Official Review: Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. ...

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MsTri
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Official Review: Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. ...

Post by MsTri » 02 Mar 2018, 03:40

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016" by William H. Coles.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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Like a literary Baskin-Robbins, Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles (200-2016) has 31+ flavors of tales. Comprised of thirty-three short stories, two graphic novels, and a novella, this collection allowed my reading taste buds to sample everything from bitter to sweet to tangy.

Now, I'll admit that I was a little reticent to read this collection, as I've seen several books penned by Mr. Coles on this website, and I haven't been impressed with any of them. However, I reasoned that I do generally like compendiums, so I'd take a chance. I'm glad I did.

From the first short story, The Gift, to the novella that ends the tome, Sister Carrie, I was constantly wondering what the author would throw at me next. Every story in this compilation had me on the edge of my seat at some point, so reading this book was quite a ride. Since I obviously can't go over every story, I'll just highlight the ones that stood out to me the most:

The Wreck of the Amtrak’s Silver Service, a tale about a man, Heinrick, who hires the questionable Billie Bob to kill his wife, Agnes, is a study in perfectly balancing action with suspense and dialogue. Even though I adored the ending, I was especially impressed with the details the author gave when describing the wife's reaction to the plan; I actually had chills running down my spine! Another story that I liked a lot was The Stonecutter. In this story, we follow a fifteen-year-old boy as he experiences infatuation for the first time with the young lady who has hired his father to cut her late stepfather's graveyard statue. This tale is made even better by an undercurrent of tension in regards to what happened to the teen's mother. Why did she leave? Was it his fault? Was it his father's? Is the young lady correct in her suspicions, or is she biased? The Cart Boy was rare in its ability to make me feel every emotion known to man (or woman). While reading this story about a physically-challenged young man who organizes the buggies at an independently-owned grocery store, I laughed. I cried. I cursed. I swelled with pride. For me to feel all of these things and more in a mere seven .pdf pages was a testimony to the author's ability to pull me fully in to this story's world. Finally, I have to mention The Thirteen Nudes of Ernest Goings. Ernest is an artist who has painted several pictures of the under-aged Hester in the raw. Much of this tale is told with Ernest's daughter, Amanda, in the forefront. Both Amanda and her mother, Margaret, believe the model's assertions that the painter was in lust with the young lady (who called it “love”), and they intend to do something to preserve his reputation before the showing where his paintings will be unveiled. His art's details reveal his obsession with the young Hester, and they fear it will result in a scandal.

Though every one of these stories is unique, they all prove the author's reputation as a writer with the incomparable ability to realistically portray humans at both their worst and their best. In Sister Carrie (a book reviewed numerous times on this site), the author did a particularly wonderful job of bringing out the humanity in his characters. Of the literally hundreds of characters I read about, none of them was cliché or trite. They all had their own reasons for doing the things they did, and even when I didn't like the motives, I understood them. One thing I'd like to note is that many of the stories had unlikable women, mothers in particular. I don't know if Mr. Coles was going for this particular theme, but it is something that I noticed and wondered about.

Another thing I'll note about the tales told in this book is that very few of them have a definitive ending. While Amazon's description notes that the book involves “characters solving serious problems in challenging settings”, I didn't see many problems actually being solved. The stories would get to a certain point and then end, leaving me to draw my own conclusions or create my own endings. As an aspiring writer, I didn't mind at all, but those who like their stories tied-up neatly at the end may want to steer clear of this collection. I do want to be clear, however, that while I wouldn't go so far as to call the endings “cliffhangers”, they definitely leave room for the reader to fill in the blanks on their own. Also, as the synopsis implies, another common thread in the stories therein is that they are mostly dark. I honestly can't recall one story that was a happy, sunshine and rainbows tale. As a reader who loves dark tales, it was fine by me, but I did want to make that distinction. I'll also take the opportunity to mention that nearly all of the stories included graphic violence and/or sexual situations, so this book is not for those easily offended or grossed-out.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the illustrations mentioned in the tome's title. Each story is prefaced with a relevant picture or two done by one of the six artists commissioned for their work. I miss the picture-books that I read as a child, so reading an illustrated adult book had great appeal to me, and the artists' pictures did not let me down. I believe my favorite illustrations were the ones done by Peter Healy, who did the majority of the book's art; while they reminded me of the pictures I miss in the aforementioned children's books, they were also complex enough to belong in an adult's book. I also found that even though the illustrations were a very minor part of the book, they made it easier for me to picture certain things in each of the stories. As mentioned earlier, this tome also includes two graphic novels. The novels in question are illustrated versions of two stories from earlier in the book. While I enjoyed them, I also felt that they paled in comparison to the more fleshed-out versions of the stories they pictured.

