Thursday, February 8, 2018

Book Review: 'A Collection of Dark Short Stories and Poetry' by Marc Johnson

Marc W Johnson is making his writing debut with this short but powerful book. In attempting to find biographical information as backstory to his debut, the only available in formation is there are a lot of Marc Johnson authors sharing the same name. And early constructive criticism would be to request that he place his photo and something about his background on his Amazon page. Or at least an About the Author section in his book.
So we enter this little book with blinders – ‘all the better to see you with, my dear’ as the quotes go. He offers brief Preface that raises the eyebrows in interest: ‘As I traverse the dark hollow of my mind where light is forbidden, revelation bestows insight and I realize, that if there is a God, the cruelest gift ever granted… is hope.’

FRIENDS is the first story and few have ever written the angst and anger of a newly divorced father so well – and we only discover the extent at the end. GUARDIAN is a bizarre park scene in which an elderly lady either approves or disapproves of the parents of children with her own method of altering things. THE MINE is visited by a group of curious high schoolers – a spooky place that has a tunnel that leads to something very strange and terminal. A DOG’S LIFE strains credibility as a couple deal with an ensuing pet death – but which is the pet? And there is another, equally bizarre.

The stories are very strange but beautifully paced and catch any reader with a twist that is unexpected. The poems are strained and a bit awkward – the ideas are good but the rhythm of the words is awry:
Born to life; the breath we fray;
Thus begins our time away.
The line is thin; very gray.

A journey of strife for a life to make.
The seconds’ away click.
Rich, poor, somewhere in between;
The line is thin; seldom seen.

Young, middle, or old;
The line will vary; until the riddle told;
We dash thrash rush through cold,
Unnoticed unwary the line grows bold.

Reminder: this is a debut book and as such it shows a fascinating mind at work. It seems the next step should be a novella – an opportunity for Marc to expand his ideas and polish his word choices. He has the talent and will certainly bear watching. Grady Harp, June 16

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.