Virgins in Reverse & The Intrusion: Twin Novellas, By Gabriel Hart, 170 pgs.

On the surface, Gabriel Hart’s twin novellas are fine examples of pulp noir: shady characters populate these stories, drinking and skulking around the fringes of Los Angeles as rackets get run around them. What made me take notice of these two stories, though, was the way Gabriel Hart uses the form. It’s not uncommon for a gritty first-person novel that focuses on a tale of down-in-it scraping to pass across my review desk. What Hart realizes—and emphasizes—is that the characters telling these stories are not to be trusted. When a story is narrated in first person, it’s reasonable to expect some kind of narrative change inherent in the storytelling. Often, it’s just “….so I decided to write it all down,” which is fine, I guess, but kinda overdone at this point. Well, how about a lead character who drinks so much that his story may or may not be a demonic sorta insect infestation? That’s the kind of ambiguity I dig in a story, and that ambiguity is here in spades. And since so much of the stories herein have to do with a down-and-out sort of lifestyle, the ambiguity yields a reconsideration of the form. A neat trick for sure. –Michael T. Fournier (Travelling Shoes Press)