The one thing that keeps this collection from being near-perfect is the need for more editing. While there was not an inordinate amount of grammatical errors for a book of this length, there were enough for me to notice. These errors included missteps in punctuation, usage of the incorrect word, missing words, and missing spaces between words. There were also a few instances of formatting issues, resulting in two different characters' dialogue starting and ending on the same line, causing me to have to go back and read the lines again to see who was saying what.

There is quite a bit more that I could say about Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles, but I'll sum it all up in my rating of 3 out of 4 stars. While it is a great collection that covers a lot of plots, I had to subtract one star because of the errors mentioned above. Despite the aforementioned mistakes, I recommend this collection for fans of William H. Coles's works, readers who like dark tales (sometimes with a twist at the end), and those who enjoy compilations. This is truly a great way to enjoy 31+ flavors without the weight gain.

******
Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016
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Post by Sahani Nimandra » 04 Mar 2018, 21:22

My gosh! Another William H Cole's book, I have come across two books before the famous McDowell and The surgeon's wife. I think this book will provide a excellent read to its readers! Thank you!
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Post by kandscreeley » 05 Mar 2018, 09:10

I love your first sentence! A literary Baskin Robbins! Cute! I enjoy Mr. Coles' stories and the addition of illustrations really makes this one not to miss! Sounds like I'm going to have to look at it. Thanks so much for the review.
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Post by cristinaro » 05 Mar 2018, 09:45

I love the fact that you provide such detailed and extensive explanations in your review. As for me, I am not particularly interested in reading dark stories these days, especially if graphic violence comes with the package too. Thank you!
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Post by prettysmart » 05 Mar 2018, 14:01

31+ flavors of tales! lol , i agree with you about not gaining weight while biting into an array of tastes....

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Post by Jkhorner » 05 Mar 2018, 16:20

I love your review! I know exactly whether or not this book is for me (it isn't) but I'm still left with a positive feeling about it and its author! Thank you for your honesty about the editing; it really can't be overlooked.

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Post by MsTri » 05 Mar 2018, 18:25

Thanks for your comments, everyone! I'm glad you liked my opening and closing lines; I take a while coming up with them because I know that sometimes that first line can win or lose a reader. As for the book itself, I don't know that I'd read any more from Mr. Coles, but I am glad I read this collection.

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Post by obiora111 » 06 Mar 2018, 13:50

Thanks for the review. I won't be reading it now but it will be in wants to read books. I still recommend it for story readers to read.

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Post by Momiji1987 » 06 Mar 2018, 17:48

These stories sound very unique and interesting. I love how they explore complex, human relationships. Terrific review!!

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Post by bosom27 » 06 Mar 2018, 21:35

iIIustrated short fiction of William H Coles, The stories are written about people from all works of life and backgrounds, and depict human emotions, fears, and joys quite accurately most of the time.

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Post by Glory Richard » 07 Mar 2018, 04:21

I’m interested in reading this so as to get appropriately the teenage pregnancy part n solution.. i’ll sure look out for this book.

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Post by Miriam Molina » 10 Mar 2018, 04:18

This book was BOTD a few days ago, and there was a bit of confusion as to whether it was free or not on Amazon. It wasn't. But I bought it, anyway. At less than a dollar, you get 16 years of Dr. Coles' work. I have come to expect good books from the doctor. They invariably involve personal drama about ordinary people whom I can relate with. I'm glad to note that you enjoyed this collection, despite your not being a Coles fan.

I expect not to gain weight despite the 31+ flavors. And the book is definitely much cheaper than a Baskin-Robbins ice cream treat.

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Post by Isabelleva » 07 May 2018, 06:33

I love fiction and I am very excited to give this a read it looks so good! Very interesting stories.

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Post by gali » 07 May 2018, 06:38

A collection of short stories that offer an insight into the human psyche sounds intriguing. That the author managed to show the humanity in his characters is to his credit .Adding illustrations to each of the stories is a nice touch. Too bad about the grammatical errors. Sounds too intense for me, but I am glad you enjoyed the book. Thank you for the review!
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Post by 420waystoreachthesun » 07 May 2018, 06:41

From what I have read, he seems more like a 4 out of 4. Thank you for writing this review. I loved it.

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