Interview with Ed Burke

Gemma L. Brook

Ed Burke reading Maia’s Call at Write Action gathering, 2019

I’m very pleased to continue my interviews of Running Wild Anthology of Stories 3 colleagues, this time with author and poet Ed Burke. His story, “Maia’s Call,” truly moved me.

Welcome, Ed! Please give us a taste of what your story is about.

Ed: “Maia’s Call” begins with a phone call to the protagonist, Tom from his former lover, Maia, who asks him to come see her because she is dying. Tom travels from San Francisco to Maia’s home in a remote corner of Vermont. There they spend a night sharing the story of their lives over the intervening years and what has brought them to this point.

Gemma: How did you find out about this anthology?

Ed: I was searching for a small independent publisher for my novel, Christine, Released and came across Running Wild Press in Poets &…

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One Bad Apple by Rachel Kovaciny – Anticipated Release date: July 28!

Ms. Kovaciny has provided inspiration for some of my own fictional works, and I’m very happy to help her out with a little promotion – today is the cover release party for her next book in the Once Upon A Western series! Hurray!

I enjoyed reading and reviewed book 2 – Dancing and Doughnuts back in April and expect I’ll make time for reading One Bad Apple in the early autumn.

Now… look at this cover!

And a synopsis of the book, as provided by Ms. Kovaciny…

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs… reimagined.

Fourteen-year-old Levi Dalton is numb. Hands tied behind his back, he’s about to be hauled away for poisoning a beautiful girl and her kind father. The woman pointing her finger at him and accusing him of murder is the very same woman he hoped could teach him to heal illnesses, not cause them. The woman he idolized. The woman he trusted.

Levi knows he should be scared for his own life. But all he can think about is how graves always come in pairs.

Does it not look and sound like it will be a fun read?

You can check out Ms. Kovaciny’s author’s website here:  http://rachelkovaciny.com/

And you might also want to sign-up for her newsletter emails. She sometimes releases short stories just for her newsletter subscribers – not too long ago, we were able to read a short story re-telling of Rapunzel.

Thanks for asking me to the party Rachel, and best of wishes as you move closer and closer to July 28th and book launch day!

What else to listen to?

In April, I posted about old time radio shows. Today, I thought I’d share eight (relatively) recently produced radio series and podcast shows and series that I’ve enjoyed, in case some of you may too.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is an excellent source of freely available, excellently produced English-language modern radio dramas. You could probably download radio shows from the BBC sites for weeks, and spend a couple of lifetimes listening.

The Reith Lectures – The BBC has been presenting an annual lecture series from noteworthy academics, historians, scientists, intellectuals, etc, just, generally, people smarter than me, each year since 1948, and they have made the entire archive available for download – you may wish to pick and choose your lecturers –   https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p003drl8

Home Front – Another BBC production, this lengthy (over 500-episode) series was produced over several years in commemoration of the first world war centenary and concluded in 2018. If follows many characters (I had trouble keeping them straight in my head when I listened to the first few weeks) and includes a factual something each episode. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04dv1g4/episodes/downloads

Living with Nature ­ – We should currently stay close to home, but an expert in recording the sounds of wildlife and nature brings four different nature soundscapes to us, visiting the Namib Desert, the Maasai Mara, the Lofoten Islands in Norway and a national forest in India. One of my favourite radio series, sadly only four episodes long. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csxgvb

The U.K. International Radio Drama Festival – While the actual festival is indefinitely delayed this year, this celebration of today’s radio drama (with an emphasis on radio drama that has a connection with live stage performance, as it is hosted by a live theater production company) –  is in it’s sixth year, with 15 languages represented in current submissions – you may listen to all of them on their website and translated scripts are provided where needed. https://radiodramafestival.org.uk/by-year/2020-rdf-online-showcase/

