The Quarter Note Tales by Arthur Wenk

Title: The Quarter Note Tales

Author: Arthur Wenk

Publisher: Wingate Press

Date of Publication: 24 April 2006

Genre: Novella

Rating: 4.5/5

A spell binding collection of three novellas skirting between the power play within the scholarly realms of Academia and the quiet spirituality of the Church.

A scandalous professor of the English department has committed suicide at Chihuahua State College. His suicide becomes headline news when his suicide note gets published in the college’s student newspaper, The Bowser. Musicologist Axel Crochet gets surprisingly tangled in a fag at this new workplace when he figures out that his colleague from the English department may have in fact been murdered. Astonishing facts and mysterious characters crop up in an endless array of twists and turns as the plot gets murkier each working day. Grant Jarman’s suicide note is not a letter but a poem. Just as Axel is about to unbolt the poetic mysteries gnawing at the throat of departmental politics and murdered colleagues, news breaks out about the death of the female student Jarman had been romantically involved with. She falls off the college roof while trying to click her own picture. Accident, murder or suicide?

The heart of any university, other than in the cafeteria, can be found underneath the piles of books at the university main or departmental libraries. As Axel enters the library to find some bibliographical information that he has received at an event from a friend regarding musicology; his eye falls upon a student newspaper clipping that reports the murder of the Music Department Chairman Edgar Frost. The department’s vocal instructor Viola Mordant is in police custody. The suicide of a student whom Professor Frost had terribly belittled gives rise to an altercation between Frost and Viola. Is that reason enough for murder?

Beginning at a more sombre note in what constitutes the precipitous haste for Christmas service at the Allegheny United Church, Axel is given responsibility for playing hymns and conducting the Junior Choir. Reverend Armstrong rubs his fingers to his forehead, squints his eyes as if in excruciating pain and collapses behind the pulpit vomiting blood across the chancel carpet. A physician from the Senior Choir rushes up to the pulpit and orders the others to call for an ambulance. But John Armstrong is dead. “The dictatorial leadership style that might have suited the small churches that he served earlier in his career brought muffled complaints from some parishioners at AUC.” Shirley Bellinger, a soprano at the Senior Choir and a friend of Axel’s, discloses information about her turbulent marriage with husband James while she’s been seeing another man all along. In the fear of being caught she names John Armstrong as her beau in lieu of his reputation as a lady’s man. James is in custody for alleged charges of murder. But autopsy reports claim Armstrong’s death is caused by drinking Compound 1080. Did he obtain the banned substance all by himself or was he intoxicated? As more people get added to the ‘suspects’ list, the means of acquiring poison remains deluded and the exact manner of death vaguely understood.  Will this mystery ever find a solution or will it jeopardize the reputation of the Church forever?

The Quarter Note Tales is a wholesome read with a bunch of topsy-turvy twists accompanied by a dark sense of humour that never lets the suspense drown. At any moment if the reader feels he can guess the criminal, the narrative only bends to reveal newer confusing information. It is not too often that one gets to read about the more honest aspects of life as an academic specially in a poorly funded institution and its challenges along with tackling a student community that is not up to the mark. Throughout the three tales, the protagonist Axel finds responsibility thrust upon him while he is merely going about his everyday duties. The events shake him up more than any other character but it is his presence of mind and patience that makes others count on him to get them all out of the mess. Speaking as the first person narrator, Wenk provides oodles of information through Axel about each and every incident that unfolds. Constantly moving to and fro between the past and the present gives the stories an added dynamism but requires readers to effectively use their capacity to remember and recall the details and characters as and when the narrative requires. Hence, though the factual data at times lengthens and drags the stories causing a monotony which only pushes the reader to want to know exactly how they will end. The tales are very realistic with an exceptionally honest tone and thoughtful manner of story -telling. Despite his calm and composed writing style, Arthur Wenk redefines suspense for the contemporary reader who will enjoy the holistic experience of Wenk’s eye for detail with several smashing sub plots that dissolve and quickly emerge into the major plot without ever losing track of the main theme. The tales are predominantly alarming but they are Gothic to the extent of being intellectually puzzling and not exactly hair-raising scary. The narrative flair is candid and doesn’t leave out any point that is relevant in keeping readers on the edge by creating a vibrant atmosphere in the backdrop of grim incidents. The Quarter Note Tales comprising the three novellas An Unfaltering Trust, Murder in the Music Department and Murder in the Pulpit is a chilling weekend read for all lovers of thrillers, murder mysteries and uncanny short stories.

Unconventional, suspenseful and un-guesstimatable.

Click the book cover to grab your copy. Happy Reading!

