Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Monday, March 18, 2019

A review of Monkey Justice by Patricia Abbott

Patricia Abbott crafts stories like Cartier designs jewelry, one polished gem of a word at a time. And yet there’s nothing “precious” about any of these stories—gritty, gravely, raw stories about people and their worst impulses. Many of these stories take place on the margins, in the places between memory and the present. Things aren’t always what they seem, and if there is any justice to be had in the end, it is rough justice, vigilante justice, final justice.

Abbott’s stories are character-heavy, and dialogue-rich. Even the internal musings of the characters have substance. Her descriptions are precise, and immediately relatable, as when she describes the “gluey, mousey” smell of all used bookstores. “I thought only cops used the word vehicles,” one character muses, “but maybe prisoners and cops traded words like a cold.” It’s an offhand comment but it seems like the perfect combination of words.

Most of the stories here are dark, effortlessly noir-ish and strongly rendered slices of low-life pie. But there are also delights like “Bit Players,” which features the late, great character actor Jack Elam and a telling bit about the way casting directors work in Hollywood.

Not all of the characters are as sympathetic—there are an awful lot of dangerous daddies here—but they are all memorable—even indelible. This collection of stories is a master class in the art of short fiction writing, an assemblage of great tales to be read one at a time or binged, like episodes of Breaking Bad. If you love short stories, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy  at Down and Out Books or your favorite retailer.

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