Good Old Uncle Sam and Other Short Stories
by Sid Kelly
Trafford Publishing

"It was then Charlie whispered to me, ‘We can have a few laughs here.’"

Consider what might happen if Raymond Carver collaborated with Chuck Palahniuk. Readers will commit to turning pages in a sitting or two while enjoying this collection of quirky short stories with heart. Retired engineer and judo enthusiast Sid Kelly worked at his vocation and avocation for fifty years before penning these stories, and his life experiences and historical interests shine through in the varied protagonists and plots. From the tale of an African American secret agent seeking revenge on the society who disenfranchised him after World War II to the judo club partners sparring while ogling a Liz Taylor look-alike until the surprise ending pops into view, Kelly’s dry and wry sense of humor and his keen appreciation of life’s paradoxes come across in all the characterizations and plot twists. The stories also work nicely together thematically in this well-tuned collection that often focuses on street justice and poetic resolution of karmic action and reaction.

Kelly’s storytelling flair is geared more toward live performance than literature, however. The stories sometimes lack the necessary “showing” through refined narrative and dialogue integral to written storytelling, and now and then, passive sentence constructions dilute what could have been more compelling and active presentations. But readers will appreciate the author’s strong voice and can easily imagine him reciting these tales in live readings as they appear in the book. There is truly much to commend in this collection. Kelly’s fine-tuned imagination, detailed delivery, compelling and determined characters, and the unusual conflicts and often humorous resolutions in each story save the day. Whether one wants to ponder “lost droppings” or testicles displayed on a mantelpiece, there is a story to fit any bizarre stretch of the imagination here.

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