Reviews By Evan


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Evan Williams - Review of Barefoot To Avalon, a Brother's Story by David Payne.jpg


by David Payne

Reviewed by Evan Williams

David Payne’s birth was not supposed to happen, not so soon into his young mom’s life, and not seeded by the suitor whose dreams of grandeur had no basis for launch. An ill-conceived decision, an unwelcome result, and the shaky beginnings led to careful life plans shattered. Most tragic, the couple on their uphill start brought an innocent into the self-destructive pattern they had begun practicing, and would eventually perfect.

From such a wellspring of cumulative family cataclysms, David Payne brings his mastery of literary fiction to the memoir, Barefoot to Avalon: A Brother’s Story.

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By Steve McCondichie

The literary world may never see another William Faulkner. Not from a talent standpoint, but in the sense of an archetypal voice of the Old South, for the landscape has changed. The South’s textile jobs are gone, furniture plant parking lots are sprouting weeds, and no one is working at the same place from early twenties until retirement. Young Southerners have moved out. Rust Belt-ers have moved in. And at some point during the topsy-turvy geography of job economics, the emergence of the global village, the Old South disappeared.

The new round of writers may have retained their regional accents, but the quintessential Southern gothic tale is now a cosmopolitan read, where scenes play nationwide. Such is true of Lying for a Living, by Steve McCondichie.

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By Matt Gallagher

Reviewed by Evan Williams

Imagine being a soldier, encased in more than sixty pounds of body armor, uniform, hydration system, and communication equipment, summarily dropped in the hundred degree heat of a desert, thousands of miles from home. But there is no war. Technically, the war is over. The mission is to provide a peaceful transition amongst the natives, as your country withdraws. However, there are enemies, various feuding sects within the populous, who all look alike, dress alike, and speak the same language, each poised to attack at any moment in a perpetual guerilla threat. Meanwhile, everyone wearing the hi-tech body armor, sucking life-giving water from the tubes of their camel backpacks, is restricted by a politically taut tightrope upon which they must navigate—avoid killing, and avoid being killed.

It is within these parameters that the novel, Young Blood, transpires.

A former US Army captain, Matt Gallagher has also authored, Kaboom, an acclaimed Iraq War memoir based upon the highly charged blog he maintained during his deployment. The novel, Young Blood, is his latest work, extending his military expertise to the world of fiction

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By Lou Gaglia

Spring to Mountain Press

Reviewed by Evan Williams

Who doesn’t love short stories? Quick to read, they provide an appetizer into the style and voice of unfamiliar authors, opening a gateway for pursuing (or not), a writer’s more lengthy work. In his collected short stories, SURE THINGS & LAST CHANCES, author Lou Gaglia provides that possibility, with most chapters of ten pages or less.

His first book, POOR ADVICE & OTHER STORIES received the 2015 New Apple Literary Award, along with the 2016 New York Book Festival Award for fiction—accolades of which I was unaware until I had completed my reading, and formed opinions.   

Gaglia’s stories find their home in New York City, peopled by apartment dwellers. The stereotypical, the timid, and the quirky all make appearances, as each story is told with expediency. My kudos for avoiding the trap of bogging down the reader with excessive details of city dwelling. Indeed, it is his use of quintessential description which imbues each selection with a noticeable zip—that ‘less is more’ quality which many writers cannot achieve.

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Red Shoes for Rachel

By Boris Sandler

Translated from the Yiddish by Barnett Zumoff

Reviewed by Evan Williams

The wait is over. Thanks to the work of prolific translator, Barnett Zumoff, author Boris Sandler’s highly-acclaimed, original, Yiddish stories are available in English. The award-winning Red Shoes for Rachel, is a collection of three novellas: Halfway Down the Road Back to You, Karolino-Bugaz, and title piece, Red Shoes for Rachel.

 Sandler is prominent among postwar Yiddish fiction writers, having received every major contemporary award for his work. He grew up speaking Yiddish in his native land of Russia, later living in Israel, and finally the United States, his work having been translated into English, Hebrew, Russian, German, and Romanian.

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By Sean Kirst

Syracuse University Press (2016), 400 pages, $29.95 paperback, $59.95 hardcover.

For nearly twenty-five years, Sen Kirst worked as a columnist for the Syracuse Post-Standards, during which time he received many of the most prestigious honors in journalism, including the 2008 Ernie Pyle Award, given each year to the single American writer whose work best captures the aspirations of everyday Americans. His latest book, THE SOUL OF CENTRAL NEW YORK, is a collection of columns originally published by the Syracuse Post-Standard between 1991 and 2015. Kirst is also the author of, The Ashes of Lou Gehrig and Other Baseball Essays, and the co-author of, Moonfixer: The Basketball Journey of Earl Lloyd.

 Each of the stories in THE SOUL OF CENTRAL NEW YORK, is either set within, or is directly linked to Syracuse, New York. His characters include the internationally famous, several hometown heroes, but mostly unknowns, making quiet, significant impact. They appear from all walks of life—captains of industry, sports legends, school teachers, community leaders, and even a U.S .Vice-President—yet it is not their differences which motivate the stories, but the commonality of the human experience.

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By Tim Weed

Reviewed by Evan Williams

From novelist Tim Weed comes his first collection of short stories, A Field Guide to Murder and Fly Fishing.

Travel around the world with stories unique in setting and plot, but all high on adventure. Whether the jungle be Amazonian or urban, none of Weed’s characters are safe from the brutality of life.

Foreign settings come to life thanks to the author’s capability as a knowledgeable guide, fluent in languages and cultures. The result is that magnificent writing meets indigenous color, sure to thrill any reader.