The Stories In Between by River Dixon
I read this book via both my e-reader and in paperback. This is a unsolicited review.
What I Loved:
River Dixon is easily one of my favorite writers. He creates both poetry as well as flash fiction and short stories (which in my humble opinion are his shining stars). Reading him is like revisiting one of my old favorites, Philip K Dick. Only…. I like River’s voice better. So I guess I’m saying I believe he’s better than PKD. Yep. I said it. River’s style is dark, twisted, humorous and unexpected…. just what I want to read in a short story. His characters may be “the bad guy” yet somehow you find yourself rooting for them, seeing them through their own slanted view. Other times they may be the simple guy on the sidelines at the wrong place (and often confused with their plight).
This collection is everything I hoped for in reading his work. Dark and twisted. Someone (almost) always dies. Often strangely or violently (but not explicitly graphically). The good guy is often the bad guy and he doesn’t always win… though you want him to. This is thirteen stories written by a master manipulator of the word and mind. The first and last stories are tied together (I won’t say how!) and what’s sandwiched in between is… well, I won’t say heaven… but something quite wonderful.
There’s the little voice inside that won’t ever shut up. The little girl who loves her father more than any other and carefully follows his gruesome footsteps. The nagging mother who’ll never let her middle-aged son grow up, even from the grave. The man who meets his author and creator. Dead hookers, old-time gangsters who suddenly gain a conscience mid-hustle, a book curator who’ll stop at nothing to find that children’s book, a seller of dreams, and an alternate dimension that collides with ours so that a man sees his alternate increasingly are found in these pages. And more…
The other thing I love about River’s writing is how much he allows for your imagination. He points you down the dark shadowy trail in the woods and allows you to find your way out again. It’s masterfully done and so enjoyable.
I didn’t find a single grammatical error or misspelling and that made me very happy. Also, the paperback quality was very good. A nice size in your hand and the front cover art was appealing.
What I Didn’t:
If I had to complain about anything it’s that I wish it was twice as long.
I will add in this section, if you’re squeamish about language or dark themes (such as murder or scratching beneath the floorboard that won’t allow you to finish watching that musical on Netflix…) then this might not be a good match for you. This contains all that. (Though mostly by reference and not by adding the grisly details.)
My Favorite Bits:
Little Voice – “Everyone has that little voice inside their head; that’s normal. But this voice, coming from my abdomen was starting to concern me.” And then… “My reflection in the window looked good; hair neatly cropped and tie crisp….. His eyes glazed over at the sight of my tattered and stained pajama pants and blood-soaked t-shirt. The clip-on necktie hung slightly crooked under my cleanly shaven face.” ohmygod the first time I read that I literally laughed out loud
Case of the Missing Pillow –
“It’s right there; you dumb shit.”
“That’s not my pillow.”
“Yes, it is.”
“No, it’s not, can’t be. My pillow is blue.” The husband shook his head.
“Oh, my, God, seriously? The pillowcase was blue. This—”, she held up the pillow and shook it in the air, “is a different pillowcase. I changed it.”
But the real question is: WHY did she change it?! (You’ll have to read the book…)
The Diner – “A man is sitting at the counter, hunched over a notebook, frantically writing…. The man at the counter with the notebook took a sip of coffee, and like a flash, turned and looked directly at me, with a fire in his eyes. He slammed his hands against the counter, scooped up his notebook, and stormed out the front door.”
And so it goes, again and again, this mystery writer who seems as if he can’t stand the main character… but I think they made peace in the end.
My Overall Score:
(1/4 for length (could have been twice as long for me…. which hardly seems fair to lose a score based on LACK of length but -again- it’s my grading system))
My Amazon Review:
Mr. Dixon is easily one of my favorite authors. I’ve been following his writing on his blog for a couple years now and have read all three of his books to date. He brings us dark twisted and humorous in this collection of thirteen short stories.
True to his style, Mr. Dixon gives us just enough of a glimpse into these strange tales as to be completely swept off into them, immediately permeating the brain within just a few short opening lines but without telling every ghastly detail. Storytelling at its finest.
I’ll mention the three I would say are (probably?) my favorites.
The Diner – a man meets the author and creator of his own existence
Fracture – an OCD-driven man becomes increasingly aware of the presence of a messy doppelgänger who shows up in his house
Last Wednesday at Sue’s Place – dark and moody, it doesn’t end the way you’d think it would (and I loved it)
Highly recommended for those who enjoy dark humor.
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**If this review was helpful or you’ve read it and want to add to the discussion, please let me know in the comments!