Junior Willis, by Richard Natale

A review by Piet Bach

2014 Bold Strokes Books

JuniorWillis by Richard NataleIf you’ve been reading Wilde Oats for the last few years, you’ll recognize Richard Natale as one of our contributors, his first story with us having appeared in the fall of 2010.  I was pleased to see his latest work, a novella, anticipating his usual good writing, and I was not disappointed.

In telling the story of Tom Larson, Mr. Natale has strung scenes from his protagonist’s early life with a deeper tale of his life after grief and disappointment have made him more cautious and considerably less content.  Tom’s earliest contact with another man comes as a result of being chosen as driver for his commanding officer in the Korean Conflict, which leads to a furtive but illuminating relationship that lasts a year or so.  His next, a liaison with an idealistic young Cuban who looks forward to helping Castro bring the nation out of the darkness of corruption and poverty, is brief but passionate, and doomed by politics.

The third segment of Tom’s life is treated with somewhat more detail, covering several years and leading eventually to love and to Tom’s accepting the whole of himself, not just the closet façade he has maintained since the fling with Osvaldo.

As we would expect from Mr. Natale’s other stories, his development of characters and scenes is graceful and his pacing is steady.  Backgrounds and eras are evoked with his characteristic spare but effective prose, and although we have a good idea of how the plot will resolve it still comes as a nice near-surprise when it does.  I enjoyed this first foray into longer form fiction from him, and look forward to more in the coming years.

 

e-book – $2.99 – ISBN 13: 978-1-62639-165-9

Buy it here.

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