Yes indeedie doodie, it's time for yet another book review and yet another peek into what I like to read, which interestingly enough doesn't necessarily influence what and how I write.
As a rule, I don't read short story anthologies (either by one writer or by multiple writers), which was probably due to what was out there and what I was forced to read during my formative school years. Sad to say that the schtuff that came out during that time period really soured me for the next couple of decades on reading any kind of prose that wasn't a novel.
As a matter of record, I really didn't return to reading shorts until I started writing in 2006 (via the literary journals I got for entering contests) and I definitely didn't start to appreciate and enjoy them until I started blogging in 2008.
Blogging is where I was first introduced to the author of this latest book review via another great writer's blog, who currently co-edits the only e-zine that I read on a consistent basis and of which is the only non-G oriented website that I feature a picture link to.
Like I previously stated, I am not a fan of short story anthologies, but I have been a fan of Charles's writing ever since I decided in 2009 to take a chance on purchasing and reading his excellent fantasy trilogy "The Talera Cycle" (in which you'll find reviews of all three volumes if you click on the link "Book Review"), so after almost zero thought, I decided to take another chance and purchased a copy of his fantasy short story anthology Bitter Steel this past October.
Let me say right off the bat that this book met and exceeded all of my personal criteria for good reading material: the writing was crisp, the pacing was fast and steady, and staying true to form, the stories and poems (for the anthology contained a few of those) were written so as to not insult the intelligence of the reader.
Now even though I have a decent collection of Charles's writings (this book makes number 6) and consider myself to be modest fan of his work, by no means will this review be overly gushing because frankly 1} that isn't my way and 2} that kind of review really turns me off.
While I find that all of the stories kept my interest and got me lost within my head, there were a particular group that I really enjoyed and when I finished reading left me longing for more.
The stories that he wrote featuring a character called Thal Kyrin kept me turning the pages long after my assigned work break time had ended. I think that the main reason as to why I became so enthralled with these stories was that they reminded me of his Talera Cycle trilogy and in fact kept me wanting to go back to that trilogy to fill in the gaps because I was convinced that Thal Kyrin was a major character of that series.
Even though the dialogue drove me nutty at times, I was able to enjoy "Slugger's Holiday", simply because I read that kind of pulpy stuff during the first several years of my state career that were spent working with old newspapers (please check out the link "Library" for an in-depth look at old newspapers). Not pulpy news stories, but pulpy newspaper comics. Yes, there were pulpy newspaper comics back in the 30's & early 40's.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the half dozen poems sprinkled throughout the book. While on the surface the poems were a good read, they just didn't affect me like the short stories did. Nothing personal, but poetry, like horror, simply doesn't move me like other genres. Nevertheless, I am impressed with writers who can write poetry and/or horror, and Charles is one of those who can do both forms justice.
To sum it up, this book was a great read, an excellent bang for the buck, and a great introduction if you haven't read anything in this genre or of Charles Gramlich. I truly enjoyed reading it from cover to cover and it's definitely something that will become part of my frequent read-at-work books.
Pick up a copy for yourself today, because you will not be disappointed.