113. The Strand Magazine Feb-May 2013

The Strand Magazine Feb-May 2013 (Subscription)

Pages: 80
Ages: 16+
First Published: Feb, 2013
Publisher: The Strand Magazine
Rating: 4/5

This was an interesting one to come into as I'd only ever read Stevenson before. I'd heard of Leonard, Collins and, of course, Spillane but never read them and all the other authors were new to me.

1. The Only Good Syrian Foot Soldier is a Dead One by Elmore Leonard - Certainly not a mystery, nor a genre story at all actually.  This short story features an actor whose career has ended up with him playing extras, mostly in battles scenes, who get killed.  We experience his latest role as a Syrian foot soldier and the egos and arrogance of the stars and directors around him.  The ending has shock value.  Well written, but not exactly exciting. 3/5

2. The Present by Robert Lopresti - A mother buys a present for her son and takes a break from carrying the heavy telescope when she starts watching a man and daughter having lunch in the food court. Only it doesn't take long for her to wonder whether the girl has been kidnapped and forms the basis of the story.  All's well that ends well until the ending gives us a startling look at the woman's own reality.  Well-written, good pacing.  4/5

3. Masterpiece by Jonathan Santlofer - An artist finds his muse and starts work on his masterpiece. Not exactly a mystery but suspenseful look at the consequences when everyone is out for themselves, expects the worst of the other, continually trying to get out of their own mess until it bites them in the end. Ha! 3/5

4. Washed Out by Michael Humfrey - A man return to his childhood home on St. Cecilia's for the first time in thirty years in this short 2 1/2 page story. His thoughts turn to his own home and his neighbours, then the disappearance of the neighbour's wife whom he seems to be the only one who knows where she went.  Short, but captivating and well-written. 3/5

5. In the After by John Gilstrap - Whoa!  Very good.  A man and his wife are tied up in there home and psychologically tortured as the person reveals who he is from the man's past and what he wants.  Creepy.  Loved it.  5/5

6. Not a Penny More by Jon Land - Noir-ish story of a man in a rut who takes a used car home for the weekend to try out and finds his life changed.  Is the car magic?  Passable story, ending is predictable. (3/5)

7. So Long, Chief by Max Allan Collins & Mickey Spillane - My very first Mike Hammer story!  I didn't know what to expect since I absolutely hated the TV show with Stacy Keach so I was pleasantly surprised to find that I loved this!  Originally started in the mid-'70s, Collins finishes Spillane's work posthumously.  The old Chief of Police is ninety-odd years old, in the hospital and dying.  After Mike visits him the Chief is murdered with a knife to the ribs.  Mike sets off to find out why someone so badly needed to rush nature along.  Not my usual type of fare, but I really had fun with this seventies Private Eye case complete with mobsters and crooked cops.  (5/5)

8. Books and Reading. No 2. How Books Have to be Written by Robert Louis Stevenson - An entirely enticing essay written by RLS in 1882 and soon to be published in a new collection of essays by the author.  Written to children for children the author describes the second most important aspect of writing, and that is knowing what to leave out of your narrative.  It is very humorous and would have made an impression on young aspiring writers of the day.  He ends with a lengthy discussion between a "cheap" murder novel and Shakespeare's Macbeth.  While taking amusing potshots at Shakespeare his comparison concludes what makes it a great work rather than "a sham" by a "bad author".  Instructive and entertaining. (5/5)


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