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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Book Review: Karl Koweski Blood And Greasepaint. Epic Rites Press, 2010 (205 pages).

I finally got around to closely reading this book in my grand tour of Epic Rites publications. This is an unusual collection of 11 loosely linked short stories set in South Chicago and Alabama. Koweski grew up in Chicago and moved to Alabama in 1996 where “he became the 432nd Alabama resident to read a book”, according to his biography.

The title story ‘Blood and Greasepaint at the Tombstone Bar and Grille’ is the opening short story in the collection. This isn’t your typical bar story and will blow you away. The local drunks decide to take on a troupe of crazy-ass mimes studying nearby in the strip mall at the Marcel Marceau School for Kinetic Expression. Things turn ape-shit in the ensuing surreal battle royal. Some lame Cubs jokes are tossed into this broth of insanity. Find the first publication of this story at WhirliggZine here:

In a good slab of the book, Koweski satirises the Alabama community he has migrated to as a young adult. ‘Rebel’, ‘Eli Whittaker’s Super Fantastic Family Circus’ and ‘Give Satan An Inch and He’ll Swear He’s a Ruler’ and especially ‘Big Angry Cocks’ are hilarious stories which send up racoon hunting, dodgy circus performers, a mock mass exorcism which goes terribly wrong and deep south cock-fighting, respectively.

Five short stories are told from children’s perspectives. The kid’s are typically nasty and foul-mouthed from the south side of Chicago. The stories realistically reveal the hateful underbelly of children who had to grow up tough. ‘Nervous Harold and the Implausible Impala Incident’, ‘The Great Ice Cream Truck Robbery’, ‘The Great Funeral Home Candy Bar Heist’ and ‘The Great St. Casimir Hard Liquor Theft’ are wonderful unsanitised takes on growing up.

The last story in the collection ‘Ill Gotten Gains’ is about what happened to the kids in the south Chicago stories as young adults. They have turned to a life of break & enter & thievery- without a moment of regret or empathy for their victims or co-criminals.

This is an uneven but highly original collection of short stories. The language is simple but will constantly surprise you. I love Pablo Vision’s front & back covers. Karl Koweski’s head is on the block ready to be judged by you!

Find a September 2015 interview at Blotterature with Karl Koweski here: