KENNETH JAMES CRIST’S
THE GAZING BALL REVIEWED
By A.M. Stickel
Meant for dark fiction readers 21 and over, THE GAZING BALL is the second
short story collection by BLACK PETALS editor, Kenneth James Crist. Its appeal is to those of like mind, whether speeding
down life’s highway while avoiding things lurking in its dark curves, or restlessly roaming the twilight of waking dreams
(in rubber suits?!).
fetish-ridden are these 23 offspring of our modern madness. In the author’s introduction, he states that he has (for
some of the stories) “included a little blurb, giving the history of that piece and maybe some insight into where I
got the idea, what was going through my mind…” Many of his comments on the pieces are humorous, others sinister
and ironic. Brains are slimy little buggers, and brainy writers like Ken Crist just keep proving that point. He is a master
of description without being excessively wordy. Now, as to the story themes…
Turning of the Tide,” a betrayed wife’s wish is implemented in a decidedly twisted manner. “The Lucky One”
depicts a biker’s encounter with an unlucky UFO. Will graffiti someday be a valuable artifact? Ask the aliens in “Little
Manny 311” and enjoy a killer ending. “The Prank” proves that
even the long arm of the law doesn’t extend far enough in some situations. A pervert responds to a kinky ad in “The
Personals…” and gets his kinks ironed out permanently.
Pete Morrow replaces fat Martha, his wife, with Delilah, “The Perfect Companion,” but finds out the hard way that
perfection has its drawbacks. Nature exacts justice on a bird-hating murderess in “The Carver.” A man eagerly
awaits the rising of the full moon and the return to his favorite lifestyle in “The Beast in Me.” If your mother
keeps nagging you about the health benefits in “Bananas,” make sure she reads this tale.
What are the secrets of effective gardening? One of
them might be found in “Captain Tommy and the Wolfman.” Continuing on the gardening theme, “Green Thumb”
shows just how obsessive this pursuit can be. While terraforming the new Eden, Robot Roland 6441 grows human emotion as well
in “In His Image.” Biker Terry meets his blue-jeans-wearing Eve in “Rachael of the Moon,”—“…her
hand rested on my thigh, where it burned a hole all the way through to China.”—and abandons the open road (for
proves the undoing of a commuter and his souped-up Camaro when he has a run-in with four lovely young ladies in an old Maverick.
Cell phone “Static” divides, but ends up uniting, two loving newlyweds. Instead of upward mobility as an actor,
A Midwesterner in New York City attains a permanent position on “Level Four” of the city’s sewer system.
get a new lease on life in a most effective manner, and wage a winning war against humanity without firing a single shot.
Life is a story about to end in a “Red Leather”-bound book for the man who runs the Book Nook. Searching for her
best friend, Kathy, Denise experiences “Armageddon with a Siamese Cat,” unaware that her life has taken a turn
into a self-created surreality. The quietest of the collection, title story, “The Gazing Ball,” is pure wish fulfillment
when a liberated woman abandons her life for a simpler, more genteel era.
“Educating Molly” takes two illicit lovers from the heights
of ecstasy into the depths of deadly misery. When “The Woods Are Lovely” the time may be right for recruiting
new members into the ranks of the undead. A trucker finds out that when a woman with “Yellow” eyes is after him,
not even a jail cell will protect him from her, dead or alive.
with the drama of human failings, ex-cop Ken Crist’s fiction is singularly insightful, sometimes sympathetic, but always
entertaining. $7.00 U. S. Funds from Fossil Publications, 11627 Taft, Wichita KS 67209, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
pages, illustrations by Fred Leary, cover by Tim Ramstad. PayPal orders accepted...
Rated 4 skulls.