Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Moving Finger Writes By Carey Parrish

Reviewed by Alan Chin

Carey Parrish is one of the sweetest, most affable writers you’ll ever meet. So when he suggested that I read/review his new anthology of short stories, I was expecting some lighthearted gay romance or some comedy stories. I was thoroughly shocked to find that Carey writes rather sinister stories in the vain of Stephen King. Who knew this bright sunny guy has such a dark side?

I seldom read anthologies, mostly because I’ve found that I typically only enjoy one or two of the usual six to twelve stories, but I have to slog through the mud to find the gems. So I agreed to review The Moving Finger Writes with trepidation. But what I found here is that I wholly enjoyed each story. The first tale – The Woman Speaks – is fairly well written, good paced and even though it is was a tad predictable, it was delightful. It’s the story of Jason Connors, a young journalist on the verge of a career breakthrough story, and Violet Vaughn, an aging diva who has a deep, rather startling secret she has lived with most of her life. But is her secret too dark and too startling for Jason Connors? You be the judge.
I found the next story even more pleasing. The Piano involves Mark Booker, who bought a piano from a secondhand shop and got much more than he bargained for. Along with the piano, he inherited the spirit of a long-dead musician. But sometimes spirits can be like unwanted relatives, once they’re in you house, they won’t leave no matter what you do.
The Last Of Penny tells the complex tale of Steven Ballard and William Wilson, both affluent and successful lawyers with a Beverly Hills practice, and the one thing standing in their way of becoming a perfectly happy gay couple is Ballard’s wife, Penny. What lengths will these two men go to rid themselves of a tarnished Penny and find eternal happiness? The answer is marvelously shocking.
Arsenic and Old Cake is my favorite story of this book, both for its characters and suspenseful storyline. It’s a story of greed, crime, and turning the tables. What would you do if you discovered that the bright light of your life, your soul-mate, the person you most deeply love in the world, was suspected of murdering her previous husband, and also plotting to murder you?! This is a delicious little story that will keep you guessing throughout.
Killer Convent is a mystery involving the theft of a priceless painting from a convent, and the murdered guard who stumbled upon the crime scene. When two insurance investigators begin to scrutinize the case, they uncover some rather disturbing clues that all is not what it seems at the peaceful little convent. The results are unbelievable and wild, and very entertaining.
The Portrait is a story of jealousy and black magic. It’s a story a young man who wakes in what appears to be a deserted house, and he has complete amnesia. I found this tale the most disturbing because I once experience something similar, and I found myself reliving that appalling fear of not knowing where you are, or even who you are. The way Perrish handles the weaving together of information to overcome the amnesia is extremely well done.
And what dark anthology would be complete without a vampire story? Darkness and Light tells the interesting story of how the first vampire came to be, and trust me, it’s not at all what you think. It is a highly imaginative page turner.
The last story, The Christmas Present, was my least favorite. When a young man flies back to Chicago to visit his brother for the holidays, he befriends an old man, also going to Chicago to visit family. Only the old man’s family members are all dead. It is a tale of loneliness, of the importance of family, and the gift of reaching out to someone in need. It is a very moving story, and could have been my favorite had I been able to silence the editor in me.

As anyone can see, these stories are varied and imaginative. The characters are, for the most part, well developed and their situations interesting. These stories reminded me of a series of episodes from the Twilight Zone. Many were a tad predictable, and almost all the stories had some amount of head hopping (sudden switch of POV), but neither issue, however, was so blatant as to detract from my reading enjoyment. My only real criticism, which did detract from my reading enjoyment, is that all of the stories – some more than others – needs a competent editor with a flowing red pen to crawl through and tighten the prose. To be sure, Carey Parrish is not as seasoned a writer as one expects to find at the major publishing houses, so if your reading pleasure is incumbent on tightly crafted prose, then you may be disappointed. However, if you’re simply looking for some fun, fast paced, interesting and enjoyable stories to entertain you on a sunny afternoon, then I recommend The Moving Finger Writes.