Claybourne – A supernatural mystery-comedy-drama show from New Zealand. Produced in the late 1990s for the NZ public broadcaster as a space filler and cancelled half way through its proposed season – beware it ends without resolution! There are over 90 episodes, of five or six minutes each. It follows an American as he attempts to investigate a death at a secret military-industrial complex, and becomes involved with the local aboriginal community, some of whom believe their traditional legends are coming true – and maybe they are correct. You can download this show for free here: https://claybourne.bandcamp.com/

Welcome to Night Vale – This podcast has developed a very devout following, leading to books and spin-off shows. While I don’t consider myself a super-fan (I haven’t listened to this year’s season at all) this science-fiction comedy horror parody show did keep me entertained for quite awhile, and it includes a different musician’s song within each episode, some songs might become your new favourites. https://www.welcometonightvale.com/

You Must Remember This ­– As someone who thinks she knows a little bit about classic Hollywood, and as someone whose politics probably differ from this series creator’s, I was occasionally frustrated by the editorial choices made when listening to some of this podcast’s stories of Hollywood history and celebrity gossip, but I commend it for being an introduction to classic films, actors and actresses for many. I’ll support anything that might change non-classic-film-viewers into classic film viewers. The website is unfortunately clumsy to sort through. https://www.youmustrememberthispodcast.com/episodes

Home Cooking – I enjoyed very much listening to the Home Cooking podcast last week, which is about making food while self-isolating, but is also about puns and having fun and I hope that they put together another few episodes. https://homecooking.show/

I’ve just downloaded a few newer radio shows to listen to in the next little while. Please let me know if you have any favourite shows or series, particularly recent shows broadcast over the air in the past few decades and available freely for download today. Podcast recommendations welcome too.

Adventures at Home: Virtual Travel

Gemma L. Brook

Several areas are loosening stay-at-home restrictions, but for many of us, staying home is still the safest thing to do. And traveling far away for fun and adventure may seem a long way off. So how about some virtual journeys? This is just a sampling of sites I’ve encountered which caught my eye. Some feature videos, some still photos, some simply ambient sounds.

For some armchair traveling to unusual and little-known places, try Atlas Obscura.

There are a tremendous number of museums and historical sites generously offering virtual tours.

For history buffs, you can visit:

The Museum of the American Revolution

Valley Forge National Historic Park

The Peabody Museum at Harvard University, among the oldest anthropology museums in the

For more ancient history, you can get a taste of the collections of the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

At The Penn Museum, you can…

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It’s Monday What Are You Reading

I’ve come across this blog event and thought I’d give it a try. I don’t see myself participating every week – I don’t read fast enough to make that interesting – but once a month might work.

Yesterday I completed listening to The Coyotes of Carthage, a political drama written by Steven Wright and narrated by Glenn Davis. I enjoyed it quite a lot, it’s my favourite listen so far this month.

Today I’m listening to How to Be Fine: What We Learned From Living by the Rules of 50 Self-help Books written and narrated by Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meimzer, which is an addition to their podcast, By The Book. I’ve heard a few episodes of their podcast previously and found them to be fairly funny, although I’m not an enormous fan of the self-help genre myself.

I haven’t actually read much book-wise in the past two weeks or so, I’ve been catching up on magazines – but I hope to continue progress through Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey soon (I need to read this as it’s next month’s western!) and I’d also like to go back and take notes from Syd Field’s Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting – which I have already read and highlighted throughout. I see that another participant in It’s Monday What Are You Reading blog community has tackled The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough, and this is also in my small pile of books to read. I may go to it later this month.

That’s all I have to say for now, as I prepare to figure out how to link this up with other participants!

The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke – Western Wednesday Book Club – May

This book was on the “read-some-day” pile at my home for a couple of years. The some day came.

I’ve seen two cinematic portrayals of this story (the ‘other’ movie version I’ve seen was Man in the Wilderness from 1971) and I read something or other about the historical events and characters at the time 2015’s The Revenant was released, so the basic plot was not new to me. I was lucky enough to see 2015’s film in theaters.

