‘An America which is seldom seen’ – National Treasures by Charles McLeod

cmntFor $20 you can buy a pair of front and real State of New York Licence Plates 1973-1986 era, or for $3.99 you can pick up Brown Mesh Truckers hat. While $1 will allow you the pleasure of reading a Copy of The Toast from the Banks-Skyzwack Wedding Reception at the Orange County Country Club. These are just three of the articles up for sale as the narrator in the title story “National Treasures”, auctions off his memories.  Each piece, there are 10 in total, charts the life of an individual, from troubled adolescence, to encounters with small town neo-Nazi skin heads, to realisation and caustic condemnation.

Each of the protagonists in this collection inhabit an America which is seldom seen, almost never heard and much derided. Each individual is down on their luck, a wrong turn, a simple twist of fate has found them struggling on the margins of society.

McLeod captures the mood of a society which has long since been abandoned by the American Dream, if it dreams at all. The world McLeod portrays finds itself caught in an unending cycle of violence, alcohol abuse.  Love, if it exists, comes in the tough variety. But the beauty when it shines through is startling.

“Rumspringa” tells of Coy a former member of the Amish community. He lives with his friend Teshram in his run down trailer. Existing in a world of drug and drink fuelled binges, Coy is asked to travel outside the state in order to bail out a friend of Teshram’s. Prior to this Coy has only once travelled outside of the county. His experience will change how he views his existence forever.

A young woman narrates “Individualized Altimetry of Stripes”. She lives in Des Moines with her husband and parents in law. They work in a tattoo parlour called Great Planes. Her husband inks, she pierces. It seems an ideal alternative existence. But all is not domestic bliss and her husband is currently attending a councillor in order to alleviate the after effects of a time spent in incarceration.

Each story in the collection has its own style and rhythm. Each moves to its own discernible beat. Each story is memorable.  At times in this collection McLeod resembles a prophet, on other occasions an alchemist.  He shows us a Country which has long since sold its soul, but the deal went wrong and the devils rubbing his hands with glee. It is genuinely hard to appreciate that this is Charles McLeod’s first collection of short stories. He writes like a well worn pro.

Any Cop?:  This is the very essence of literature.  Attention to detail, development of characters, informative and erudite. Second to none.

Joe Phelan


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