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Love Hurts
Barry Hoffman
Edge / Gauntlet paperback $9.95

review by Mario Guslandi

A successful novelist, especially known for his 'Eyes' series, Barry Hoffman admits that, to him, writing short stories is a kind of secondary activity to which he devotes himself to fill the gap between a novel and the next one. We must be grateful that, instead of going fishing or golfing Hoffman spends his spare time producing short fiction because his stories are actually very good.

The present collection demonstrates that he strictly follows one of writing's golden rules: 'write about the things you know'. As a long-time teacher he deals with the problems and the tragedies of adolescence, as a bereaved son he affectionately reminisces about his parents, as an American citizen he questions the continuous presence of US soldiers in Iraq. Therefore, Hoffman's stories, although the work of his imagination, are deeply rooted in reality.

The title story, Love Hurts is a fine psychological study of the complex relationship between abductor and abducted, the spoilt rotten daughter of wealthy but unloving parents, with an unexpected ending. None Of My Concern provides a standing example of Hoffman's pessimistic view of the society and the world, portraying the indifference which makes us unconcerned witnesses of crimes and felonies taking place under our very eyes. In Second Chance an unusual punishment befalls a self-absorbed teenager after her unwanted pregnancy. With a slightly moralistic attitude, it offers another look at the life of adolescents.

Law Of The Jungle describes the battle going on between two powerful but wicked minds in the land of the homeless, displaying a disenchanted view of the hypocrisy inspiring the actions of some good Samaritans. Too Late is a compassionate homage to the memory of the author's parents and a lucid representation of the struggle against their illness by cancer patients, while Spare Parts offers a surrealistic approach of the war extending into an endless, never-changing future.

Disguised as a quiet, ordinary story about a children play area in a shopping mall, King Of The Hill - featuring Shanicha, a cute rascal appeared elsewhere in Hoffman's work - conveys a dark and nasty concept of kids' world. As explained by the author in his preface to this slim volume, he's not a 'networker' exchanging favours with other authors/ editors to appear in this or that anthology. He must be praised for that and it's quite true that he's seldom included among 'the usual suspects' appearing in almost any genre anthology. In a way, however, this is unfortunate because it means that in order to read more of his stories we'll have to wait until his next collection. Let's hope that won't be long.
Love Hurts

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