Norman Partridge, Author . Night Shade $27 (429p) ISBN 978-1-892389-11-4

Though Partridge (The Ten-Ounce Siesta) writes with energy and style, only rarely does this collection drawn from the past 11 years rise above mediocrity. Yet the book may be worth buying for a single story, "Coyotes," which stands apart from the other 24 like a fine diamond mounted in a rhinestone necklace. From the first line, it captures the perfect narrative attitude to unveil the fate befalling Mexican illegals unfortunate enough to pass through one Southwest border town. Like many a horror classic, the ending is as surprising as it is inevitable, as darkly funny as it is chilling. Deserving of an honorable mention is "Last Kiss," where the unremarkable tone of the teenage narrator contrasts eerily to the ghastly mounting truth about him and his destiny. The rest of the collection mostly weaves through yesteryear's pop culture in ways that leave one wondering what's being celebrated and what's being lampooned. Whether reimagining Howard Hughes as a vampire ("Undead Origami"), Bonnie and Clyde in California ("Red Right Hand"), James Dean surviving his crash ("Spyder"), Dracula settling in the Old West ("Do Not Hasten to Bid Me Adieu"), or Jack and Bobby Kennedy confronting Bluebeard ("Mr. Fox"), too much seems forced and sophomoric. In his charmingly garrulous introduction, the author recounts how his childhood spent frequenting the local movie drive-in instilled a lifelong love for horror and '50s pop culture. Alas, but that it had instilled a more discriminating vision to his fiction. (Aug. 27)

Reviewed on: 07/30/2001
Release date: 09/01/2005
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