RED CLAY, BLUE CADILLAC: Twelve Southern Women

Michael Malone, Author
Michael Malone, Author . Sourcebooks Landmark $15 (352p) ISBN 978-1-57071-824-3
Reviewed on: 02/18/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
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The first four selections in this collection of 12 stories are so sterling in their style and structure, so well crafted, captivating and entertaining, that the reader wants to slow down and savor their authentic voices and characterizations, qualities that have led Malone to major writing awards (the Edgar, the O. Henry). Of these, the best is "Marie," an account of a blonde beauty's casual seduction and robbery of a foolish high-tech sales rep, but it is closely rivaled by "Stella," which in its time-spanning tale of unrequited and unquestioning love and loyalty recalls the romantic power of stories by Richard Yates and the darker gothic elements of Katherine Anne Porter. The awkwardly rendered "Lucy" is a brief stumble, but Malone recovers in the next selection, "Flonnie," a poignant and powerful examination of contemporary Southern race relations. The next piece, "Patty," a pedestrian, overlong murder mystery, begins the collection's steady descent into the mundane and clichéd, as Malone fumbles for plot development and original character through the remaining tales, of which only "Mona" stands out. Each of the better stories provides a disquieting look at familiar themes, and each is marked by a writing style fresh with surprising twists and turns of phrase and Malone's remarkable insight into the human condition. Only when Malone becomes heavy-handed does his workmanship overwhelm and tread upon his art. Overall, the collection is more than worthwhile, including some of the best stories to come out of the South in years, but its unevenness betrays the whole. (Apr.)

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