Please be aware that the film diverges from this book in a number of ways, although the essential premise – a grievously wounded and wronged man lives to seek vengeance – remains the same. The author makes clear in the notes at the back of the book – this is a fiction, a new(ish) telling of the legend of Hugh Glass, survivor of grisly (ahem!) wounds, weather, warriors, and, in this story anyway, eventual finder of internal peace.

The full truths of Mr. Glass’s survival and quest for vengeance appear more or less lost to time. What does seem true is that in the early 1800s while on a trapping and trading expedition, he was mauled by a grizzly bear and left for dead in the wilderness by his companions. He would, however, live to die another day.

I found the first opening pages of this book were a bit disappointing and not too interesting, but we quickly progressed to chapter two and a small company of trappers keeping watch against Arikara warriors as they try to establish a new trapping/trading route in the western American wilds – (much of the action in the book takes place in high plains country rather than in the no question about it mountainous landscape of the 2015 movie.) We are introduced to “our hero” survivor-man, Hugh Glass before the now-famous (and still exciting and gore-y despite it being expected) bear attack. (The initial fight between the trappers and the Arikara that opens the 2015 movie is only briefly mentioned in the book.) We are also introduced to the sour Fitzgerald (boo, hiss) and the uncertain young Bridger, who will become the subjects of Glass’s quest for revenge.

Glass has already survived being captured by the pirate Lafitte and travelling through the (at the time) wild and contested lands of eastern Texas, plus he’s also survived capture by members of the Pawnee nation. What’s a little grizzly bear attack to this guy?

Glass seems to have been an extremely tough, determined survivor and often lucky man, but I didn’t find him a particularly sympathetic man as a character – while he is portrayed as being relatively decent in his interactions with others, it wasn’t until about two-thirds of the book had gone by before I was able to generate even a little sense of warmth from or connection with this character. That does not change that this is a fast-moving yet detailed adventure story, which I was willing and able to read in three sittings. I found it to be a tale that kept me entertained, although I also found it to be lacking heart.

Have you read this book? Or another written version of this story? Have you seen a movie? Feel free to comment with your thoughs!

Interview with VT Dorchester

Thank you again, Gemma!

Gemma L. Brook

VT Dorchester Portrait by Scarlet Frost

It’s my great pleasure to continue my series of Running Wild Anthology of Stories  author interviews with VT Dorchester. VT’s story, “Under the Eye of the Crow,” is an unusual and rather haunting Western that left me eager to read more.

Gemma: Welcome, VT! Can you tell us a bit of what your story is about?

VT: “Under the Eye of the Crow” is a historic fiction in part about an outlaw (Gar Weeks) who is robbed and left on the lone prairie to die. He decides he won’t, despite his circumstance and his regrets, and we follow him as he tries to reach…well, I suppose we could call it a kind of salvation.

Gemma: Do you remember what the seed for this story was?

VT: I had written a first draft of a literary western novella in which Gar Weeks plays a…

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Annihilation – Movie Club Review – Pick of the Month for May

I know it is still April as I post this. I was unable to watch the club’s April Movie pick (Paddington 2) due to covid-19 related restrictions, so I went ahead and reviewed May’s instead. (I hope to watch and review Paddington 2 at some point in the future.)

Annihilation

Released 2018 – Run Time 1 hour 55 minutes

Directed by: Alex Garland

Written by: Alex Garland, based on the novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer

Starring: Natalie Portman, Gina Rodriguez, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tuva Novotny, Oscar Issac, Tessa Thompson, David Gyasi, Benedict Wong

2?? Or 3?? stars out of 4

Viewing Notes: Fairly excellent viewing conditions on home screen, although I did watch this during the day so there was a bit of light interference. Also, having read that this was a scary movie, I deliberately turned the volume slightly lower than usual, since I don’t like jumping at loud unexpected noises. This was my first viewing of this film.

