KENNETH J. CRIST’S
THE GAZING BALL REVIEWED
By A.M. Stickel
dark fiction readers 21 and over, THE GAZING BALL is the second short story collection
by BLACK PETALS editor, Kenneth James
Crist. Its appeal is to those of like mind, whether speeding down life’s highway while avoiding things lurking in its
dark curves, or restlessly roaming the twilight of waking dreams (in rubber suits?!).
fetish-ridden are these 23 offspring of our modern madness. In the author’s introduction, he states that he has (for
some of the stories) “included a little blurb, giving the history of that piece and maybe some insight into where I
got the idea, what was going through my mind…” Many of his comments on the pieces are humorous, others sinister
and ironic. Brains are slimy little buggers, and brainy writers like Ken Crist just keep proving that point. He is a master
of description without being excessively wordy. Now, as to the story themes…
Turning of the Tide,” a betrayed wife’s wish is implemented in a decidedly twisted manner. “The Lucky One”
depicts a biker’s encounter with an unlucky UFO. Will graffiti someday be a valuable artifact? Ask the aliens in “Little
Manny 311” and enjoy a killer ending. “The Prank” proves that
even the long arm of the law doesn’t extend far enough in some situations. A pervert responds to a kinky add in “The
Personals…” and gets his kinks ironed out permanently.
Pete Morrow replaces fat Martha, his wife, with Delilah, “The Perfect Companion,” but finds out the hard way that
perfection has its drawbacks. Nature exacts justice on a bird-hating murderess in “The Carver.” A man eagerly
awaits the rising of the full moon and the return to his favorite lifestyle in “The Beast in Me.” If your mother
keeps nagging you about the health benefits in “Bananas,” make sure she reads this tale.
the secrets of effective gardening? One of them might be found in “Captain Tommy and the Wolfman.” Continuing
on the gardening theme, “Green Thumb” shows just how obsessive this pursuit can be. While terraforming the new
Eden, Robot Roland 6441 grows human emotion as well in “In His Image.” Biker Terry meets his blue-jeans-wearing
Eve in “Rachael of the Moon,”—“…her hand rested on my thigh, where it burned a hole all the
way through to China.”—and abandons the open road (for obvious reasons).
proves the undoing of a commuter and his souped-up Camaro when he has a run-in with four lovely young ladies in an old Maverick.
Cell phone “Static” divides, but ends up uniting, two loving newlyweds. Instead of upward mobility as an actor,
A Midwesterner in New York City attains a permanent position on “Level Four” of the city’s sewer system.
get a new lease on life in a most effective manner, and wage a winning war against humanity without firing a single shot.
Life is a story about to end in a “Red Leather”-bound book for the
man who runs the Book Nook. Searching for her best friend, Kathy, Denise experiences “Armageddon with a Siamese Cat,”
unaware that her life has taken a turn into a self-created surreality. The quietest of the collection, title story, “The
Gazing Ball,” is pure wish fulfillment when a liberated woman abandons her life for a simpler, more genteel era.
takes two illicit lovers from the heights of ecstasy into the depths of deadly misery. When “The Woods Are Lovely”
the time may be right for recruiting new members into the ranks of the undead. A trucker finds out that when a woman with
“Yellow” eyes is after him, not even a jail cell will protect him from her, dead or alive.
the drama of human failings, ex-cop Ken Crist’s fiction is singularly insightful, sometimes sympathetic, but always
entertaining. The book is to be released once the art is complete, and thus the price is as yet undetermined. For information
on when, where and how much, inquire at www.blackpetals.net around mid-May 2006.
Rated 4 skulls.