I had promised myself that I would read more books by accomplished writer Beem Weeks this year and I have. The first short story collection I read by Beem Weeks was ‘Slivers of Life’ which just bowled me over, making me realize that I had a lot to learn as a writer of short stories. This time, over a few weeks ago, I read ‘Strange Hwy’ another brilliant collection of Beem Week’s stories about the bizarre. I just loved the book; I would go as far to say that I loved ‘Strange Hwy’ more than I loved ‘Slivers of Life’.
I read this book in one go and it was an amazing experience. The stories are unique but about events that otherwise could seem ordinary. I’ve often said that Beem Weeks’ short story style reminds me of William Somerset Maugham (a more interesting Maugham) and Saki or H.H. Munro (but a more sombre Saki). With a mix of Maugham, Saki and a bit of a Stephen King twist to his stories, Beem Week’s stories come out as being:
1. Easy to read
2. Calming to the mind and soul
3. A complex puzzle to stir the intellect
In ‘Strange Hwy’ some of my favorite shorts were ‘Constant as the Day’, ‘Demons’, ‘Overcome (Holy Water), ‘Sweetie Girl’, ‘Wordless’, ‘Taking Lumps’, ‘Came the Flood’, ‘Dodging the Bullet’, ‘When We Were Kids’, ‘Songs of the Lost’ and ‘Gifted’. Like the sound of these titles, then please purchase your copy of ‘Strange Hwy’ today and support writer Beem Weeks.
I don’t want to give out any spoilers, but I really want to talk about certain of the stories that struck a chord in me and so, I’m going ahead with this book review.
I was numbed by the story ‘Constant as the Day’ which is about drug abuse. I felt the pain, anguish and frustration of the narrator which was brought out very well by Beem Weeks. When I read the story, I was remined of the many stories I have read in the past about drug abuse and drug abuse/overdose deaths. I would say that ‘Constant as the Day’ is as good a tale of sorrow told through the voice of the caregiver or the abuser’s loved one. It sounded like some of the Charles Dicken’s pieces I read in my school library, especially about the death of little Nell in Dicken’s ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’. The story is really penned with empathy the way Dicken’s penned the deaths of his young girl characters.
‘Demons’ was also a splendid but frightening read. Beem Week’s loves to spook the reader, but only to the extent where you feel a bit uncomfortable; he is a cute version of Stephen King and a mature adult version of R.L. Stine. The wonderful twist in the tale of this supernatural story will give you the chills.
‘Came the Flood’ was one of my favorites about a patient suffering from Schizophrenia and the dialogue that patient has with her psychiatrist. This was a power packed story that was working on the lines of Ken Kesey, an author who I revere a lot, and the whole process and the climax of the piece was stunning.
That is something what I just love about the author Beem Week’s style. I love his twists in the tales that he pens. He has certainly mastered the craft of short story penmanship in ‘Strange Hwy’ which surpasses ‘Slivers of Life’. One reason for that is because sometimes, he carries the story or short piece through a course of events which sound so ethereal to the ear that we are left like sitting ducks for what is coming next.
One of those in this series was ‘Dodging the Bullet’. I just loved this story and the conversation and emotions shared between two old sweethearts. It is a story about moving on, but although you’d think the story seems mundane, you will be shocked to know the outcome of the tale. Here is that Maugham and Saki effect working in Beem Weeks’ prose. I am not that much of a literature student (I’ve studied History and Sociology all my life) so through my poor knowledge of the art of letters, I say to you that if you liked Saki and Maugham, then Beem Weeks is a better version of both of them. If you are a Stephen King, Dean Koontz, James Herbert and Sheridan Le Fanu fan, then Beem Week’s is the author you should be reading next.
‘Songs of the Lost’ made me cry, and I’m rarely one to do so. The relationship shared between the characters and the sad ultimate end of one of the most lovable characters for no crime of his own technically speaking was heart rendering and a tearjerker. The story was also a shocker for me in this series and is a story which you have just got to read. The Blues played on the guitar by one of the characters in this short story reminded me of my time when I discovered the blues. This was thanks to my favorite singer of all time Elvis Presley as he loved the blues too. I listened to the Blues while at college and played it on the guitar and piano. This short story brought back many memories.
From Alzheimer patients to piano playing gifted brothers, from demons in haunted places to ghouls with wings, from ghosts of the past to loving fathers who makes ‘do it yourself’ robots – ‘Strange Hwy’ is a book of short stories like no other.
I can just go on talking about the merits of this book and it will still not seem enough. So, now I take time to pause and say that yes, I highly recommend this book for you to read. If you want a book of bizarre stories for a quick read then buy this book. If you are looking for a small book of short story reads to read during the week then this is the book for you. If you usually do not read short stories but are interested in reading some then buy your copy of ‘Strange Hwy: Short Stories’ today.
Support Beem Weeks and this book.I am personally looking forward to reading more books by him this year. I just can’t get enough of his literary style.
Happy reading to all reading this!
Copyright ©2019 Fiza Pathan