I have not read the novel.

This film is rated R in some countries. (For language, violence, bloody images and a bit of sexuality) In Canada, it has a 14A rating. I found it to be not as bad as I feared it might be in terms of gore, although there is one scene in particular that might make people who don’t like the sight of (fake) blood quite uncomfortable.  

The trailer I saw for this meditative science-fiction story would have been more honest if it had shown people talking and walking slowly through jungle, rather than promoting the relatively few monster-attack scenes.

There was a dreamy, cool, sort of detached feeling to this film for me, enhanced by the soundtrack and the relatively un-emotive style of much of the cast for much of the movie. (And possibly also enhanced by my having the sound turned down.)

I believe this was filmed in Florida, with the swamp-jungle receiving CGI enhancement to create strange plants and creatures, as a team of scientist-warriors enter a zone known as “The Shimmer” – an expanding area into which people (including Portman’s character’s husband) have gone to explore before, but only Portman’s character’s husband (played by Oscar Issac) has ever returned, and he is not doing very well. Not very well at all. The Shimmer has grown outward from a lighthouse, which seems to have been struck by… something, probably alien. The scientific team, which the film makers could not, unfortunately, hold back from pointing out, even though they ‘try’ to do it in a backwards sort of way, is all female. (They could have just let it be all female and never said anything about it.) The team is tasked to reach the lighthouse and try to report back to the world outside the mysterious zone on what they find. The world fears that if The Shimmer continues its expansion, it will eventually annihilate everything in the world (sort of) as we know it.

And so, on the surface of this film, it is a sort of first-contact story, with strange intriguing plant growths, and critters occasionally leaping out at our heroes, as they try to fulfill their mission. Clearly some people had fun imagining and rendering various rather strange life forms. The moss/lichen/mold stuff is pretty.

Unfortunately, this also turns out to be an “intellectual” film, which wants us to think about things, too – is it all an analogy about cancer? Corruption? Society and change? Death and how we respond to its inevitability? Is it actually about marriage? Is the ‘alien presence’ trying to destroy, or is it just trying to create something new? If it’s ‘just trying to create something new’ – is this supposed to be a political statement of some kind? I dunno, and frankly, I don’t much care, and you going on about it is sort of annoying, especially since you keep seeming to change your mind. As I’ve written before, if you want to get all obviously philosophical in your films, fantastic, I’m glad that works for you and some of your viewers – but don’t let it get in the way of a fun story, please.

Unfortunately there is little humour in this film, although there are a few glimmers of humorous possibility – I quite enjoyed the little throw away scene where one of the team is excited to find a big gun and then, as she picks it up, discovers that it’s too heavy for her to consider carrying. That little scene felt both animated and true.

Issac and Portman are good together, and I thought most of the cast did well, particularly I enjoyed Tuva Novotny’s relatively small role, I don’t remember seeing her before, but she seems like a natural for ‘heroic’ roles. 

The film also makes ample use of flashback, including flashbacks within flashbacks, which I didn’t have any trouble following, but some might. A few CGI effects didn’t work for me although mostly it looked good. (I remain not a huge fan of CGI in general.)

I wanted to like this film more than I ultimately did. It obviously had some interesting ideas and an interesting vision behind it, but perhaps it’s one of those stories that will always be best read and imagined individually, rather than filmed. I already had the book on my lengthy library book wish list, and having seen this movie, I’m keeping it there.  

 [Spoilers Follow]

I was sorry that Novotny’s character was the first one to die. I wanted to hear how to tell which way was south with a watch again.

