Tag Archives: cinema verite

We Won’t Get Fooled Again

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: A Novel by Don Bruns (Oceanview Publishing; $25.95; 312 pages)

If you enjoy watching the television series Psych on the USA Network, you’re in for a similar experience reading Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.   As with Psych, there are two buddies who are most likely under the age of thirty and who insist on having a career of their own making, namely private investigation.   Since More or Less Investigations has only recently qualified for a Florida private investigation license, and neither Skip Moore nor James Lessor [get it – more or lesser?] really knows how to conduct a professional investigation, it comes as no surprise that the fellows are ripe for some hilarious results when they begin sleuthing.

The setting for this humorous mystery novel is a second-rate carnival in South Florida where the number of serious mishaps has been increasing over the past year, enough so that the carnival owners are becoming paranoid.   James takes a job as the marketing director as a cover for investigating behind the scenes.   He convinces Skip, who actually has a “real” job selling home security systems, to spend the weekend at the carnival in the hope of figuring out just who is behind all the trouble.   James has been promised a couple of thousand dollars by Moe, the carnival operator, if he solves the mystery of who is behind the sabotage.

 The humor and antics are portrayed in a somewhat haphazard way that comes off as a bit of raw writing.   There are some abrupt plot turns that are not necessarily easy to follow.   Given the nature of the two main characters who are obviously unsure of where they are going with the investigation, the plot has to be disjointed.   James and Skip are hoping to make as much money as possible without getting hurt by the person or persons behind the carnival accidents, one of which ended in the death of a person on an amusement ride that failed.

The rest of the characters are pretty much as expected, a beautiful girl, a dwarf with a petting zoo and a bunch of carny workers.   Bruns does an admirable job setting the scenes for the action.   The dust and noise associated with a carnival are there along with the quirky outsider attitudes that seem to be required for a life lived from one shopping center parking lot to another.   The book has a cinema verite quality that enhances a somewhat thin plot.   But then, what else would a reader expect from a book titled, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff?

“We wandered through the show, watching carnies weave their magic, selling cotton candy, drawing a sparse crowd to the dart booth, pulling a senior couple to the Ferris wheel, and tantalizing customers with the smell of greasy meat, popcorn, and deep-fried elephant ears.”

Well recommended.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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San Francisco Nights

Jessica Z by Shawn Klomparens (Delta Trade Paperbacks)

This debut novel by Shawn Klomparens became a must read when I finished his second novel, Two Years, No Rain.   The location and protagonist are quite different – this story being set in San Francisco rather than San Diego, and the main character a woman (Jessica Zorich) rather than a man (Andy Dunne).   What permeates both books is the slightly unnerving sense of impending danger.   There is an undercurrent that lurks in the background which the reader cannot ignore.

Jessica is an attractive red-headed advertising copywriter with a hesitant, non-committal approach to life that is not serving her best interests or desires.   She begins her tale by bemoaning the relationship rules she has invoked with her upstairs neighbor/sometime boyfriend Patrick McAvoy.   Their interactions could be labeled “Push Me, Pull You” after the Dr. Doolittle character.  

Patrick is not at all exciting for Jessica because he is stable, trustworthy and reliable.   The story picks up its pace when a tall mysterious artist named Josh Hadden fixates on Jessica at a party that Patrick arranged.   Sensing the attraction, Jessica enjoys feeling like the center of someone’s attention.   Josh is lusty, aggressive and deeply committed to his political beliefs!

Although Jessica has had difficulty with her romantic ties with Patrick, she makes easy transitions to a new job and a quirky semi-relationship with Josh, a lithographer who is intent on melding modern technology with the age-old art.   Her one life-long relationship is with her sister Katie.   These two sisters are portrayed as each other’s bedrock.

In Jessica Z, Klomparens dazzles the reader with his cinema verite style that brings the reader along while Jessica narrates her actions and thoughts.   Jessica oddly stifles her modesty, comfort and privacy when she is with Josh.   She becomes prey – her mouse to his cat.

Jessica’s lack of self-protection is truly naive and shocking.   Klomparens exploits the humanity that becomes apparent when we spend time with others – time enough to break through their public faces and expose the vulnerability that resides deep inside every person.  

This novel is insightful and persistent in its explorations of relationships.   It offers lessons about life that are both true and troubling.   Highly recommended although it is not light reading.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A copy of the book was received from the publisher.   Jessica Z is also available as a Kindle Edition download.

 

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