An aging hitman is embittered by his career choice at the point of no return. A shell-shocked soldier in World War Two finds hope through death, reflected in the eyes of his enemy. A serial killer confesses in veiled, lurching prose. A mobster unravels at the zero hour of this mortal coil. A man reevaluates existence after discovering a suicide. These are some of the twenty-nine dark, twisted, and gritty stories by Stephen J. Golds collected here for the first time — bound taut with thirty poems of loss, love, and other thoughts that haunt you after last call.
A thoughtful collection of stories and poems from Stephen J. Golds, one I probably rushed through reading (that's how I roll), as opposed to limiting myself to a handful a day, offering the opportunity more to dwell on them. I probably didn't give them the full attention they deserved.
Thoughts then ....
I liked the content and context of the stories. Most have crime elements at heart which is my preferred taste .... hitmen, mobsters, death, revenge, bars, drinking, women, regrets, mistakes, war, sickness, hold-ups, consequences.
I enjoyed the references to real people and places woven into the stories ...... Bonnie and Clyde, Dillinger, Whitey Bulger, Sing Sing, Capone ... I'm guessing Golds is a student of the history of American gangsters.
Stand outs ...
Brain Scan - a lot of heart, a lot of pain, and one which as a parent lingers
Love Like Bleeding Out with an Empty Gun in Your Hand - the title piece and opening story.... love, regrets, death with a final sucker punch.
Most were very good and had a pay-off. I can't recall any as such that left me cold and scratching my head. Too many to list.
"High school was the best acting studio. I observed the people there. Imitated them and their emotions. Their facial tics. They taught me to hide in plain sight. Education. Knowledge is power."
What was an unexpected pleasure was the accessibility of his poetry. I'll hold my hands up and admit that I have consciously tried to avoid reading poetry ever since school, with the odd exception of a bit of Bukowski encountered in some of his story collections. I think my aversion to it, stems in part from laziness and ignorance.
Lazy - the poetry foisted on me at school, was like reading a foreign language. One which very often demanded too much effort to translate and comprehend.
Ignorant - see above - lazy - I thought all poetry was the same, therefore required a bit of a body swerve to avoid. Rusty Barnes tells me I was probably poorly taught.
Stephen Golds has opened my eyes a bit. His poems seemed very personal. More emotional than the short stories .... love, family, loss, pain, anger, joy... the man writes with his heart on his sleeve.
A collection I plan on re-visiting at a slower pace when life slows down a bit.
4 from 5
Read - April, 2021
Published - 2021
Page count - 289
Source - review copy from author
Format - PDF read on laptop