Get to know more about Winnfred Smith

Short Stories, Novels & Novellas

Reviews

Author Winnfred Smith provides a chockfull of twisted tales in his latest collection of short stories, Best Tall Tales.

A sinister conversation amid the darkness. A girl’s strange connection with a doll. An unexpected encounter between an author and a garbage collector. Two preteen girls’ creepy adventure at a shopping mall. A mysterious drone randomly drops a body in a person’s backyard. A couple’s near-estrangement over a prize-winning hobby. These descriptions are but small glimpses into author Winnfred Smith’s newest, Best Tall Tales. Smith presents over twenty stories that vary from three to twenty-seven pages in length, each tale coming with its set of twists.

Smith opens with “Shining Knight,” an uncommon ghost story, one that closes on a moral, before heading into a short character tale on gratefulness, titled “He and the Freezing She.” The titles, as mentioned earlier, are but two stories that neatly fit into a small category of eye-popping (and at times thought-provoking) stand-alone tales. Smith utilizes these smaller stories by sprinkling them among his more significant “gumshoe” collection.

A movie buff, Smith pulls from 1930 to 1950 noir flicks to create the basis for his storytelling. “The Jewelry Caper” reflects his love for older movies. Smith’s particular film fancy is none other than the inimitable Humphrey Bogart, especially in his investigator roles as Sam Spade. Smith even encourages readers to check out some of Bogart’s films to get a feel for the plots and, most importantly, Bogart’s distinctive voice before delving into his tall detective. Smith opens his Bogart-like tales with “A 1942 Mystery: A Marlow Caper.”

Smith’s writing style combines a balance of narration and dialogue with a light Twilight- Zone bent. He uses the latter principally as a means of building plot and tension flow. Many of his stories deal with male-female relationships. The relationships often begin awkwardly (i.e., a girl is left stranded; a girl shows up in the trunk of a car) but eventually turn amorous. His “gumshoe” plots vacillate between older and modern eras and mainly but not exclusively keep to “a damsel in distress” format, including a mix of expected and unforeseen narrative twists.

While the bulk of Best Tall Tales are fiction, Smith includes a nonfiction section toward the end of the book. Based on personal experience, Smith shares endearing stories about his grandfather in “The Attic,” his first dog in “Sandy,” and a very special aunt in “Through the Pasture.” The nonfiction trio closes his collection on a memorable note. Best Tall Tales is a quick, fun read for mystery enthusiasts.

— Pacific Book Review —

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