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Tales of The Bastard Drunk Paperback – May 23, 2015
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The general structure of the book is something rarely seen in modern literature. Four people come together at a deserted tavern and, due to coincidence, have about eight hours to spend together. The booming voice in the dark of the bar is it’s resident mascot and best customer, the titular Bastard Drunk. At the recommendation of the barkeep Riley the two men passing through, or trying to pass through, that they can stay the night if they drink. He also tells the travellers, Fitz and Paul, that if they buy the Bastard Drunk a glass of rum that he’ll probably entertain them with stories of the town.
The first act is a bit on the slow side. The characters, who will become three dimensional and well realized later in the book, begin with very little personality, and the Bastard Drunk’s first stories of the town are fun but light on content. The plotting is very sharp and overcomes some of these weaker stories by keeping scenes and stories short and continually moving no the the next one As the stories move along, however, the pacing picks up and creates some real suspense. Well before the midway point all four main characters are coming to life off of the page and the book’s real theme has taken control of the story.
This is a book that is about storytelling and storytellers. It examines why we tell stories and why we want to hear them. It asks what a story is to begin with. The main storyteller in the book is the Bastard Drunk and it’s through his narrative that many great ideas are examined. Does he have any responsibility to his audience to tell them stories they will like? Does he need to tell the listeners what they want to hear and should he have to explain certain elements of his tales? And what is the role of the listener? What does he own the storyteller?
The great thing about Tales of the Bastard Drunk is that all of these important, literary, scholarly ideas are presented, and that they come up in the natural flow of the narrative. At no point does any philosophising seem unnatural to the characters and the story, it’s what the story is all about. This isn’t a book to be read for the individual stories, here or there when a reader has time for a horror short. This is a cover to cover read that can be enjoyed as a classically structured horror yarn or as an insightful work about the nature of storytelling. I recommend reading it as both.