Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bitter Steel: Book Review


Bitter Steel by Charles Allen Gramlich, is one of my favorite reads of the year. A collection of previously released short stories and poems, Bitter Steel throws down a gauntlet of both action and tribute to the pulp fantasy masters of yesteryear.

From the back cover~
"So come! Gather with me around the fire where the smoke stings our eyes. We’ll listen to the drums beat in time with our hearts. We’ll drink from the common bowl as it passes among us. The darkness whispers outside our camp, but we have no fear. There are heroes among us. Let us hear their tales."

Charles prose and poetry throughout the collection is visceral and enticing. With the first paragraph of the first tale "A Gathering of Ravens" I found myself taken away, wandering the battlefields beside his heroes. It granted that magical feeling that I suppose most writers feel at one time or another of "I want to write something like this..."

The next half dozen tales of Thal Kyrin (and Jys) were even better and I especially enjoyed the climactic fight of "Dark Wind" the resonance of "The Evening Rider" and the originality of ""Wine and Swords" because as Charles mentions, he wanted to write a Sword & Sorcery tale without any sorcery in it. The twists and encounters were well drawn and felt real. I found myself hoping Charles will write more tales of the Earth that has become the planet known as Thanos.

Three humorous stories followed, and while I didn't really care for "Worms in the Earth" (great ending however) and "Mirthgar". I loved "Slugger's Holiday". A pastiche based on Robert E. Howards, brawling sailor Steve Costigan on holiday in Hawaii. As far as pastiches go I thought it was spot on-a real gem. The voice and story would make REH proud.

I'm glad Charles included a little about each tale and poem, I like to know about a short stories genesis and inspiration whenever I like them as much as I did these. You can get a copy HERE.

7 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Thanks for the kind words, David. I'm glad you liked it, especially "Slugger's Holiday," which has been hit or miss with some readers. I've found some who really don't like the dialect stuff. Glad you could appreciate it.

Ann said...

That is a great review. I will have to look out for this. Thanks

David J. West said...

You bet Charles-Sluggers Holiday was one of my favorites-it captured that voice that REH and Twain do so well.

Thank you Ann.

Jodi MacArthur said...

This review of the tales has a "Dark Tower" feel to it. It's def going on my to read list.

Paul R. McNamee said...

After Christmas, this is on my list if I don't receive it. (I have Amazon gift certificates waiting to cash in!)

David J. West said...

Jodi-yeah both King and Gramlich have wonderful prose.

I hear you Paul-so much I still need to get ahold of.

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