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Christmas by the Sea(Surf’s Up) by Beth Wiseman

Title: Christmas by the Sea( Surf’s Up)

Author: Beth Wiseman

Publisher: Beth Wiseman

Date of Publication: 4 November 2016

Genre: Short Story/ Novella

Rating: 4/5

Nature’s Fury brings together two complete strangers.

A man is drowning in the middle of a raging hurricane. His hands can barely be noticed as he tries to shout for help. As he gets tossed from one end to another by the burgeoning tides, he contemplates dying instead. It is the thought of his little son that makes Parker struggle for life. But how long will he be able to keep his spirits high while his energies vanquish under the engulfing waters?

This short novella of barely fifty pages finds a relieving twist with the arrival of Alex at the rescue site. She makes frantic efforts to call 911. With gushing winds tearing at everything around, she can only manage to guide the operator to her location before the lines go dead. Racing against time and the final cries of a helpless man, she locks her car and decides to dive into the reckless waters only to realise that it is of little use trying to battle a furious Mother Nature. The story gets dense as they get to know and take a liking towards each other while trying to keep alive. The scenic descriptions and intensity of expression is commendable. What is most appealing is the emotional content of the individuals and the situation. Rescue teams eventually arrive but will Alex ever get to know whether Parker made it alive? Will Parker remember his saviour even if he did live through?

Heart touching story of life’s bitter sweet conspiracies.

Click the book cover to grab your copy. Happy Reading!

Magic O’Clock by L.S.Fellows

Title: Magic O’Clock

Author: L.S.Fellows

Publisher: Pronoun

Date of Publication: 7 May 2017

Genre: Short Story/ Novella

Rating: 5/5

magicoclock

“If tears could build a stairway,

And memories a lane,

Then I’d walk right up to Heaven,

And bring you home again.” (Anon)

 

Heart wrenching novella of a family beaten down by the loathsome disease of Dementia.

Reminiscences are what people live by. It is memories that make good and bad stages of life. Though ironically happy memories hurt the most but it is some memories that make life more bearable. In this rugged terrain of existential absurdities that make up human life on this planet, it is memories that provide solace, hope and some bitter sweet lessons. Memories warm people from the inside and life becomes an endless effort of making unforgettable memories. But what if memory decides one day to walk out of someone’s life? Can new memories be made while befriending forgetfulness?

L.S.Fellows rattles both the mind and the heart in this crisp fictional tale of dementia and hope. Acceptance is one of the greatest lessons of life and the earlier it is mastered the easier it becomes to live. The loss of a dear one is difficult to accept. But it gets much harder when one has to live with the thought of being with a loved one who fails to recognise anyone or goes missing one fine day. The story treads this field of unfamiliarity experienced by a child whose retired father can no longer recognise anybody. The status quo is reversed as the parent who’s supposed to be the first guide in a child’s life has become the child in need of some guidance from his own progeny but refuses to receive any. It is this unfamiliarity that is crippling to the author.

The writing style is fluid and ideas roll in easily. The narrative is very descriptive to the extent that the pictures rise out of the page and can be seen like a film on screen. These vivid descriptions add to a good eye for detail. It is reflective of someone who not just writes for leisure but writes often and understands the art of storytelling. The story is told from the first person narrator’s perspective. Throughout the narrative the vocabulary used is simple but stress is made on the mode of expression of everyday ideas. Certain ideas are put forward in a way so as to have expressions hurled at the reader’s face to arouse a shudder or a slight chuckle. The humour adds to the pathos but it is not a hilarious account by any sense. The despair is maintained throughout the narrative along with a sense of respectful devotion that the narrator has towards the old man Archie. The death of a parental figure is hard to accept but their absence in their presence is much harder. The core of the suffering lies in the fact that all one can do after a person’s loss is to console oneself by recalling how well the deceased one had lived and how much they had enjoyed their sustenance.

It is ironic that a man who otherwise cannot recall anything is able to narrate such interesting tales articulately and with all the information intact. It is as if Archie takes up a different persona all together during the storytelling sessions at his old age home. He becomes a regular, normal person for those few hours. The narrator’s comments not only add to the reader’s idea about Archie but also give a sense of grief that is gnawing at the narrator’s heart who can merely sit and watch and do nothing at all. It is the helplessness at the hands of an irreversible situation. The child sits through the story telling sessions in hiding as a member of the audience and cannot even go and hug Archie due to the fear of rejection. The longing of a child to be recognised for its efforts and the longing to belong somewhere is overwhelming. The surprise ending baffles the readers who are left to sympathise with the narrator. The novella is very well constructed within barely twenty five pages. There is the constant criss crossing of laughter and tears. Readers familiar with Lisa Genova’s Still Alice will find the two books working along similar lines.

Heartfelt and difficult to swallow with a pathos that is every child’s dread.