Review of TTSH in Windy City Reviews

Windy City Reviews recently posted a review of my e-book, Through Their Strange Hours, and I’m pasting it in below:

Book Review: Through Their Strange Hours

Through Their Strange Hours. Kent McDaniel. 52 pgs. The e-book is $0.99 and available at B&N.com, iBooks, The Kobo Store, Smashwords, and Amazon.

Reviewed by Mike O’Meary.

Storytelling that conveys warmth and humor, and transports you to another time and place.

Through Their Strange Hours by Kent McDaniel is a collection of four interconnected short stories that hang together nicely and give this collection the feeling of a novella. The stories also provide a compellingly realistic portrayal of life in southern Illinois in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a place and time where the biggest challenge was finding ways to ward off apathy and the tedium of everyday life. Accordingly, McDaniel’s characters drop in and out of school, in and out of relationships, and experiment with everything from beer and pot to acid and crystal meth. In such a world, the most innocuous pastime was to grab a six-pack and take a drive with friends on the rural roads between Carbondale (home of Southern Illinois University) and Metropolis (a small town of 6,800 on the Ohio River across from Paducah, KY).

The common denominator in these stories is Joe. We first meet Joe in “At the Edge of Town,” a story about the 10-year-old’s encounter with a local bully. Life seems innocent and wholesome enough at first, as Joe and his best friend, Mike, spend their time pedaling bikes around town and trading baseball cards. Young Joe finally gets his hands on a coveted Mickey Mantle card, but when a local bully steals the card from Joe, the story turns dark. Joe goes to the edge of town to the bully’s home for a confrontation but gets more than he bargains for and comes away with a different outlook.

In “Honoring Mike,” Joe is now a young man – a hippie who opposes the Vietnam War. But, ironically, he is on his way to the funeral of his childhood friend, Mike, who was drafted and then died in the war. Joe is on edge because he knows the only reason Mike went to war was because he was drafted. But now a local reporter and local minister (both of whom were classmates of Mike and Joe) are now trying to cast Mike as a God-fearing patriot who should be seen as a hero/role model for others. Joe knows that Mike was just a regular guy who would have preferred to be at home with his wife and family instead of off at war. In the end, Joe rebels against the hypocrisy of it all, leading to a great final scene.

We also meet Katie in “Honoring Mike,” and Katie figures prominently in the remaining two stories. Katie is a beautiful young woman with Cherokee blood. She is Joe’s first love, and their on-again, off-again relationship has a profound effect on him. In “Through Their Strange Hours,” Joe is now a college student who has joined the Naval Reserve but still experiments with pot and hangs out with people named “Madman,” “Paranoid” and “Mole Man.” Along the way, we learn that Joe has experimented with acid (and is now suffering from flashbacks), and broken up with Katie. He has also attempted suicide and is now seeing a “shrink” and taking multiple medications to battle panic attacks. He’s a bit of a mess – and things only get more complicated when the local Metropolis authorities conduct a pot bust and use scare tactics to get the local kids to rat on each other. Meanwhile, Joe is still holding out hope of a getting back together with Katie. Things don’t look good for Joe, and you wonder if he is going to make it through in one piece.

“Acid Casualties” is the final story in this collection, and it picks up where “Through Their Strange Hours” leaves off. Joe is now rooming with Mole Man, and they have taken in a white cat named Casper who, like Joe, seems to be suffering from flashbacks (the result of a cruel prank by others who gave acid to the cat to see what would happen). Joe nurses Casper back toward normalcy, going so far as to share his anti-anxiety medication with the cat. At the same time, Joe seems to be trying to find his own way back to normalcy. But he’s hanging out with friends who get high and fantasize about forming a “revolutionary cell” and blowing up the local army recruiter’s office with cherry bombs, and he’s still haunted by what might have been with Katie.

The beautiful thing about these stories is that Joe, Katie and the other characters are lovingly presented, flaws and all. You feel for them because, while they sometimes battle with each other, their real battle is with the world around them. It’s an uphill climb, but McDaniel’s storytelling ability pulls you in. There is a sadness to these stories, yet McDaniel also infuses the stories and characters with warmth and humor. In the end, you wish you could sit down on the banks of the Ohio River with these kids, share a six-pack, and just spend the afternoon talking with them. Instead, do the next best thing – read this book and hear their stories.

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About kentmcdanielwrites

Writer and musician.

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