at the ambassador’s Fourth of July reception – tickling the ivories to the tune of Oh, Canada.

Slow at times, often dead funny, the book entertains without pretense before racing through a brutal, breathless, corkscrew finish.

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ONE DEAD COP

One Dead Cop

Taillights cut a pool of red in the dark where three African heavies in police uniform manned the makeshift roadblock.  A fourth figure loomed over the driver-side door two cars up.  The cops held their rifles clumsily.  Probably they were cops, Raines thought. Criminals in the West African Republic handled weapons better than the police did.  The cops moved alongside and scrutinized his car, then took up positions at the rear.  Raines decided against running the blockade, though he doubted the rifles were loaded.  He checked his mirrors, all black; his watch, a faint glow.  He tapped the wheel.  Half past midnight.  Fifteen minutes since he’d left home.  Twenty since the Ops Center informed him of the cable requiring immediate action.

The big cop waved him up, palm downward, fingers beckoning with im- patience.  Raines lowered his tinted win- dow before the cop could tap it with his dirty hand.  Sweat- and booze-reek poured through the window on the humid air.  The cop grinned.  His big, round face glistened with sweat in the red-tinged dark.

“Evening boss,” Raines said.

Read Full Story (Published by Umbrella Factory Magazine, September 2012)

Prohibition

The idea is to write a story in 100 words flat.


The boys weren’t allowed to have guns.  But they wanted to play gangster, so Howard cut rifles out of cardboard.

“We want pistols,” 5-year-old Mickey said.

“And Uzis,” said Danny, age 3.

Howard, who watched many movies with pistols and Uzis while the boys’ mother worked late, cut cardboard into those shapes.

“Bang bang,” Mickey said.  Howard played dead.

Danny stuck two muzzles in Howard’s back. “Bang bang bang bang.”

The muzzles bent. “No fair,” Danny said.  He started to cry. “I want mommy.”

“Here,” Howard said. “Let’s get rid of these before she gets home. Let’s watch a movie.”

Review (Honduras) – Paradise in Front of Me

Paradise in Front of Me – Realizing Life’s Beauty in an Unexpected Place – by Kevin G. Finch (Honduras 2004–06)

The recurring image in Kevin G. Finch’s Paradise in Front of Me is that of an impoverished Honduran child looking up at a locked schoolhouse door. Shut out again. The author and the residents of El Paraíso repeatedly find their plans scuttled: by naked madmen in San Juan, cancelled classes in Monte Cristo, failed transportation to Cuyalí, striking teachers, impassable rivers, travelinggringo evangelicals . . . there’s no end to the obstacles in this Honduran state near the border with Nicaragua. “The teachers are on strike,” Finch writes towards the end, “and another day is wasted in the future of Honduras.  The child blinks his eyes to bat away the drops of rain running down from his soaked hair.  He looks left and then right.  Slumping his shoulders, he heads for home, his empty notebook in hand.”

Read Full Review

Posted to Peace Corps Writers February 28, 2014

GREEN

When the Peace Corps recruiter called to offer Pete Seward a position teaching English in Malawi Seward asked, “Where’s that?”

“Africa.”

Seward thought about that.  Where the application had asked for geographical preferences, Seward had written: “Anywhere in the Pacific.  Definitely not Africa.”  So he reminded the recruiter of this.

“I do see that.  But, let me ask you.  Why don’t you want to go to Africa?”

Seward had no real answer.  His distaste for Africa was conceptual.  Africa loomed large as a dustbowl, riddled with disease, starvation, and conflict.  An assignment in the islands was more his speed, the proper blend of adventure and simplicity, minus the nagging question of hunger, disease, and drought.  Unsure of how to convey this without appearing callous Seward said, “Africa’s dry.  Africa’s dusty.”

Read Full Story (Posted to Peace Corps Writers January 10, 2014)

Review (Niger) – A Dry and Thirsty Land

A Dry and Thirsty Land: The Misadventures of a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa – by Bryant Wieneke (Niger 1974–76)

Mr. Wieneke’s engaging 60,000-word memoir contains all the stuff of Peace Corps legend, from encounters with exotic insects and large snakes to bouts of diarrhea and Malarial fever. It also contains a large dose of the question: why did Peace Corps bring me here? As such it contributes to the body of Peace Corps literature a thoughtful voice that will be especially compelling for prospective Volunteers.

Full Review (Posted to Peace Corps Writers February 4, 2014)
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THIS IS HOW WE TWEET

 

Assistant Secretary Crickshaw wants to tweet. His request (order) reaches us in Electronic Media via the staff aides in the front office, setting in motion a whole series of actions that repeat the actions of the day before and the day before that, all the way back to the day we first tweeted, which nobody knows exactly when that was.

First, we initiate the Interagency Process to gather the Briefing Checklist, the Scene Setter, the Draft Remarks and all other documents related to the event the assistant secretary wants to have us tweet for him about. We then consult the lead office (in this case, Youth Rights/Worldwide Engagement/ Sports Organizations/Diplomacy for Underserved Males—YR/WE/SO/DUM) for an analysis of the pros and cons of tweeting. The analysis is strictly pro forma, of course: we have our orders. So we will complete the process per the standard operating procedure, right down to tweeting at the exact second of the precise minute of the chosen hour, no sooner and no later, as presented in the Tweet Strategy Timeline, which we are about to draft.

While YR/WE/SO/DUM completes the analysis, there is time for a quick cup of coffee and lemon pound cake from one of the many Starbucks within acceptable range (7 minutes) of the office. 

Read Full Story (Posted to The Foreign Service Journal January 2, 2014)

ONE DEAD COP

One Dead Cop

Taillights cut a pool of red in the dark where three African heavies in police uniform manned the makeshift roadblock.  A fourth figure loomed over the driver-side door two cars up.  The cops held their rifles clumsily.  Probably they were cops, Raines thought. Criminals in the West African Republic handled weapons better than the police did.  The cops moved alongside and scrutinized his car, then took up positions at the rear.  Raines decided against running the blockade, though he doubted the rifles were loaded.  He checked his mirrors, all black; his watch, a faint glow.  He tapped the wheel.  Half past midnight.  Fifteen minutes since he’d left home.  Twenty since the Ops Center informed him of the cable requiring immediate action.

The big cop waved him up, palm downward, fingers beckoning with im- patience.  Raines lowered his tinted win- dow before the cop could tap it with his dirty hand.  Sweat- and booze-reek poured through the window on the humid air.  The cop grinned.  His big, round face glistened with sweat in the red-tinged dark.

“Evening boss,” Raines said.

Read Full Story (Posted to Umbrella Factory Magazine, September 2012)

GUTS

George craves the syringe with an addict’s distress. I have one thumb on the plunger. I put the other in his mouth. The plastic syringe tip curves along my crooked thumb between George’s lips. I press the plunger carefully and let the milk flow.The ruddy face of Senator Teflon–that’s my name for him–fills the television. He speaks aggressively, his head jerking up and down. The TV is muted. For all I know, Teflon’s gobbling like a turkey. Both hands occupied, I have no way to change the channel.

“What’s that thing called?” I ask George’s mother. “Hangs off a turkey’s chin?”

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Heaven Is Coming Home, Part II

…David’s richly textured writing reads like romantic poetry.  Yet there is a clarity to the telling born of steady revelation in sign and image.  The narrator, like an expert kite handler, works his string in concert with the wind to lead the colors of his craft across our minds’ eye.

 

As our protagonist Rovin, reborn Ravindranath the prophet, sets out at the beginning of Part II in search of the Magi, we long in our hearts most for his reunion with the Angel Drianelle….