Sunday 17 January 2021




SUGAR GOT LOW contains a tale of grifters, a prequel story to the well-regarded Ania series, several trips back to River City and one to La Sombra, Texas. Enjoy a Walter Mitty homage set in San Francisco and a deadly day in Roman Britain, the heartbreaking story of a junkie and the suspenseful one of a murderer in a black car. And at the end of it all, you'll experience the dark but inspiring title story of perseverance that was only made possible because of a misunderstood lyric.

Four-time Derringer finalist Frank Zafiro weaves a lucky thirteen tales drawn from throughout his career with one thing in common - characters you may love or hate, but will certainly feel.

A fantastic collection of short stories from Frank Zafiro, one of which I think I've encountered before - A Concrete Smile and one which tangentally connected to characters encountered in Zafiro's novella, In the Shadows of El Paso.

One of the highlights of last year's reading was discovering Frank Zafiro's writing, both as a solo author and in tandem with Colin Conway. I hope to read more from him this year.

The 13 tales in the collection are....

Adam Raised a Cain .... cops, a culture, trust, peer pressure, hobson's choice, consequences, family traits, 

A Gyro and a Glock ..... A Guns and Tacos Season One tale featuring drugs, crime, friendship, betrayal, and a gun and a taco

Details in Black ....... family - past and present - a sense of loss and a search for a connection and some car trouble

Long Burdens ..... a cop in a town beholden to a rich man, contemplating retirement, one more job before he goes

Lowest Point .... a patrol cop, a late night call, a gunshot in a family home
Party Dress ..... loss, loneliness and regret

Prank Call ..... juvenile behaviour, consequences, eight years of regrets and plenty of time to scheme for revenge

Walking Through .... cops, secrets, identity, hidden selves

Walter’s Night  ..... a computer nerd gets shut down

Run Its Course ..... a cop off duty, loose lips sink ships, a guest appearance from Eryk the bar owner,

The Concrete Smile ...... A Grifter's Song tale - the series opener with Sam and Rachel, a pair of con artists

Titus, My Brother | (By Frank Scalise) .... Roman Britain, brothers in battle

Sugar Got Low ...... growing up, isolation, bullying, family troubles, finding your way

A bit of everything in this collection...... cops, grifters, junkies, alcoholics, bars, prison, soldiers, addiction, petty crime, gangs, cons, greed, partners, family, revenge, loss, grief, betrayal, death and survival.

I don't think there was one story in the collection that I didn't enjoy, which is unusual as there's usually a couple in these collections that doesn't resonate or satisfy. This time I could take something from every tale. It's incredibly hard to make a reader care about characters and/or events and outcomes in the time taken to read short prose. Zafiro manages it every time. 

Favourites - Prank Call, A Concrete Smile and Run Its Course.

4.5 from 5

Previously I've enjoyed (co-authored with Colin Conway) - Code Four (2020) - Badge Heavy
- Never the Crime (2020) and Charlie 316 (2019) and on his own Chisolm's Debt (2013) (as Scalise, Frank) - The Hardest Hit (2011) 
and In the Shadow of El Paso (2015) 

Read - January, 2021
Published - 2021
Page count - 324
Source - review copy from author
Format - Kindle read via laptop


  1. This really does sound good, Col. Story collections can sometimes be uneven in quality, so it's nice to hear that this one is consistently good. And some of those stories do sound appealing...

    1. Margot, I was pleasantly surprised to find I enjoyed them all. That's never happened before!