PublishersWeekly
(August 30, 1999)
Tina in the Back Seat
by Donald Rawley

The 13 stories in this collection exhibit the spry talent of Pushcart Prize--anthologized fiction writer and poet Rawley (The Night Bird Cantata; Duende: Poems) who died in May 1998. In his final collection, Rawley sets most of his stories in California, and while many delve into gay themes, all seek to explore a range of unpredictable experiences in the company of eccentric but appealing characters. Several tales boast fascinating premises. In "Baby Liz," a midget-sized Elizabeth Taylor lookalike, her innocence long gone, forms a friendship with a neighbor boy. The narrator of "At the Four Seasons Hotel" eavesdrops on the boastful reminiscences of two retired hitmen and realizes that they are still lethal, with "eyes as cold as brass on coffin." Rawley’s flair for characterization is notable. His best effort is in the title story of Tina, a sassy, promiscuous 20-year-old who likes to keep moving. Her spirit is wonderfully brazen: "I don’t drift. I fly." Temporarily without shelter, she gets her one-night-stand to loan her his chauffeured limo as transport to the next pit stop in her travels. The breezy story turns poignant as Tina remembers being abandoned at age 11 by her mother, who coolly told her, "Baby, it’s time to travel." "The Spells of an Ordinary Twilight" lyrically evokes the pain of Frances, a mother grieving over the freak murder of her 24-year-old daughter. And the collection’s opener, "The Bible of Insects" is a charming, intimate look at middle-aged Inez doing what she does best: loving edging her wealthy, 89-year-old fifth husband to a pleasant death. Even the less polished pieces here are keepers, while the best ones sparkle like jewels. (Oct.)

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