by Pat BlackSmashwords Edition
Review by Melissa Conway
It’s kind of hard for me to write about Pat Black without gushing. He’s been one of the mainstays at Booksquawk – we just posted his 102nd review – and his fans can always count on a witty, honest and thorough opinion of whatever book has lately been under his microscope. I’ve read and enjoyed several of his short stories at McStorytellers, and when I heard he’d published an anthology, Suckerpunch, I immediately purchased it with the intention of reviewing it here. I don't often read short stories, but my reading time has been severely limited of late, thus fragmenting my reading time for any given novel and disrupting overall comprehension. Pat's literary 'sound bites' were just what the doctor ordered!
There are thirty-seven stories within, a mixture of fiction genres from Literary to Horror to Sci-fi. Below, I give an abbreviated description of each one in true Pat Black review style.
Bite ~ A poignant glimpse at the bond between a terminally ill father and his grown son as they watch what might seem to be one of the least likely movies to get sentimental over: Jaws. This story ended at the perfect moment; just at the first sting of tears.
Maggie Murphy’s Home for Bad Boys ~ Little boys are universally curious, which is often mistaken for naughtiness. Here, an active six-year-old stays with his elderly gran while his parents are on holiday, and gets into the kind of mischief only the threat of being sent to Maggie Murphy’s Home for Bad Boys can dampen – or can it?
Liberating Lennie ~ The prospect of cooking dinner can be a brutal affair from a child’s perspective, but the feisty kids in this story are on Lennie the Lobster’s side.
Fault Scars ~ A rough trip up a mountain, with a surprise purpose.
The Pearl Divers ~ Lovers on a pleasure cruise; warm, bright blue water and a close encounter with a Greek tragedy.
The Dragon in the Water ~ A boy with a penchant for vivid fantasies discovers that sometimes our imaginings can be tame in comparison to what life has in store.
Windowboxes ~ What better setting for a creepy ghost story than the husk of a building on the verge of being demolished on a cold, dark night?
Muffy ~ Overgrown grass sometimes shelters the strangest things out in the garden...
Wake ~ Pedaling out on the ocean with Dad; awkward conversation, mild irritation and a selfless act of desperate bravery.
Shall we do it Boy-Girl Boy-Girl? ~ A slice of bachelor life complete with drunken evening out with co-workers and the resignation of unrequited feelings.
Fachtna’s Wall ~ School's out - forever - and generations of former classmates have an opportunity to reminisce and say goodbye to the place that seems so much smaller now that they're grown. Legendary teachers leave impressions on young minds; sometimes deep, like a disfiguring scar...
The Waystation ~ Evidence of an ancient civilization on a distant world and one brilliant scientist believes he has discovered the answer to the unanswerable. A sharp psychological sci-fi thriller that was just my speed.
Lady Midnight ~ Skepticism won't protect you from her visions of the future.
The Sharp End ~ That awkward moment when the job interview puts you at the sharp end of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Make Like a Fishie ~ There's a big difference between the one on ice at the fish market and the one reeled in for an eye-to-eye encounter.
Leon, His Demon and the Witch ~ If someone in the know tells you that you have a demon, don't try to banish it yourself.
LuvU2 ~ Paranoia, the big destroya; what better way to get back at someone than to make them suspicious of everyone?
The Bull ~ Role reversal when the bull gets loose in 'the china shop.' A big, beefy man finds he can scream with the best of the little girls, while the girl finds the courage to save the day.
Wild Boys ~ I couldn't help but think of A Clockwork Orange as Rab and Jonty went about their malicious business. Shocking conclusion.
Tiny Feet ~ In the future, when every little thing, including giving birth, is done for us, it might seem as if we're living in a utopian society. But all it takes is one person embracing one simple form of anarchy to reveal it was a dystopia all along.
Fredi and the Yellow Bird ~ Innocence isn't always beautiful, but it's worth protecting.
The Wild One ~ Showing off to impress the girl sometimes involves a good deal of luck, especially for one particularly brash buck.
The Ferryman ~ A man whose fortunes have just reversed meets a man whose fortunes are a distant memory. How much is he willing to risk to save the worthless?
To The Hilt ~ No credit? No problem - for a red-blooded guy like you!
Let’s Go Crazy ~ Stuck in a rut of a job? Playing office politics like it's a board game and you're the rook? If your salvation seems too good to be true, trust that first instinct.
Not Fade Away ~ When you're feeling thin-skinned and at your most vulnerable, sometimes a hug is all you need.
The Fountain ~ Sadly neglected and broken-down; it needs love to bring back its potential.
Private Parts ~ Laughter comes to us at the most inappropriate times - but it sure comes in handy to get us through the horror.
FAO ~ Once you've gotten all the way to the end of this personal exchange, please take care to read the disclaimer.
Thrum ~ Soft and warm and fuzzy and deadly as hell.
Tongue ~ Unadulterated silliness.
Cage ~ Enjoy the respite while you can.
Short Cut ~ Just because your trip is cut short doesn't mean it's the end of your journey.
The Red Bench ~ The punishment is in the waiting.
In the Shadow of the Gods ~ Sometimes the most logical argument masks pure fanaticism.
Man Down ~ How far do you have to fall before you achieve Enlightenment?
You Are Here ~ Where else would you be?
Nearly every story within this excellent anthology, like the sucker-punch it's named after, will surprise you with an ending you won't be able to see coming.