If you've never read any of Collin Kelley's poems or sampled his mystery/suspense novels (`Remain In Light ` and `Conquering Venus'), then you may not be ready for the very raw, genuinely atmospheric stories presented in this collection of four short stories titled KISS SHOT. But whether these stores are an introductory appetizer or a hefty portion of dessert for those who know his work, this is a set well worth reading.
Kelley understands the South as well as Tennessee Williams, Flannery O'Connor, Carson McCullers, Fannie Flagg, John Grisham, Tom Wolfe, Cormac McCarthy, Chris Offutt, Anne Rice, Barbara Kingsolver, Horton Foote, Allan Gurganus, and Jesmyn Ward to name only a few. He knows the mystique and the aura and the aroma and the soul of Southern living and is unafraid to look and share the underbelly of Southern society with these four journeys into the psyches of several Southern young people. He is unafraid to switch form the male to the female voice in the same story - a technique that opens the doors to understanding the characters better in the mater of a few short pages. He has the language down pat and delivers it so surely that for a suspended moment in time the reader is utterly immersed in the bizarre situations he explores.
Though it is difficult to select a favorite among these four offerings the manner in which he explore the ambiguous sexuality of a young lad in KISS SHOT is among the finest `coming to grips' stories available. And he is able to take a story about a suicidal girl who is escaping the Podunk town and lands in an equally sad atmosphere only to come to grips with the source of her suicidal ideation through the kindness of a stranger. In another story a gross, obese girl tries everything to be accepted and joins a theater company where she falls into a debasing situation only to be salvaged by a skinny young lad who happens to be gay. The location - Cottonwood, Georgia with some outlying activity in New Orleans.
Collin Kelley may just be on his way to joining the ranks of the fellow Southern writers listed above. He has the passion and the skills and seems prepared for more stories such as these fine four. Grady Harp, October 12