I have been a great admirer of Curtis Smith’s writing style. Smith has a great Hemingway-ish sentence structure and Smith’s word choice always hits the right note leaving the reader chewing on the layers of details woven into his sentences.

In Smith’s latest flash fiction collection, Beasts & Men (published by Press 53 http://www.press53.com/biocurtissmith.html), readers are again treated to Smith’s ability to find the right word to set in motion a complete story told in under 1,000 words.

A good example of Smith’s layering technique is in the story, “The Twins” (first published by Wigleaf).  In this story, the first line tells the reader how the boy’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his sister. The third paragraph, a rope is mentioned in the story. Then, from the fifth paragraph to the end of the story, the rope is present. The last line ties the story again, but this time, the rope is the invisible bond these twins will have their whole lives. This detail of the rope never pulls the reader out of the piece and it continues to flow naturally within the story. It is only after the reader steps away from the story does the genius of the detail sink in.

“The Wolf” (appeared in The Florida Review) pulls off the ever difficult second person narration. In the hands of some writers, this point of view can come off as too soap boxy and too opinionated. However, in Smith’s hands, the point of view succeeds in telling the reader a story about a father taking his son to the family cabin on vacation. Smith creates a great sense of longing and respect within his narrator by pointing out the subtle things the narrator noticed as a child and what the narrator sees now as he watches his son take his place at the cabin.

The story, “The Hunter” appeals to me for many reasons. The story opens as a little boy is reading a book purchased at the library book sale under the covers with a flashlight. I remember many times in my life hiding under a blanket with a library book reading just one more chapter before going to bed. The boy and his father shared hunting; however, with the recent death of his father, the boy needs to hunt alone. There are two things that really pulled this story into my heart. The first is again, Smith’s cleverness. Smith starts and ends the story with the boy drawing on a sketch pad. The second is this idea that when a parent dies prematurely, a child may feel obligated to take on the career or hobby of the deceased parent. This is what happens in the story, but the twist comes when the boy takes the hobby to the next level.

I truly appreciate Curtis Smith and his writing. I feel his newest collection, Beasts & Men, is for all audiences. In Smith’s stories there is something every person can relate to and take away from. For those just starting to explore flash fiction, Smith will be a great teacher of story craft. For those who are a master at writing, Smith will still give you new insight to telling a great story.

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