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Short stories / family drama
American Old West
This 141-page selection of short stories about the Old San Francisco (first called Yerba Buena) is an easy read.
In a conversational style, Bartholomew’s main character tells the reader interesting aspects about the growing pains and tragedies of this great American city. His often self-effacing accounts about his own success and life in the emerging West are interlaced with dry wit and a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor.
It makes for a pleasant read and whether or not there are a few liberties with the facts is irrelevant. Each of these entertaining short stories can stand alone, but the recurring characters of Hiram Courtenay and his wife Lisbeth provide continuity, and I grew quite fond of the intrepid pair as they endured fires, loss and social upheaval around them. Indeed Hiram, although a successful businessman, can be found reaching out to those less fortunate, providing them not only with counsel but a helping hand. He owns warehouses along the docks and sees first-hand those huddled and befuddled immigrants being disgorged from the bowels of arriving clipper ships. He and his wife are quick to ask them to their home and to provide a meal.
I came away with several observations:
1) Grateful I didn’t live then and there.
2) Some of my “aha-moments” were spoiled by every story ending in “The End.” If I were the author, I would take those out, especially since the formatting plasters this unnecessary statement up against the last line. Centered and down-spaced asterisks (* * *) are less intrusive leaving the reader to enjoy “what-if” or “wow” moments without the abruptness of “The End” tearing him or her out of any lingering feeling about what they had just read.
3) The cover could be improved by larger lettering, and the thumb-print might be resized to fit in with the author’s other titles.
4) In the title, the words “other tales,” I feel, should be capitalized. Further, these days an author’s name customarily is no longer preceded with “by.”
These are just my nitpicks. However, I feel they would shift these delightful short stories into a more professional realm.
Definitely worth a read for those interested in life in the Old West, and San Francisco in particular.
© Inge H. Borg
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