On several occasions, I was baffled by the laxness of the characters while they were supposedly standing watch, and when entering buildings. It seems to me, for e.g., while wandering about in a strange jungle with giant attack alligators and who knows what else, upon entering a building with an upper floor, you should take your guns and search the upper floor before camping downstairs for the night. Portman’s character is supposed to be ex-military, you would think this would happen – and you also expect that when it doesn’t, there would be repercussions, but there aren’t. Perhaps this is because this isn’t really an action-adventure-sci-fi, but a psychological study of some rather baffling-to-obvious-statement-is-obvious sort. (Hey, guess what, after you cheat on your partner, your relationship changes!) There were also a few character back-story revelations for the secondary members of the team that seemed a bit clunky to me.

While the attack bear who speaks was a whacked out cool idea, I was somewhat disappointed that at no point does the team encounter an attack plant of some kind. Why couldn’t they have come across a poison-spitting petunia or something? And I was also hoping for a giant squid sighting once they hit the coast near the lighthouse.

And what is wrong with having an alien presence/life form that does not take humanoid form? I realize there was something philosophical going on with the doubling/reacting of the alien life towards the end of the movie, and it was kinda cool, but I think it would have been better in some ways if there hadn’t been a humanoid iteration of the life force. It was also unclear to me why setting the humanoid thing on fire would cause everything in The Shimmer to die/disappear – okay, so it’s all connected in an alien web of life or something – but then why does the probably-alien returned husband not also disappear? Again, the answer probably lies in the thought “this is really intended as a study of human mind, not a study of human kind and alien kind.” And I’m just not a super-fan of sitting around discussing the meaning of life and stuff.

My star rating system asks me to “want to see this movie again” in order to give a 3 out of 4 rating. I’m not sure I feel a need to see this movie again, but I wouldn’t object to seeing it again.

P.S. – Is Oscar Issac trying for 100 film roles before he’s 50, or does it just seem like it?  

Read reviews from other club members here:

Bee’s Review and Dolby’s Review

Ten Old Time Radio Shows You Might Want to Try

Are you scrounging around for ways to entertain yourself or your family these days?

Have you ever tried listening to radio dramas?

You could say they’re a bit like podcasts.

Radio dramas produced during the so-called golden age of radio were the mass entertainment shows of their day, with network and sponsor backing, popular radio actors and audience choice awards, before the widespread adoption of television in America and elsewhere. Then video killed the radio star, or at least caused grievous bodily harm.

This blog post is about that golden age, “old time radio” or OTR – particularly American radio drama shows produced and originally aired between the 1930s and very early 1960s.

You do not need to have been alive during that time period to find these shows still enjoyable. You don’t need to be American. I wasn’t alive when these shows first aired. I am not American. I still find the shows enjoyable.

I am well aware that there were radio dramas produced in other countries, and there are radio dramas still produced today in many countries. That is wonderful. But this post is not about that.

Sometimes the audio quality of available OTR episode copies is less than ideal, although often it is quite good. Please remember that you will be listening to dramas originally recorded sixty or more years ago, and very few people at the time would have believed that their work would still be entertaining people in the 21st century. Numerous shows and episodes seem to have been lost entirely to time. What we have left we’re lucky to have.

You may also encounter content that is no longer considered socially acceptable as you delve into these historical shows. Society changes, all the time. Consider the popular social history a bonus alongside the entertainment value I hope these shows deliver for you.

I am focussing my recommendations towards the lighter and more comedy-oriented shows, given the unusual circumstances and stresses with which many of us find ourselves living with at this time. While there are several excellent horror, science fiction, and ‘thriller’ oriented shows dating from the golden age of American radio, I suspect most of you would rather not add tension to your lives today.

A quick search in your internet browser of choice will likely bring up links to downloads of the following shows.

Without further ado…

Ten Potentially Entertaining OTR Shows to sample:

The Jack Benny Programme – This sitcom (with musical and sketch interludes) was on the radio in various formats for two decades, starting in the 1930s. Jack Benny, by many accounts a progressive and generous man in ‘real’ life, came to play a vain cheapskate version of himself on the show. The comic timing of the regular cast on this show is wonderful, and the writing (and the improvisation) was often fantastic too. Sometimes, they would “recreate” popular movies – with often hilarious results. The programme transitioned to television in the early 1950s and originally ran on TV until the mid 1960s.

