Saturday, October 15, 2011

Kindle Review: SMOKE, by Nigel Bird

If you’ve read BEAT ON THE BRAT or DIRTY OLD TOWN, you know already that Nigel Bird is one of our most skillful and insightful short story writers. He’s able to flesh out a character and make him seem real in a few short paragraphs, and no matter how awful or violent the events of the story, Bird always maintains a strong sense of compassion and humanity.

This is all doubly true in his new novella from Trestle Press, SMOKE. It’s Bird’s longest published work to date (that I know of) at about 53 pages. It’s a beaut.

A duel narrative fuels this tale—in the first, a teenager named Jimmy gets himself involved with a bunch of bad sorts planning to rip off a load of cash gathered from illegal dog fighting. In the parallel thread, wheelchair-bound Carlos tries desperately to win back his girlfriend (Jimmy’s sister) from the thug she’s involved with, going to extreme measures to do so. The two stories intertwine through supporting characters and it all comes to a brutal head that not everyone will survive.

I was surprised at Bird’s willingness to go to some very nasty places in SMOKE. He doesn’t flinch from ugly violence. But really, the violence isn’t what his stories are about. SMOKE, like all of Bird’s work, is really about the strength of the human will.