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Where the Southern Cross the Dog

Trey R. Barker

Fairwood Press

US Paperback Chapbook First

ISBN 0-966-81846-6

Publication Date: 10-01-2002

82 Pages; $8.99

Date Reviewed: 04-14-03  

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 2003




Southern-fried horror more than most depends on a stylized prose. Trey Barker gives ample evidence of that in his chapbook 'Where the Southern Cross the Dog'. Consisting of three stories with a two-page preface and an introduction from Steve Rasnic Tem, 'Where the Southern Cross the Dog' is the prose equivalent of drinking three tall glasses on a fairly dangerous batch of moonshine. The flavor is strong, the feel is a bit disjointed but the gobsmacking buzz you get is unique.

The three stories within are 'Jake Leg Blues', 'Black Angel Blues' and 'Stones in the Passway'; the middle piece is unique to the chapbook. Barker's prose is amp-distortion twangy-guitar-notes-in-the-night-tough. Each of the pieces offers up a theme of second chances and redemption, the possibility of putting right what once long ago went so wrong. In each of them, it's the prose that disconnects and eventually connects.

Barker doesn't set the scene in his stories so much as the prose tone. Each piece is similar to a blues itself, and they all include ample quotes from the real deal, and offer up the feel of the real deal. 'Jake Leg Blues' follows the tragic consequences of a batch of bad liquor, 'Black Angel Blues' offers a very unique theological twist, and 'Stones in the Passsway' replays the scene of a crime of the conscience.

Barker's stories exist in a world of very controlled prose. He doesn't go for the standard describe and elaborate, but rather, he builds up simple riffs until the reader can comprehend what the hell is happening. Some readers may find this disorienting, with reason. But stay around long enough to figure out what's happening and you get the hardscrabble feel mainlined into your veins by Barker's writing. The stories are stark, simply-etched lonely stones thrown into the black water of the reader's brain.

The Fairwood Press chapbook package is worthy of purchase for its sturdy construction and the dangerous illustrations of Eric M. Turnmire. They're photo collages in the style of Potter and Morris. The color cover is equally good, and the three inside all nicely complement the story. Based on this sample, I'd keep an eye peeled for Barker's other stories and the other releases from Fairwood Press.