Lux Radio Theatre – Thinking of popular movie recreations on the radio, Lux Radio Theater became known for its hour-long condensations of popular films, often able to include original cast members. Sometimes they had other celebrities fill in for original cast members who were not available. Why did this programme make sense? Because no one could rent, borrow, PVR, or stream their favourite movies.

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar – “the transcribed adventures of the man with the action-packed expense account – America’s fabulous freelance insurance investigator.”  The day the last new episode of this show aired is often cited as the day that the golden age of radio ended. Several actors played the titular role over it’s thirteen or so years, but the best remembered episodes are those led by Bob Bailey. These were serialized stories over 15-minute daily episodes stretching a week at a time, as Dollar the insurance investigator solved some crime or other for his company, sometimes ‘travelling’ to ‘exotic’ places such as Hong Kong and South Africa. Many of the stories concluded with an itemized accounting of expenses, which allows us to hear what certain things cost back in the 1950s.

Fibber McGee and Molly – A real-life husband and wife team brought this situational comedy to the air, with ‘Fibber’ as a lazy braggart, accompanied by a reoccurring ensemble cast, running gags, and Molly the long-suffering but indulgent wife.

The Six Shooter – A western series starring James Stewart as a wandering cowhand and gunfighter. There is a rumour that Stewart refused sponsorship for the program from a cigarette company, and that is why it only ran one season. It’s a shame no other sponsor was found, because many of the episodes of this show are exciting and enthralling, with Stewart’s vocal acting style perfect for the setting. It is also an often-humorous series, although some episodes are more serious than others.

Vic and Sade – This is a strange show. Another situational comedy, this one is less obviously funny than the others – it finds humour in the strange every-day of a married couple living in a small city with their adopted son and uncle. It seems to be a love-it-or-don’t-get-it kind of show. Maybe you’ll ‘get’ it. I’m still not sure I do.

Gang Busters – Starting in the mid-1930s, this was a “true-crime” series dramatizing case files from police departments all over the US. I have always wondered how much of an influence this show had on the creation of Dragnet, the show generally considered the grand-daddy of all TV cop procedurals in America, which debuted on radio in the late 1940s. Dragnet has sometimes funny moments, but the Gang Busters episodes I’ve heard haven’t been particularly funny. Still, if you’re a fan of true crime and procedurals, you might want to check these two shows out.

Our Miss Brooks ­– Starring the sardonic Eve Arden as an unmarried high school teacher, this radio show would transition onto television successfully and eventually led to a movie of the same name. On the radio, Miss Brooks lives with her weird landlady (and her landlady’s cat), often unintentionally causes the overbearing high school principal trouble, and pines for the dreamy but oblivious-to-her-interest science teacher, while also struggling to educate her pupils. She can’t be a very good teacher, as it seems her class never graduates, but the character of Miss Brooks, an intelligent, educated, sympathetic working woman who generally speaks her mind, is considered to have been ground-breaking in her time.

Challenge of the Yukon (AKA Sgt. Preston of the Yukon) – Set in, yes, Canada’s Yukon, this series leaned towards a younger audience, with rather simplistic plots and characterizations. Not a western because it’s a northern, episodes follow Sgt. Preston (of the North-West Mounted) as he tracks down various criminals in the snowy north, with the help of his sidekick, the wonder dog King. Blizzards abound.

Richard Diamond, Private Detective – Yet another radio show which transitioned to television, radio’s Richard Diamond was played by multi-talented performer and film star Dick Powell, and while a dramatic detective show, episodes often veered into outright silliness. In one episode one of Diamond’s neighbours is so thoroughly exasperated by Diamond’s musical performances, he hires a thug to stop him from singing. Another episode has Diamond tasked with guarding a seal. Other episodes are played almost straight, although most end with Powell singing.

