Cindy Rosmus’s ANGEL OF MANSLAUGHTER Reviewed
By A.M. Stickel, 4.29-5.1.07
The ANGEL OF MANSLAUGHTER will slice and dice your spirit, then
feed you your thoughts in a spicy stew of 15 stories. Editor and author Cindy Rosmus opens her short-story selection with
one of the briefest introductions a reader will ever experience, her expression both sincere and funny. The tales introduced,
however, are serious stuff.
Rosmus’s hard-edged writing style is spontaneous, unpretentious,
and geared toward adults, rather than the 14-and-under set. The flavor is urban and blue-collar, rather than suburban and
white-collar, East Coast rather than West. This dark, sludgy slipstream—not mainstream—body of work, not literary
at all, is replete with deadly imagery.
“…only in Jersey can you smell it…of something
being barbecued alive.” (pg.60)
Story protagonists tend to
be seriously flawed sufferers in a claustrophobic milieu providing few happy endings. Among the plethora of characters, few
are trivial. Smoky, rundown neighborhood bars, sleazy apartments, sham weddings, and trashed parks are the backdrop for these
raw souls battling the demons of drugs, alcohol, parental neglect, and a variety of other evils. Knives, fists, and rape are
the weapons of choice, although invective runs a close second.
“‘I’m sicka this shit. I’m sicka you.’”
Two stories hint at the supernatural, these being “The Base
and Despised,” featuring a young dad’s unrequited love for a hottie turned healer, and “Eat the Worm,”
with Mozart as an alcoholic’s muse. Several other offerings deal with adolescent angst in an offbeat, amusing manner
bordering on laugh-until-you-cry tragicomedy.
“Zilenski is a Scumbag would be engraved on her tombstone.”
Vehicular manslaughter is the theme of “Yellow Mama,”
also the name of Rosmus’s web ‘zine. It revolves around a man drawn to two different women, and unable to decide
between his beautiful, but jealous, alcoholic wife and his newly sober, mousy soul-mate.
What could make a set of stories about outcasts and/or losers appealing
to a reader? Perhaps the answer lies in how honest we are with ourselves about urban Americana in the modern age. Rosmus pulls
no punches concerning the background from which she writes; she does not see it through rose-colored glasses, without any
quirks or prejudices.
“From this nightmare there was no waking up.” (pg.68)
Her characters, born innocent, reared in closed communities paying
lip service to morality, have been warped by the reality of hard-scrabble circumstances. Attempting to escape through alcohol,
sex, drugs, and self-abuse, they end up going nowhere…except jail, or, for those who believe in it, hell. We read about
their exploits in the news, where they fuel gossip and inspire sympathetic prayers…but almost never empathy.
“‘It was a bad joke, like how do you load a truck full
of dead babies.’” (pg.71)
If you’re not ready for the rough stuff, then bypass this
buy. But, if you’re into true grit, visit the "Book Purchase" page at www.blackpetals.net and order this $9 nonangelic collection from Fossil
Publications or through the author,
email@example.com. Then, thank your lucky stars your own history doesn’t approach that
of the characters therein…or if it does, God help you.