From Publishers Weekly
The first four selections in this collection of 12 stories are so sterling in their style and structure, so well crafted, captivating and entertaining, that the reader wants to slow down and savor their authentic voices and characterizations, qualities that have led Malone to major writing awards (the Edgar, the O. Henry). Of these, the best is "Marie," an account of a blonde beauty's casual seduction and robbery of a foolish high-tech sales rep, but it is closely rivaled by "Stella," which in its time-spanning tale of unrequited and unquestioning love and loyalty recalls the romantic power of stories by Richard Yates and the darker gothic elements of Katherine Anne Porter. The awkwardly rendered "Lucy" is a brief stumble, but Malone recovers in the next selection, "Flonnie," a poignant and powerful examination of contemporary Southern race relations. The next piece, "Patty," a pedestrian, overlong murder mystery, begins the collection's steady descent into the mundane and clichd, as Malone fumbles for plot development and original character through the remaining tales, of which only "Mona" stands out. Each of the better stories provides a disquieting look at familiar themes, and each is marked by a writing style fresh with surprising twists and turns of phrase and Malone's remarkable insight into the human condition. Only when Malone becomes heavy-handed does his workmanship overwhelm and tread upon his art. Overall, the collection is more than worthwhile, including some of the best stories to come out of the South in years, but its unevenness betrays the whole.
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After a 10-year hiatus from fiction writing, Malone penned the Cuddy Mangum-Justin Savile mystery First Lady
[BKL Ag 01]. He seems to be making up for lost time as, some six months later, he follows up with a collection of a dozen short stories (one of which, "Patty: Love and Other Crimes," also features Cuddy and Justin). The main focus of this collection is southern women, ranging from a smoldering, light-fingered femme fatale with an Elvis obsession to a phenomenally rich socialite whose fifth wedding is marred by murder. Wry, vivid, and classic in structure, these stories are a pleasure to read. They include "Stella: Red Clay," winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Award, in which a glamorous movie star moves back to her North Carolina hometown after marrying a local man only to be put on trial for murder after he is found dead from a gunshot wound to the head. In the O. Henry Award winner "Meredith: Fast Love," a man falls in love in a flash with the first female jogger anyone has ever seen in Toomis, North Carolina, and attempts to win her favor by running after her. Malone infuses all of these stories with his trademark wit and distinctive voice. A winning collection. Joanne WilkinsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved