Monday, May 5, 2008

On "Little Criminals" by Kurt Rheinheimer ***

Just finished this book of stories today. It's a very competent collection, written by someone who is well published across a spectrum of journals. The stories are all about small towns in the Midwest and South. Most of them, as noted, were competent but they aren't likely going to stay with me for a long time. There were exceptions, glimmers of brilliance, such as the opening story. That story had given me hope that this was going to be an extremely good book--but it was the best story in the collection. That story is about a woman who is jealous of her husband (who probably gives her reason to be). Anyway, they head out one day to visit relatives, taking along the woman's pretty sister and her sister's friend. They go in a beat-up van that breaks down in the middle of nowhere. And well . . . let's just say that the ending was simple but chilling. (Unfortunately, Rheinheimer chooses to revisit these characters in two other stories in the collection that repeat much of the same idea--a trip gone awry--but to less effect.) Rheinheimer's best stories are like the first in terms of combining the simple with the harrowing. He does it again in another story in which a kid kidnaps a bus driver. Another good story involves a man who comes upon an attempted rape in the wilderness but doesn't know what to do lest he himself be killed. The story deals with what's right and wrong in a given situation and seems to suggest that sometimes courage doesn't seem to get a person any further than cowardice other than allowing the person to keep self-respect.

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