Book Review: Vortex

I just finished Vortex. I must say it was like hosting a neighborhood potluck with all your friends bringing their ‘A’ dishes. I certainly skipped all the starchy food so as to leave room for the very best. I was not disappointed. Vortex, an anthology of literary fiction, is edited by Grant P. Hudson and published by the independent Clarendon House Publishing, based in Sheffield, England but it features authors from around the world.


by Mark Kodama 

Content

I loved every story – the grand ideas and then execution of the grand ideas – the craftsmanship and beauty of the words. I think if a person only reads bestsellers and classic short story anthologies they are really missing out on a lot of great stories.

I had a favorite story in Vortex. It was “The Sins of the Father,” by David Bowmore. It was an absolute page turner and just a riveting story about a priest whose moral weaknesses were about to catch up with him.

Other jewels in this crown were: “The Vanishing of M. Renior,” by RLM Cooper, “Concrete,” by Bill Swiggs, “Burnt Candle,” by Marlon Hayes and “A Rock N’ Roll Song,” by Samantha Hamilton. The stories all had grand ideas, a great soul to them and the executions of their grand ideas were flawless.

“The Vanishing of M. Renior,” is about a young American Magazine reporter in Paris, just before World War II who meets a true Parisian gentlemen M. Renior who engages her periodically with conversation and they develop a friendship. Later, he pretends not to know her. The puzzled reporter must evacuate to London before the war begins. When she investigates a story about the child refugees fleeing to England, she discovers what a truly courageous gentlemen M. Renior is.

“Concrete,” is about an Australian farmer who disowns his son for volunteering for the Army to fight in the Vietnam War. The son is killed in action and wins a medal of valor. And still, the father cannot forgive until a surviving war buddy of his son who was saved by his son comes to the farm.

“Burned candles,” is about a close-knit African-American family in Chicago trying to heal from the memories of the violent shooting death of one son and the imprisonment of a second son for his revenge killing. What stands out most about this piece is the natural dialogue of the storyteller.

“Rock N’ Roll Song,” is a story told from the point of view of a Rock N’ Roll song about a young talented rock star from Iowa who is destroyed by the fast paced life of instantaneous success. It is heart wrenching but at the same time exhilarating and certainly artistically bold and creative.

The stories were great, no false notes and the endings were all strong. I think these five pieces would hold their own in any university anthology featuring the greats like Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen Crane, and Ernest Hemingway.

I thought “The Midas Agency,” by L.E. Lacaille to be an over-the-top quirky, humorous piece of work on karma, fame and success told tongue in cheek. I absolutely loved its dark, alternate world humor.

“Mops and Fairytales,” by Catherine A. McKenzie was a marvelously disturbing piece about a middle-aged woman unable to cope with life.

“A Taste of Friendship,” by Shawn Klimek was wonderfully neurotic about a lonely neighbor who unexpectedly receives a cupcake from an anonymous neighbor.

“The Taxi,” by Edward C. Hartshorn was funny.

I thought “Animal Pancakes,” by Traci Mullins and “The Blizzard,” by Copper Rose were wonderful pieces about the deaths of close, aged family members. It is always a shock to lose someone you assume would be around forever.

Mehreen Ahmed’s “At the Far End of the Alley,” was a nice meditation on love and the contrast between love within the bounds of society and adulterous love that ruins families told as if it was a Pakistani fairytale.

Conclusion

A lot of effort and talent went into all the stories in Vortex. If I did not mention a story, it is because I don’t think laundry lists are helpful. I honestly enjoyed every single story. They were all certainly well worth the read. Certainly the world of independent publishing houses are a source of great literary works for those who enjoy the refinement of a plate of Oysters Rockefeller to go with your homemade macaroni and cheese. Vortex is available here.

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