Admittedly, I have heard of Paul F. Olson, but up until now, I can’t say I’ve read any of his work. I can happily say I’ve now corrected that omission. Whispered Echoes is a wonderful collection of old and new.
One bit of writerly advice I hear again and again is to write what you know. Well, Paul F. Olson knows that part of Michigan called the “Upper Peninsula,” the part of the state that’s surrounded by three of the Great Lakes.
The first two-thirds of this collection is made up of some of the author’s earliest short stories, presented in the order in which they were written. The last third is the writer’s newest novella, “Bloodybones.”
The title of this collection, Whispered Echoes, was meant to evoke long-lost voices from the past, but as I read the stories I noticed the word whisper, in one form or another, popping up again and again. I can’t say it was in every story—I wasn’t paying that much attention—but it certainly had a presence throughout.
“The Visitor”—A terrific opening to a solid collection. It’s Fall in the Upper Peninsula, but…
…there is something about the season that is not quite right. Something that hasn’t been quite right, in fact, since Kent Barclay began coming into town each October first, taking a room at Elvira Martin’s boarding house, and leaving again during the first week of November.
Over the years Kent became known as “the jinx.” Things just seemed to happen when he was in town.
“From A Dreamless Sleep Awakened”—The kids have played in the cave as long as there have been kids to do so. But this time something has awoken.
“The Forever Bird”—Old friends and magic birds and a bit of weed lead to a tragic night.
“Homecoming”—A disturbing story of a fifteen-year-old in a roadside dive.
“Do you make a habit of serving alcohol to fifteen-year-olds?”
“Hey, bud, take a look around. On a night like this, I’d serve my five-year-old nephew.”
“They Came From The Suburbs”—Years before the walking dead, there were the quiet ones.
“Through The Storm”—I loved this story; the storm, the unknown, the blistering pace all combine for great storytelling.
“The More Things Change”—This quote pretty much sums up a rather bizarre tale:
A bear rode by on a big Harley. We waved. The bear gave us the finger.
“Guides”—A story of coming to terms with your destiny.
“Getting Back”—A wonderfully charming ghost story.
“Faith And Henry Gustafson”—There comes a time when it’s no longer safe to put your faith in others.
“Down The Valley Wild”—An incredibly sad story of Don Stewart confronting his past.
“Bloodybones”—This new novella begins with a story written by David Mahon:
I wrote the pages a few months ago at the suggestion of a friend, who said the process could help me understand what happened to Amy Brackett, the light of my life, who vanished suddenly on a stormy Saturday afternoon last October.
This is a very effective ghost story and the stuff of legends.
One of the things I really enjoyed throughout the older stories were the pieces long lost to time, like buying a roll of Certs…listening to Seger on the tape deck…Gooden can outpitch everyone…my transistor radio…and I’m sure there were others I missed.
Each story in the collection is its own microcosm of life in the Upper Peninsula with a bit of the weird thrown in to spice things up. Reading the stories in Whispered Echoes was like eating potato chips, impossible to stop at just one.