This list is incomplete, I could go on, but these shows should serve as a decent introduction to what OTR has to offer.

Please let me know if you give any of these shows a listen, and leave a comment with your recommendations if you are already a fan of old time radio shows. Thank you.

Review of Dancing and Doughnuts – Once Upon A Western – Story 2 – by Rachel Kovaciny

“Both were generally enjoyable. Dancing with the right girl could be sweet, like a doughnut. Neither one tended to last a long time.”

I have read several of Ms. Kovaciny’s other stories, and while I don’t go out of my way to obtain ‘Christian’ literature, I have come to appreciate Ms. Kovaciny’s charming re-tellings of fairy tales in Christian Lit, western, settings.

I feel that this is the strongest and most charming entry in her series yet – and in case you’re worried about subjecting yourself to a novella-length preaching, I found the “blatant religiousness” factor quite small. I look forward to supporting book 3 when it comes out.

[Spoilers Follow]

This is a re-telling of the 12 Dancing Princesses fairy tale, told in first-person from the perspective of an ex-sergeant major and some-times ranch hand named Jedediah Jones. He is rather haunted by his experiences during the (American Civil) war, and one day wanders into a small Kansas town without much money and only some apples to eat. As he is very tired of eating apples, he sets out to earn the reward offered to anyone who can solve a mystery pestering the large (twelve-daughter-ed) Algona family. The Algonas operate a wholesome dance hall in the town.

This book opens with four dedications, to the author’s husband and children, a friend, God, and musician-actor Bobby Darin.

Just as I am not well-versed in the story and works of Bobby Darin, I am also unfamiliar with the “original” 12 Dancing Princesses, therefore I don’t feel I should comment on how well this take fits with the original spirit of the tale, nor can I saw where in particular (if) it diverges.

However, as someone who shares an affection for another classic Hollywood actor with Ms. K, I enjoyed being “on the in” for one of the supporting characters, knowing who Ms. K was thinking of when she wrote that character, and picking up on winks in that direction. This also led me to wonder if there were also nods made towards the life and-or- characters and music played by Mr. Darin within this novella, which would likely add amusement for Bobby Darin fans if true.

I read the e-book version of this story and there were a few places where formatting was a tiny bit off – not at all a major problem or concern, but it was slightly distracting the few times it occurred.

“The closer I got to the other end of town, the sweeter the air smelled. Most towns out in Kansas smell about the same: dirt, sweat, manure, moldy straw, something dead somewhere that nobody’s gotten around to cleaning up yet, and a greasy cooking odor layered gently over the rest. And coffee. There’s always coffee in there someplace too. But unless you’re lucky enough to happen on some nice lady baking a cake or a pie for her family, you don’t smell a lot of sweetness on the breeze.”

This story is, I’ll say it again, charming, with a charming gentle sense of humour. I think Ms. K really has a talent for writing nice funny.

What this story is not – It’s not particularly thrilling, exciting, or riveting, and there isn’t much of a black hat bad guy for our hero to combat. There is very little violence.

It is enjoyable, easy to read, and passes time plenty pleasantly. I enjoyed a number of the descriptions, and it seems evident thought went in to it all.  There is a bit of romance – actually, there is more than one romantic relationship developed here, but they are all sweet, and very definitely presented in a ‘PG’ way.

As a little bonus at the end of the book you’ll find a recipe for doughnuts – and some discussion questions you might want to contemplate. (Although I just sort of shrugged at them. I’m not big on end-of-book discussion questions.)

Just about 200 pages long – I don’t hesitate to recommend this novella to those looking for a warm, YA-friendly western tale, although it will likely lack “bite” for many adult readers more enthused by genre violence/intensities.

For May’s western – I will be reading The Revenant by Michael Punke (as I already have access to a free copy.) Comments and suggestions – including recommendations for future western reads welcome. Thank you!