by Clark Zlotchew
The narratives in this collection paint a picture of the 1950s. Many of the elements of this culture will repel: racism, sexism and homophobia, for example. Yet this was an era in which neither the threat of terrorism nor the scourge of AIDS existed for the average American. These stories deal with love and death, triumphs and defeats, adolescent angst and the tension between ethnicity and assimilation. Some present adventure on the high seas as well as a glimpse of Havana night life on the eve of the Castro Revolution
Once Upon A Decade: Tales of the Fifties offers a diverse collection of short stories. They broach such subjects as segregation, young love, homophobia, navy life, adventure and teen mischief. As with any collection of short stories, there were some I truly enjoyed and others I did not.
Zlotchew is a wonderful writer and delivers an engaging short story. He masterfully controls his stories and quickly draws the reader in. Many of the tales had some of the same characters in them, helping to add more depth and familiarity. Some of the writing contained a dark, gritty edge and touched on unpleasant subjects. A few of the stories surrounded Navy life and shore leave; stateside and abroad. Zlotchew captured the dialect of his characters making their conversations authentic. Three stories I enjoyed were Storm Warning, Witch’s Brew and Going For Gold. This was an engaging, thought-provoking read and very true to the era it represents. Once Upon a Decade was selected as one of three finalists in the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. (In the short story category.) I would recommend this to anyone interested in the setting and culture of the fifties.
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