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by Steve Weddle
Tyrus Books, November 2013
207 pages
ISBN: 1440570809

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This beautifully crafted saga, told in interlinking short story format, showcases the tragic lives in a down-on-its-luck rural Southern community. It follows the lives and actions of several of the youngest members of its crime-ridden population, who seem unable to break ties with their past or find much hope for the future. Among them is ex-con Roy Allison, who is trying to find a better path.

In this debut offering by Steve Weddle, presented in this small but powerful book, are the reflections of lives already ravaged by the toll of economic recession and drug abuse. Crime seems to the only thriving industry in town, and readers follow the escapades of both the criminals and cops who troll the only active businesses, the mini-marts and payday loan stores, of the community.

Even the older residents who make up the backbone of this blue-collar Southern town are beset by modern tragedy, including job loss and foreclosures, where it seems there is little alternative to a quick criminal undertaking to pay the monthly bills. Poverty is clearly a force to be reckoned with, but also something shameful and to be hidden.

Those who can afford to drive new cars or pony up for a meal beyond fast food are envied, and feelings of resentment and guilt gnaw away at those who find their own circumstances lacking. Unlike other crime fictions where criminals are daring and decisive, here they falter in their decision-making, seeing their options only as bad choices among worse alternatives.

Weddle brings an artist's palette to his storytelling, despite its grim nature. He offers no excuses for his character's actions and delves deep into their psyches as they wrestle with their bad choices. There is strength and beauty in this writing, where grandma can play as important a part as the local meth dealer, while each just tries to get a little uninterrupted TV time. This is an unusual, very literary offering for a crime drama, but these are crimes and criminals whose backstories and actions you won't soon forget.

Christine Zibas is a freelance writer and former director of publications for a Chicago nonprofit.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, November 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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