Bagatelles for a Masochist

by Chris O'Grady

"When Scott told Mona about Jack Lansing dying of an overdose, it threw her usual aplomb out the window."

Four short stories reside in this book, all unique in terms of their content, perspective, characters, and style. The common thread linking them all, save for the last, is the backdrop of California, from the glitzy Hollywood movie star lifestyle to the vagrants hitching on railroads cutting through the valleys. The opening story, "Things That Go Bang in the Night" follows a freelance reporter working on a story for a business magazine who stumbles into a Hollywood murder mystery. "Voyage Through a Stone Age" deals with the observations and inner thoughts of a former soldier who now lives as a vagabond, hopping trains whenever possible to move from place to place. "Unexpected Dimensions" and "Break of Dawn" round out the collection, giving readers four unique pieces to enjoy from the same author.

For readers who like everything spelled out and explained to them, patience will be required in reading these short stories. The author masterfully trickles out details bit by bit, prolonging the mystery and making seemingly benign details take on life in the resolution. Characters have distinct mannerisms in their behavior and dialogue that become recognizable and familiar even through the abbreviated storytelling. The variety of the stories keep things fresh and exciting, and nothing is over before it's had time to develop and resolve. While a collection of multiple genres threatens to lose the reader in sections, the underlying focus on character and the variance in humanity should keep readers drawn in and willing to follow along wherever the author leads them. Ultimately, these short stories are engaging and entertaining and are perfect for some light reading or to pack on a trip to California.

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