THE LONG WAY HOME
Cemetery Dance Publications
May 21, 2019
reviewed by Brian James Lewis
Remember those commercials that used the catchphrase: “If it’s brand name here, it’s GOT to be good?” After multiple decades of working himself into the position he’s in as an independent publisher, editor, NY Times bestselling author, and regular contributor to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, I think Richard Chizmar deserves that sort of instant recognition. He’s always doing something new and contributing stories to a multitude of publications. Widow’s Point, his excellent collaboration with son, Billy, has become a movie and just this month he’s announced that there will be a sequel to Gwendy’s Button Box which he collaborated on with a young hopeful from the state of Maine, Stephen King. So call me bold if you want to, but I say “If Richard Chizmar is involved, it’s going to be AWESOME.”
When I got the opportunity to review The Long Way Home I said, “Yes please!” This is a super cross-section of Chizmar’s work that includes 5,000 words of autobiographical notes and two heart-on-the-page pieces. My Father and Ellery Queens Mystery Magazine is about love and what drives Richard Chizmar as a writer and publisher. This essay is something that most of us can relate to, even if they lacked a parent like this. There was somebody-a teacher, librarian, friend that helped us to keep going. The other piece Stephen King at 70-A Tribute to the Gunslinger is about magic. Most specifically, the magic created by the written word and a magical friendship between an author and his rock star. This writing community we’re all part of is built on this kind of magic. Richard Chizmar is a warm, friendly person who makes time to do interviews and podcasts with independent publications. He is constantly talking up creative projects by other writers, and even responds to Tweets from reviewers like me. In The Long Way Home he shows us that he knows what we’re going through and how we feel because he’s walked through the fire more than once.
But wait, don’t let your guard down just yet. Because along with all that warmth come short stories that may cause you to water your leg like the narrator of Roses and Raindrops, who discovers that it’s not always best to know the truth. Aberdeen, Virginia is a really nice place to live, except for one weird problem. Every time there’s a thunderstorm, small children end up dead. No one can figure out the reason why or who is committing these murders. Our narrator is among them until he makes a special delivery to a residence outside of town. He sees everything and although he can’t believe it, he can’t avoid what his eyes are taking in. You’ll be surprised too. Make sure to use the facilities before you start reading this tale!
You’ll also feel that kind of icy terror while reading the first story in this collection The Man Behind The Mask. A woman hoping for some kind of closure after enduring hell as the captive of a mask wearing man gets the chance. The mother of the other female captive agrees to meet with Jennifer. Yes! A chance at redemption and to talk to someone who truly understands what she’s been though. The woman even offers to host their get together at her home. How nice! Jennifer is nervous but knows she has to do this in order to move forward with her life. Unfortunately, neither of the women benefits much from the meeting. Quite the opposite happens. But someone is very pleased with the results! Oh man! This one took my breath away.
A Nightmare On Elm Lane starts off as a harmless sounding story about a kid living in a nice suburban neighborhood with one of those dads who always seems to have a “great idea” for a project. This one is a goldfish pond that Kevin and his Dad need to dig a hole in the backyard for. Despite his initial trepidation, Kevin finds himself enjoying the process and hanging out with Dad. It’s a great summer, until their digging uncovers things that shouldn’t be there. The police are called and the neighborhood becomes obsessed with what is going on. If that’s not creepy enough, someone starts visiting their yard after dark. They’re looking for something special, but only one person knows where it is…Holy Aqua Velva!
The two pieces in The Long Way Home that contain the police detective duo of Ben Crawford and Frank Logan are a treat. I really hope that Richard Chizmar does produce a collection featuring these guys and the unique cases they handle. They are the imperfect yin and yang that mix like chips and dip or tennis and a couple of overweight cops. Their back and forth makes the stories they live in funny as hell and amazing as they unravel puzzles that seem to lack answers. The Witch finds the fellows zooming out to handle a murder that happens on Halloween. Is their suspect just wearing a costume or is there something else going on? The Hunch is a complex psychological mystery that starts with this profound discussion.
“Your doctor’s an asshole”
“Really mature, Frank”
When Frank Logan doesn’t like something, he lets you know right up front. That’s a trait that makes him really refreshing to read and funny. But don’t be fooled by his demeanor. Inside that stubborn head is razor sharp brain that picks up on clues that no one else sees. When Ben tries to force his doctor’s idea of playing tennis to lose weight on Frank, he gets what he deserves. Ben Crawford is the “good guy” in this partnership and possesses a lot more people skills than his partner. Alone neither of these guys would be very effective, but together they are unstoppable. Great detective stories with highly memorable characters that you can see in your head as you read Chizmar’s words.
I’ve only touched to tip of the iceberg in this vast collection of “uniquely portable magic” written by a man who is a hero to many of us. Not only is he amazing in what he’s achieved, but he’s faced adversity many times and beaten it down with the help of that fellow from Maine I mentioned earlier. The Long Way Home has definitely found a home on the “Wall of Fame” here in the Skullcave and gets a VERY enthusiastic 5 STAR RATING! To cut to the chase, YOU WILL LOVE THIS BOOK. Every story is a gem and the autobiographical portions are gold. Richard Chizmar is a high level practitioner of storytelling magic. You will feel it in your heart when you savor the pages of this this amazing collection. I only wish that Ben Crawford and Frank Logan were not fictional characters so that we could vote for them to be our next presidential duo.
Want to find out more about Richard Chizmar? Then visit his website: www.Richardchizmar.com or check him out on Twitter@RichardChizmar. Thanks for visiting Damaged Skull Writer! Please check in with us on Twitter@skullsnflames76 and visit http://damagedskullwriterandreviewer.com for news and reviews!