3 out of 4 stars
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According to the first few Google searches on the world wide web, the age at which one becomes a senior citizen is 65-years-old. I will be "only" 50 in October of this year, so I threw caution to the wind in choosing to read Christopher Oelerich's compilation, A Seniors Bedtime Reader, Volume I (author's spelling). Ostensibly geared towards the more aged of us, this collection includes seven stories comprised of one novella, two novelettes, and four short stories. The genres for these tales encompass pretty much everything under the "CMTH" umbrella, especially Crime/Mystery.
Even though I'm not quite ready for my AARP subscription, I had no trouble following along with, and enjoying, the tales therein. They read very much like any other Crime or Mystery or Thriller that one can read, with the exception of the protagonists being more mature. The Waiter, for example, which sees Etta and Joe Rox trying to avoid a serial killer who has set his sights on Etta, has just the right blend of action and suspense, with a measure of humor thrown in. Joe used to be in the Army and Special Forces, so there's no shortage of skills on his end. Another favorite story, Third Times a Charm (author's spelling), reminded me of any number of romantic comedies where the man and woman spend years passing like ships in the night. I screamed at my Nook and clinched my hands into fists many a time while reading that yarn. 'Will Pat Ricketts and Nick Slater EVER get together?' I wondered, just like I wondered if Harry and Sally would ever see the light in When Harry Met Sally. In the thriller section was The EXIT (author's capitalization), a slow burner about a man who sees the spitting image of a couple that he and his brothers wronged, thereby causing the former's early deaths. What could these specters possibly want? I won't give an overview of the other four stories, but suffice it to say that I adored each tale. With every story I read, I proclaimed, "THIS one's my favorite!" just to end up saying that about the next yarn and the next one and so on. With that being said, I will note that in most of the stories, the action scenes were generally few and far between. When they did occur, they weren't very graphic, so perhaps that's one thing that the author did in deference to the senior readers. The two exceptions might be The Waiter and Emily and Mary Alice go to The Strip (author's capitalization), both of which had a fair amount of murders, but even these scenes aren't overly gory.
Now, I admit that when I first read the title for this compilation, I pictured stereotypical old people doddering about, complaining about arthritis and gout. There was none of that to be found in this book though! I loved that the seniors in these stories are still vital, full of vim & vigor, and - dare I say it? - even sexy! I frequently even forgot that I was reading about people in their twilight years. Many of the characters start their tales in their "prime", aging during the middle of the stories and noting that "I'm too old for this", but I can only hope that I'll have such energy in the next couple of decades. Additionally, as mentioned above, many of the male characters had backgrounds in the military, resulting in great action scenes. I was also glad to read about strong females. There are no damsels in distress or kowtowing wives in these tales. The women in these stories are proud, independent partners and ladies that I wouldn't want to mess with! Emily and Mary Alice, in particular, take front and center in the novelette Emily and Mary Alice go to The Strip and show the men how it's done. I'll sum this pair up with three words: former female assassins. Even poor Truly Langdorf, who is mentally abused throughout her marriage, eventually gets the best of her partner - and I use that term loosely - in the wonderful story, It’s a Dogs World.
As much as I'd love to bestow four stars on A Seniors Bedtime Reader, I must subtract one star because the typography leaves much to be desired. I honestly think that the author just wrote the tales and didn't give them so much as a once-over when he was done. There were errors of literally every kind, from punctuation mishaps to misspellings to compound words being written as two separate words ("brief case", for instance). The formatting was also a mess. There was often no delineation between speakers or extra spaces between scenes, and there were many times where I had to go back and reread in order to make sure I knew what was going on. In the first story, A Chance Encounter, the author prefaced each scene with the date, but there was no space between what should have been a heading and the text. In addition, there were inconsistencies in the dates. This tale had dates going from Sat, Apr 5 to Mon, Apr 3 and from Mon, June 5 to Mon, June 13. Anyone who knows how to read a calendar can see that these were incorrectly calculated. This same story had one character say that he was going to St. George, but thereafter the text indicated that he was going to Mesquite. In addition, sometimes the paragraphs were indented and sometimes they were not, which wreaked havoc with my eyes. The author also had a bad habit of ending sentences with commas; after a few times, I figured out that he was using the commas as lead-ins, but they were still grammatically incorrect. I very strongly urge Mr. Oelerich to hire an editor in order to take this collection to the next level.
Thanks to the myriad of writing missteps, I'm forced to give A Seniors Bedtime Reader 3 out of 4 stars but I do so with a heavy heart. The stories themselves are phenomenal, so I hope seniors and anyone else who likes the CMTH genres will give this collection a read. One last note: Even though this book title has "bedtime" in it, you may want to read it earlier in the day lest you end up getting very little sleep. This is especially true for the tale Conversations with The Angel of Death (author's capitalization).
Also, if we one day get another Indiana Jones movie with a 90-year-old Harrison Ford or another Rocky Balboa tale with a 100-year-old Sylvester Stallone, remember I told you: Old people can kick butt, too!
A Senior's Bedtime Reader
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