February 1, 2012

Guarding Andrew Gates by Frank Zubek

Guarding Andrew Gates is an eclectic collection of short stories by Ohio writer Frank Zubek. The stories vary in subject and style. Most of them are vignettes of situations or events being experienced by average people, usually demonstrating some point of poignancy or warmth. Zubec shows a clear affinity for the working and middle classes and the day-to-day cares we all experience. I appreciate this point of view, especially in this current literary climate that is obsessed with shock value and the paranormal.

Other stories run in a different direction altogether. Mr. Baxter is a creepy stalker story that leaves the reader hanging. Guarding Andrew Gates, the title story, manages to depict fandom gone awry and wifely resignation in a few short pages to a fair degree of accuracy. Free Lunch is a brief blue collar horror story.

Last and best is A Lack of Combustion, a story of a detective that seems to draw odd cases, à la X-Files. Other cases are eluded to but not described; in this one he investigates reports of spontaneous human combustion. Zubek has found his element here. Many of the other stories seem unfinished, though not without promise. A Lack of Combustion is different, in this piece Zubec demonstrates an ability to place the reader's imagination in a setting and engage them with his characters, two essential achievements in any salable piece of fiction.

Zubek is currently working on a novel about this detective character, and I think that's where we'll see the full measure of his talent come into fruition.

I received a copy of this book for the purpose of review.

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