Reviewer Gordon Osmond : Gordon is a produced and award-winning playwright and author of: So You Think You Know English--A Guide to English for Those Who Think They Don't Need One, Wet Firecrackers--The Unauthorized Autobiography of Gordon Osmond and his debut novel Slipping on Stardust.
He has reviewed books and stageplays for http://CurtainUp.com and for the Bertha Klausner International Literary Agency. He is a graduate of Columbia College and Columbia Law School and practiced law on Wall Street for many years before concentrating on writing fiction and non-fiction. You can find out more about Gordon by clicking HERE
Byron Grush studied art and design and taught at The Art Institute of Chicago, creating a course in film animation in the mid-seventies. From his background as a visual, graphic, and electronic artist, Grush has turned his attention forward to a writing career and backward to the historical settings of the stories he tells. These odysseys will be welcome to any reader who appreciates exciting stories of the past told with prodigious literary skill.
Author Grush’s collection of short stories is centered in Devalin, Wisconsin, to which he has settled after residing in many other places. His affection for Devalin and its history is palpable. It is no surprise to learn that he is the grandson of a former mayor of a nearby city in Illinois.
The arrangement of the stories is strategic and satisfying. The title story is a riveting man against. beast tale full of passion and violence. Nature takes its turn as protagonist with the final two stories featuring the fury of fires on land and at sea. Stories exploring subtler moods of poignancy and reflection inhabit the space between the bombastic bookends.
Given the author’s proficiency with the pen, it may be some time before he returns to the brush. A rich vocabulary well serves Grush’s imaginative use of simile and metaphor to create a text which causes a reader to question whether the wonder is in the story itself or rather the skill with which it is being told.
The long, slow kiss that followed had been inevitable and overdue for they had passed many furtive glances and spoken many trivialities which both knew were the hesitant meanderings of desire restrained by protocol and station.
Women wearing wild feathered headdresses and risqué sequined tights rode on the elephants’ shoulders while trunks were held high and undulated like giant serpents dancing to an Indian mystic’s flute.
He dresses in baggy clothes and you can almost hear the blues when you look at him.
…munching a cold piece of toast with red jelly dripping from it like tears.
Pushed by wind— earth’s very breath—
Some of those thus wounded tore at their clothing, ripping off flaps of skin that adhered to the cloth. Some jumped into the water to escape the agonizing pain and were drowned.
Flames burst from the two sides of the boat, flaring out and upward like giant hands that came together in a thunderous clap that propelled the combined inferno to an impossible height.
The editing is not perfect.
Timbers are “strained” not “trained” by an elephant’s weight
…couldn’t bare (sic) it when she…
She examined the mechanism the (sic) would soon lower the casket
The man is tall but lanky. [Why the”but”?]
for Gordon and myself (sic)
They barely glace (sic) up as Joey and Gabe enter.
All he could do now was lay (sic) back and hope.
Although rooted in periods beginning in the second half of the nineteen century, there is a lot of current relevance in these stories. For example, in the forest fire sequences, we are introduced to a deranged woman who claims that the fiery deforestation is God’s punishment for the rapacious loggers that are indiscriminately cutting down trees.
Eleanor Sorensen saw the destruction of the old-growth forests as a defilement of God’s plan: the desecration of Eden. She was zealously religious and often pontificated about the Wrath of God and the coming of the Apocalypse, the genesis of which, she maintained in her scurrilous manner, was the pillage and plunder of nature by mankind— to whit (sic): the lumber industry.
As crazy as she’s portrayed, this reviewer observed an odd correspondence between this loon and today’s radical environmentalists.
One question the author is determined not to go unanswered is whether the stories are fact, fiction, fact-based legend, or some homogenized blend thereof. No fewer than three sections of the book are devoted to clarification of this issue, the most interesting of which is a final section entitled, Some Instances of History, which also serves as a useful reflection on many of the delightful stories that have preceded it. The cumulative disclosures are sufficient to pass muster according to the strictest standards applicable to a SEC-vetted prospectus. From the book:
There was a speakeasy called “The Sewer” in the basement of the Lake Como Hotel. Jimmy Murray supplied it from his brewery in New Glarus. Bugs Moran, Baby Face Nelson and the Dillinger gang did hang out at the Lake Como Hotel in the 1930s. The original John Barleycorn on Belden Avenue in Chicago was a speakeasy during prohibition. It was accessed through the Chinese laundry. Barnum’s gold? Well, that’s debatable. The source… the only source for that story was an email sent to a local journalist in Walworth County. While adapting the tale for my story I had to change a few things to make it more credible. And where was the gold, you may ask? Why, in the whiskey case, of course.
This heightened candor may be comforting to a historian, but for one who enjoys good stories, artistically told, the proof is in the reading, not in the historical accuracy.