death

Murder by Jane Liddle – Review by Lavinia Ludlow

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Murder is a collection of succinct and dynamite flash fiction that stylishly focuses on the topic of, well, murder. The fast-paced stories range from 40-500 words, and collectively feel like a meal of amuse-bouches. Jane Liddle breathes life into a story in less than a single page, and often, a single sentence, creating an unparalleled literary density:

The student studied the man with the Bluetooth and decided he would be the one he pushed because he figured no one good would miss him. 

The juvenile delinquent grew from a juvenile delinquent to an adult delinquent. He did not last long as an adult delinquent.

The rioter had adrenaline and anger on his side while the teenager had only fear. The rioter swung his bat as if the teenager’s head were a fastball.

Liddle presents the overarching theme of murder through an eclectic mix of scenarios. Many murderous acts are driven by a combination of insecurity and self-hatred within the minds and hearts of cold-blooded killers. We are exposed to mass shootings, sociopaths swinging baseball bats or burning victims alive, to other incidents ranging from assisted suicide, negligent parenting, or freak accidents such as being trampled by a Black Friday-like herd.

After a while, page after page of killing sprees feel overdone, but perhaps this is Liddle’s intent: to prove just how desensitized society has become with violent video games, films, and real life headlines of humanitarian crises, atrocities, and war. Furthermore, justice for the criminals often flounders, and provides little closure to victims and their families. Many of the guilty respond to their sentencing with apathy, and carry on with their bland lives, whether free or jailed, and reflect little on the consequences of their actions:

He went to prison for life, which turned out to be only four more years, so his gamble paid off, or didn’t pay off, depending how you look at it.

The scoundrel didn’t intend to kill him, but wasn’t sad that he did. Men like that were not to be trusted. The scoundrel got three years in prison for manslaughter, but was out in one.

Liddle christens each criminal subject with derogatory names such as the “weasel,” the “idiot,” the “degenerate,” and the “scoundrel,” which double as the story title. Doing so evokes distance between the reader and criminal, in the way that news stories avoid releasing full names and instead rely on descriptions such as “male in his 30s.”

These violent narratives often feel pulled from the headlines and embellished with literary backstory. Each boasts a, “who’s tragic demise will encounter next?” and although one may assume this collection may only contribute to society’s desensitization to murder, these stories examine just how fragile life is, how easily one can become snarled in a situation where human life is extinguished. Whether the act is conscious and committed with intent (shoving someone in front of a train or taking someone out with a shotgun) or subconscious and committed without (a prank gone wrong), no matter the case, lives are irreparably altered. 

Available for purchase in an array of fun colors through 421 Atlanta

Released March 29th, 2016

68 pages 

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Mr. Scootie

In Mr. Scootie, author and illustrator Sarita A. Cooke offers a whimsical meditation on the challenges of surviving the afterlife.  The narrative focuses on the eponymous dog and his efforts upon waking up in heaven to be reincarnated as an osprey on his beloved Chincoteague island. In many ways, then, Mr. Scootie feels like a new-age version of The Little Engine That Could, as Mr. Scootie’s journey is one that allows him to develop a sense of confidence as he makes his way back to the land of the living. In other ways, however, Mr. Scootie is also reminiscent of The Velveteen Rabbit in terms of both style and tone.


An illustration from Mr. Scootie.

Like the classic tale by Margery Williams, Mr. Scootie is a text-heavy story in the sense that, unlike more recent popular illustrated children’s books, there are significantly more than one or two sentences per page. To put it another way, it’s less of a “children’s book” than an illustrated tale that will appeal to adults and children alike. Along similar lines, the tone of Mr. Scootie is somewhat ambivalent. Early on, Cooke subtly reveals that Mr. Scootie has passed into the great hereafter — an event that’s bound to be at least a little difficult for any pet lover to read about. Likewise, Mr. Scootie’s first steps toward reincarnation are filled with uncertainty and trepidation, and even his eventual return to the land of the living is accompanied by wistful memories of the life he’s left behind. Of course, none of this makes Mr. Scootie less engaging or enchanting. On the contrary, the emotional complexity of the story makes it a tale worth savoring, especially for anyone who’s ever lost a beloved pet.