THE DARK WAVES OF WINTER, edited by David M. Olsen, is an anthology of literary stories centered on the theme of water hobbies, from surfing to sailing to simple beach-walking, written by prominent and emerging writers alike. While some stick tightly to the theme and others offer brief mentions of it, each of the sixteen stories is a character portrait, delving into the minds of mothers, drug addicts, victims of theft, detectives, and more.
In Lindsay Jamieson’s moving “Neighbor North,” an aspiring actress moves to LA with her husband only to lose traction in her career when she has a child and becomes enmeshed in neighborhood drama. Over the course of twenty years, her strained relationship with the cruel alcoholic man who lives next door spirals into unexpected territory as her life evolves. With her hatred of the man as the story’s focus, the other areas of her life—including her marriage, hobbies, and even understanding of her son—fade to the background, and the tension between neighbors becomes a poignant metaphor for losing control of oneself in the immersive flow of life, as mirrored by a colleague’s words near the story’s start: “You move to Los Angeles and it’s like you dive into a swimming pool. You swim to the deep end and climb out and twenty years have passed.” The emotional pull of the relatable tale is in how the narrator lets her intractable judgment of others unmoor her from her ambitions.
One of several noir genre stories, JoAnn Chaney’s “Make Him Suffer” follows a misanthropic police officer in her investigation of the murder of a man who cheated on his wife, as her husband did to her. Her snide attitude thrusts her likability up and down, but her realism is constant. The convergence of voice, character development, and plot progression is masterful. Similarly, the final story in the collection, Lawrence Block’s “Sometimes They Bite,” contains a mystery at its heart, namely the intentions of a fellow fisherman who joins in the main character in his search for fish in a seemingly empty lake. Tense suspense juxtaposes the tranquil setting as the man tells a creepy story of the day he murdered a man—while fishing. Expert dialogue propels the story and makes it truly immersive. While the ending may be predictable, it is entertaining nevertheless.
As each tale contains a compelling feature that makes it shine on its own, THE DARK WAVES OF WINTER is a first-rate anthology for literary short story fans with consistently excellent writing throughout.
~Aimee Jodoin for IndieReader