Review by: KEN KORCZAK
The great science fiction writer, Ben Bova, said, “All great fiction is based on character development.”
If that’s the case then BONGO FURY has it made. The protagonist is Jimmy Black, and he’s a fascinating guy. Black is a “Prod” living in a backwater of Northern Ireland. He runs a shop selling various musical accouterments, from guitar strings and drum skins to old vinyl records – but business is rather anemic.
Not a problem for the resourceful Jimmy Black. He’s a guy with one foot in the world of the up-and-up and perhaps just a couple of toes still mired in the seedy underground of Irish organized crime. Jimmy plays it straight for the most part, but his darker past tends to pull him back into the dangerous games miscreants play.
His “extracurricular dealings” bring in enough extra cash to keep Bongo Fury – his music shop – afloat and to support a sweet two-year-old daughter he shares with a lovely Polish immigrant.
It’s a fascinating set up for some great fiction, and for the most part, author SIMON MALTMAN pulls it off. In addition to a vivid main character, there’s A decent plot here, as well as adequate description of background setting and perhaps even a mild theme. (Somewhat shady good guys finish first?) The author also handles dialog well, and displays decent skill with crafting tight action scenes.
Anyway, this offering is just 40 pages, or so, and those are double-spaced pages. So, what you get here is basically a long short story. If you go ahead and buy Bongo Fury 2, perhaps you get a bit more meat for your dime.
As good as BONGO FURY 1 and BONGO FURY 2 are, I must say that these are works that beg to be a novel. The weakness of both books is that the denouement of each seems rushed. A short piece of fiction needs to be powerfully compact, yet complete. That means cobbling together a resolution that delivers with impact — but the finish should provide the reader with the sense of satisfaction and finality for having confronted a complete story.
I suppose you could look at it this way: I found Bongo Fury 1-2 so enjoyable I wanted more — and so that’s why I was disappointed with the endings. I’ll give Mr. Maltman the benefit of the doubt and suggest that he or his publisher is engaging in cliff-hanging as marketing strategy to move future issues … and I do hope we see more of two-fisted drinker (and puncher) Jimmy Black.
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Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS
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