Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Sweet Warm Earth, by Steven Popkes

(Historical Fantasy) In 1961, Larry joins the LA mob as an enforcer, keeping the wrong people from fixing the horses. But does that include an old man who only talks to them? (5,969 words; Time: 19m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆, Average

"The Sweet Warm Earth," by , appeared in Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction issue 09-10|16, published on by

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: It captures the flavor of old noir novels. The mob personalities and events in the narrative appear to be well-researched.

Larry is a monster, but he's a gentleman by his own lights, and part of the fascination of this story is the matter-of-fact way he describes his actions. He hates to beat up an old guy because it leaves a bad taste in his mouth--meaning he's done it before. Or the way he kills his cousin Joey (who helped him when he wanted out of Boston) saying, "He'd done right by me, so I made it quick." So over-the-top you have to laugh--even as you gasp.

Con: The story hasn't got a tight plot. It's not really about figuring how how Antonio is fixing the horses; Antonio admits it early on. And it's not about dealing with Leo, since that come late in the tale. It's just a loosely-connected set of events involving Larry.

Larry is such a complete sociopath that it's hard to see why he allows Antonio to raise the money for Leo--especially since that money is coming from the track. It's completely out of character for him.

Finally, the horse-whispering is the only speculative element in the story, but very little is done with it.

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