The Moving Finger Writes is available at,,,, and it can also be purchased direct thru

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Roses Have Thorns by Jude Mason


Reviewed by Mykola Dementiuk

While reading ‘Roses Have Thorns’ I couldn’t help but think of that real life serial killer known as the Green River Killer who did away with some forty-fifty young women if not more, in Seattle and Canada during the 80s. Though Jude Mason doesn’t tell us that her story is based on him the similarities are too striking to look elsewhere. The Green River killer was after whores and Mason’s Rose, in her clothes and gaudy makeup, fits the description of a street whore perfectly.
She is a hooker turning tricks and one cold wet night with just a few cars passing her by she accepts a ride from a potential customer, Clifford, who instantly spots and eyes her cleavage, a mesmerizing sight. Clifford orders her to disrobe and she teasingly removes her clothes and feels an aroused and erect man moving atop her…until she passes out.
Somehow she survives her mutilation, which it was, and it might be disarming to some readers but I thought it was very real and true to the dangers of life on the streets be you whore with all kinds of customers for a quickie or killers preying on your body. Mason shows us the cunning subtleties of her characters, years later, as they meet and faze into their cunning reversed roles, a prostitute and a killer, to where she exacts her vengeance on him…I’ll leave this to the reader to ebb out the gruesome ending, but one complaint, I wish the story was a little longer, to me it was much too short, I feel because I could read stuff about whores for pages on end…that’s just my opinion. Anyway ‘Roses Have Thorns’ was a very good story at that…sure had me on the edge of my seat waiting to see what could happen next.

Mykola Dementiuk’s own novella about street girls ‘100 Whores and other stories’ is due out the Christmas 2009 from Synergy Press.

The Phoenix by Ruth Sims

Reviewed by Alan Chin

This compelling Victorian saga brings together two men. The first, Kit St. Denys (starts off as Jack Rourke), grew to the doorstep of manhood as a gutter rat in the slums of London. He suffered from poverty, a weakling brother, a prostitute mother, and a brutally abusive father. The one silver lining in his life was, by luck, that he established a connection with the theater, and began an acting career that would eventually lead to fame and riches, but only after Kit’s mother leaves them, his brother dies at the hand of his father, and Kit stabs his father in a vicious fight. To hide Kit from the law, a rich theater owner adopts him and changes his identity.
The other man, Nicholas Stuart, was destined to follow in the footsteps of his father, a poor village doctor. Nicholas however, runs off to study at the university, and becomes a highly qualified surgeon, respected by peers. He opens a clinic for London’s poor and lives a frugal, passionless life, until the day he accompanies friends to the theater and sees Kit St. Denys on stage. Nicholas is entranced by Kit, and when an act of luck brings him to Kit’s dressing room after the play, the two men are enchanted by each other in such strong terms that their budding love transcends time, distance, and a host of obstacles.

Narrated in the manner of a 19th century novel – primarily told, not shown – the characters are kept at a slight distance from the reader. But this didn’t keep me from caring about the characters. The protagonists are complex, flawed and completely sympathetic. Indeed, I wanted more. There were several secondary characters that I would have like to have seen expanded, and even with the two lovers, there were episodes in their lives that could have benefited by drilling to a deeper understanding.

In keeping with a historical novel told in the 19th century manner, there are no detailed descriptions of sex. I found that refreshing, and there certainly was no need for it. Kit and Nicholas’s love and need for each other was the focus, not what went on behind the bedroom door. Still it was a passionately told love affair.

Although I am, admittedly, not a huge fan of historical fiction, I found The Phoenix a satisfying read. Beyond the normal romance plot twists, is the convincing story of two men in turmoil, and their only chance for survival is to cling to each other, which of course is not always the case. The many varied plot twists kept me turning pages while pulling for both protagonists. There were times when I felt the storyline was too predictable, and there were certain elements about the ending that were disturbing, but that did not detract from my enjoyment of this story. I have no reservation in recommending this book to anyone.