This week's Featured Author: Eliot Parker

I'm delighted to feature Eliot Parker on this blog to celebrate the release of his collection of short stories, Snapshots. I was given a copy of the book in exchange for an honest and fair review, and you can find out what I thought of it below!

Eliot Parker is the author of six books, most recently Snapshots. His novel Code for Murder was named a 2018 Finalist for Genre Fiction by American Book Fest, and he recently received the Thriller Writing Award by the National Association of Book Editors (NABE) for all of his novels. He hosts the podcast Now, Appalachia and teaches English at the University of Mississippi. Learn more about him at www.eliotparker.com.


Blurb for Snapshots

Eudora Welty’s quote “A good snapshot keeps a moment from going away” is a theme that permeates all of the stories in Eliot Parker’s collection of short stories, Snapshots. 


These stories are set in West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky. In the plots of the stories, the makeup of the characters is more interesting and important than the circumstances that the characters find themselves trying to manage. Each protagonist finds themselves in a complicated set of personal and professional relationships. By their nature, relationships are complicated. The protagonists in these stories are shaped by their backgrounds, life experiences, and expectations of other people. Conflicts arise for these protagonists when decisions and choices made by others alter the expectations and circumstances expected by the protagonists.

In each of these stories, the lives, values, and beliefs held by the characters are deconstructed and each of them face a new reality brought on by an experience or situation that forces them to reexamine who they are and who they need to become. Each of these characters occupy a variety of professional spaces: cops, a rich, successful couple, convicted criminals, and others grieving the loss of a loved one and grieving the absence of love.

Snapshots is now available on Amazon.

My Review

I received this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. 3.5 stars, rounded up because of the lovingly-crafted sense of place.

This book is a mixed bag to be sure, with the paranormal sitting uneasily with family strife in a collection of short stories dealing with the human condition, and how people react to circumstances they find themselves in and why they do it. There is a strong theme of how different people cope with grief throughout the book, although not in every story.

The "how" people react is obvious in each story, not because it's predictable, but because the storytelling is good and it's obvious a lot of research has gone into the various professions of the protagonists. The "why" is less so, especially in the case of the woman realising a woman she doesn't know is sexting another man. Her actions seem spiteful, and we don't know enough about either woman to know whether her actions arise out of jealousy or what the state of the other woman's marriage is like. There is something missing, a small detail that would make a huge difference to the impact of the tale. The dialogue is good though, and I could almost imagine being in the midst of a baseball game whilst little dramas are being played out all around.

So the writing, the descriptions, the set-building were great. What I didn't enjoy so much was that feeling that I had missed something in some of the stories. Hub2000 was one. I just didn't get it although I fully accept it might just have been me.

Some of the characters had terrible things happen to them but there didn't seem to be a reason for it. I had to read more than once, hoping to pick up a detail I'd missed that would have tied the story together, but I didn't find it. Maybe that was the point, but I couldn't help feeling that some of the tales just needed one small tweak to round them off.

My favourite story was Reflections, and thought that was one of the best, as a young man seeking comfort whilst grieving for his father has an odd encounter in a graveyard. Also, Old Lady, was about a woman still getting over the death of her husband and is not quite ready to move on. The characters were lovely in that, especially the little girl trying to make her smile. 

The oddest of the collection was Princess, ostensibly about a missing dog. If the modus operandi was to induce a sense of panic in the reader, it certainly did that, so it was nice to have an uplifting story at the end of the collection. And Special Needs was downright sinister, simply because it felt so horribly realistic.

The quality of the writing is excellent and the sense of never knowing what is coming next is terrific. Definitely a book I would be happy to dip into again. 






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