Review: Tales from the Riverside

by Larry Landgraf

Larry Landgraf is a swamp dweller and all the stories in this book are true and as accurate as his memory allows. He disappeared in the swamp during my birthyear – yes, I’m already that old. At least Larry’s 16 years older. In Tales from the Riverside Larry takes us on a journey through his life… And the beauty found in the swamp.

Let’s face it: I love a good fantasy book, but more than once I also read outside my comfort zone; books I wouldn’t ordinarily pick to read. Landgraf’s collection of short stories has its merits and while it didn’t always draw me in, it was, indeed, a fun read.

Yes: there is a lot of passive voice in the book, but you find the ‘fun read’ in the way the author writes. The way he says you die once the world around you falls into disarray. The book’s not about that, but it gets mentioned anyway. Very early in the book, too. One remark, Larry. Somewhere he writes he rambles, but he also excuses himself because he’s now an author. Maybe the word never reached you (messengers get eaten in the swamp), but authors never ‘ramble’. They muse. ;?) But that aside.

In the first short story he meets killer bees. You know. Of the sort that kills you went you get too close? They sting him more than once and he calls his loved one to tell her that if he didn’t call her back in 30 minutes, she had to call an ambulance. In itself not a big deal, except his girlfriend was 140 miles away from her.

The second tells me this author likes to tell you he often died. And I have to admit: it’s true. He almost died the first story, almost died the second and so on. This second story really shows the storyteller in mr Landgraf because in the end, nothing happens. He fills two pages to tell you something came lose and hit him in the back of his head. That’s it. I used twelve words – he tells you that in two pages and not a single moment you feel like that’s too long. When the end came, I was, in fact, a bit shocked. I had hoped for more. After all, he almost died.

His partner appears in his stories more than once, too. A city gal, he calls her, so far away from this swamp dweller he is. Throughout the book you find pictures that bring alive what he talks about.
I’m not sure how he ordered his stories. He starts with a fairly recent one, then continues with stories from the sixties before he returns to 2013or goes to the eighties and seventies.

I loved the story of the talking deer. Actually: I loved the stories about his mother most, maybe because they related to me the most. And then there is the story of him gambling. If you look good, you even find a receipt or two in one of the stories. Yes: there are plenty of surprises along the way, which makes this book such a fun read.

Conclusion

Is it a book that belongs in between classical writers? No. A good external editor gave it undoubtedly a lot more active voice, though I assume it may become a lot less fun, too. You learn about fishing and the way this author enjoys his life. If you asked me what the book was about, I would say: life. Even now, in his seventies, mister Landgraf has enough wisdom and ‘joie de vivre’ to make the book a joy to read. He likes to dramatize what happened to him like any good grandparent loves to embellish his stories to make them look better than they really are. And that’s what you best take them for: beautiful short stories that offer you a nice getaway from life. Something to read when you have nothing else at hand – and not much time (or feel) to read a full story.

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