Sweet Nothing: Stories
Mulholland Books, February 2015
In Richard Lange’s new book Sweet Nothing, the reader gets a taste of the less-than-glamorous side of life in Los Angeles, California. This book’s marketed as a collection of thriller short stories, but I don’t think it’s the right label. Lange’s previous book—Angel Baby—was a fast-paced novel of that genre. True, you’ll fly through these tension-filled stories, but not because they are suspenseful thrillers. This collection brings together raw, compelling narratives I’d peg as literary fiction.
In “Instinctive Drowning Response,” a junkie mourns the death of his girlfriend Maryrose. He looks back at their chaotic life as heroin addicts. He blames himself, so “when he finally pops to the surface on a bright fall morning when the tree shadows look like claws grabbing at the sidewalk” he is wretched and thinks, “I can’t come meet you there ever again.” It’s a story filled with grief and guilt with a recurring phrase that jabs under your skin, over and over again.
Blanca witnesses the murder of a toddler by a gang member in “Baby Killer”. She is too scared to report him. After all, when “it comes to the gangs, you take care of yours and let others take care of theirs.” But she can’t stop thinking about it. On top of that, she has problems controlling her uninhibited, disrespectful granddaughter. Something has to give when the nights get hotter and visions of the toddler flash in the darkness.
There are other compelling the stories involving a father-son duo on a rescue mission, an ex-con trying to rebuild his life, and a recovering addict with a night job and a 450-pound roommate. I enjoyed how the vibrant imagery contrasted the dark, yearning undercurrent coursing through these stories. Richard Lange has a knack for creating a growing sense of tension and urgency that keeps you turning pages. At times, his style call to mind that of John Cheever or Joyce Carol Oates. I’d love to read more literary fiction by this perceptive writer.
*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.*