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The first story in this collection by author Chris Roy is, "Her Name Is Mercie." It is a taut thriller with a lovable duo caught up in a conspiracy that reaches deep into the local police department. The author's powerful prose and tight pacing keeps the reader cheering for Mercie Hillbrook and her affable young companion, Kermit, a Vietnamese street-kid.
After her parents are murdered, Mercie finds herself searching for answers. But every answer leads her down a dangerous road to more questions. Not knowing who she can trust, one-time gas station attendant Mercie Hillbrook is befriended by a street-kid attempting to steal her car stereo.
The unlikely pair made me laugh and smile and I desperately wanted them to succeed in finding justice for Mercie. It's a feel-good story that takes the reader on a thrill ride worth every gunshot, every car crash, every trickle of blood. Mercie is a strong character dealing with the worst that life could throw at her.
The details in this story about the inner workings of jail really shine for me. The concept of eminent domain is what's on trial in Mercie's world and the author does a beautiful job of entertaining, whilst educating the reader, about such tragedies with his powerful and fervent prose.
But the highlight of the collection for this reviewer is Re-Pete. The second story is about a troubled kid with OCD. Roy delivers a terrifying twist with a brilliant use of the child's obsessive-compulsive disorder that got a true whelp of joy out of me. Pete is troubled, unwanted, and downright mistreated. Gut-punch after throat-punch after agonizing gut-punch, the author gives us a character we can truly feel for.
The author's ferocious pacing and style is like a staccato of ideas, words, images. Some were meant to understand clearly and right away; other concepts remain hidden behind short, machine-gun fire like sentences that only reveal their true nature once the reader reaches the end of the story.
Pure literary joy.
And this is what Chris Roy is about. He wants to surprise you into the story, often leaving out descriptions of the scene, making the reader feel disoriented. And once you feel like you've got your head wrapped around the situation, he twists things around, flips them on their head, and reveals the true nature behind the piece.
The remaining three pieces in the collection, Hunger, Libby's Hands, and Marsh Madness all display the author's vivid imagination, and his fast-paced-prose style is on full display. The caveats for this style of writing, for me, is that sometimes too much can be lost to the pacing. The reader almost desires clarity in the prose as much as Rebecca desires land in the third story, "Hunger." Lost at sea with only her dog Sammy as companion, Chris Roy gives a haunting tale about isolation, loss, and coming to terms with death. Once again what we think we are reading turns and twists into something different, something horrific.
Something beautifully horrific.
Libby's Hands and Marsh Madness are pure terror through and through. These stories aren't meant to scare or educate, or thrill the reader: they're meant to frighten.
And that they do. Any fan of horror, whether gore or psychological, will keep turning these pages with glee.
But reading these last couple of tales, I couldn't help but think back to Mercie's canary yellow Charger with the Hemi from the first story. The car can go fast, sounds loud, it rumbles and shakes like Eddie Money. She's a demon, that car. It can go fast and the author knows how to floor it, push the peddle to the metal.
But with such a fast pace, the passenger misses details along the side of the road. Things get lost along the way. We can't enjoy the trees, the bushes, the detritus that litters the side of the road. The true thrill of the ride is missed because we can't see everything. The car goes so fast, almost too fast, and so our minds drift to the passenger window, out the window, and we look for street signs to give us a clue as to where the driver might be taking us.
But those signs, they blaze past us so fast, we can't read them.
We miss our turn.
But it's the author at the wheel and we want him to drive like a madman. It's vicarious fun for us passengers; we know and trust our driver to deliver the goods, whether we're traveling eight miles-per-hour or 80 miles-per-hour.
Chris Roy's writing is vivid, thrilling, horrific fun, and he pushes the pace to the limit. Reading his work, you can feel his pen getting away from him. It's moving much too fast for the author to keep up. But the truth is that it is the author's ideas that are moving too fast; his mind is moving at such a fast and furious pace, it cannot keep up with his pen.
So like any fast car, the shine will wear off eventually, and the driver will want to drive a little slower, show off that nice wash he just put her through. He'll cruise up and down road and let us enjoy that beautiful gleam a good polish gives a paint job. And when he pulls over to offer us a ride, we climb in, and are in awe of how shiny the dashboard is.
And the driver, he looks over at us, smiling as he guns the engine. Taking the time to armor all the interior, using all his strength to wax-on/wax-off the exterior with turtle wax, the driver can push the pedal through the floorboards, and we'll love him for it.
And that is why this reviewer is anxious to see where this writer takes him to next. Every time we climb into his car, we know he's going to smash the pedal and leave some tire on the asphalt. It's a given. Our heart races with the sounds, our blood courses throughout our body as the car fishtails, and pushes our adrenaline to its maximum past each and every road sign, warning us that there is no mercy for the passenger.
Just thrills and chills.
And we wouldn't want it any other way.
Find it on Amazon.
Chris Roy on the Web
Chris Roy is currently living out a life sentence in Mississippi behind bars, having been convicted when he was 18 after a fist fight ended tragically. Learn more about this multi-talented author, artist, tattooist, and boxing trainer, by checking out his website, and following him on Twitter @AuthorChrisRoy