"Little Bits of Violence" by Spokane author Colin Conway explores the consequences of murders and other heinous crimes from the perspectives of both detectives and hardened criminals. The book is a collection of 15 short crime fiction stories. The stories range from fun procedural stories, to fascinating character studies with ironic twists, to a depiction of life in prison that may be difficult for some people to read.
Several of the stories in the anthology are set in the Lilac City, which should add to the fun for local crime fiction enthusiasts. Familiar locations in the region such as the Satellite Diner in downtown Spokane or the Turnbull Wildlife Preserve near Cheney help add some local color without getting in the way of the strong plots or the drama. It might be a little strange to think of stories about organized crime and assassination attempts being set in Spokane, but Conway makes them work.
Conway's life experiences make him highly qualified to write crime fiction set in Spokane. He is involved in commercial real estate, so he knows the area well and is able to create a strong sense of place with a few carefully chosen details. He spent five years as an officer in the Spokane Police Department, so he can get the procedural details right. He also runs a Kenpo Karate school, which may explain why his fight scenes are so creative and exciting.
Having said that, one of the most entertaining stories in the collection is set in Seattle. "In the Pocket" describes what happens after a small-time pickpocket named Robert McGrath stumbles across evidence that a man he robbed has been abusing his young daughter. McGrath finds photo evidence of really awful stuff, but somehow the tone of the story remains fairly light as he tries to get the man arrested for what he did while staying one step ahead of local police.
Another incredibly effective story is "The Serious Business of Ira Hammerstein." After Ira commits suicide, his wife Rachael reads a letter that lets her know that Ira knew ll about an affair she was having and a crime she committed. Rachael's reaction to the letter and the story's amazing gut punch of a twist ending will bring back memories of classic episodes of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" for people old enough to remember that series.
In addition to strong plots and fun action scenes, the stories also feature many great characters readers will love. Some of Conway's criminals are extremely likeable almost in spite of themselves and his protagonists on the other side of the law are easy to cheer for even when he doesn't tell readers much about them. For example, it is almost impossible not to like Avery, the protagonist in a story called "The Accident" even though he does some rotten things to cover up a crime.
On Amazon, local author Frank Zafiro, who co-wrote "Some Degree of Murder" with Conway, and who also knows a thing or two about law enforcement in the Spokane area, praised Conway for creating the memorable characters in "Little Bits of Violence."
According to Zafiro, "... In this short story collection, Colin Conway explores all sorts of human frailty and struggle. His characters are multidimensional, deep, and for the most part, messed up. But that's a good thing. In Conway's world, there is no easy ride, everything hurts, and if you don't fight, it only gets worse.
"While this might sound dark and depressing (and make no mistake, on one level, it is), there is a sense of underlying hope that comes out of the experience of reading the entire collection. You get the feeling that the human spirit always fights on, and even if the fight isn't won, there is nobility and power and growth in the struggle."
The Kindle edition of "Little Bits of Violence" is currently available from Amazon for only $.99. People who would prefer the print edition can also order it from Amazon for 10 percent below the list price. The book is also available in print and NOOK ebook editions from Barnes and Noble. Crime lovers in the greater Spokane area who prefer to shop locally may find the book at merchants such as Auntie's Bookstore.