Six in the Cylinder is a collection of stories by the talented fiction writer, Blake Crouch. Blake writes a very diverse set of stories in this collection. Many come from his familiar horror-themed tales of torment, but others break from that mold while pulling at the readers’ heart strings.
I first became aware of Blake’s work when he collaborated with J.A. Konrath, F. Paul Wilson and Jeff Strand (read the review HERE.) That story was four authors trying to one-up each other in humor, gore, and the fantastic harmony between the two. I became a fan of Blake’s work soon after. When Blake, Konrath, Lee Goldberg, Scott Nicholson and J. Carson Black put out the 2012 Big Kindle Boogie, I loaded my kindle with plenty of their work, including a free copy of Six in the Cylinder.
Six is a collection of stories featuring some of Blake’s most notable characters, and a few standalone stories. He admits to being a weather junkie, which is evident in his novel, Run, as well as several of the stories featured in Six, including the opening story, Perfect Little Town.
Town is written in a style that highlights Blake’s ability to make the environment part of the story. Set in the somewhere-in-the-mountains town of Lone Cone, the story tells the tale of a well-to-do couple on their way to Aspen, trying to rekindle their marriage. Unfortunately, the weather, and the season, sets the stage for a particularly nasty series of events. Soon, mystery gives way to conflict. The plastic surgeon and his lawyer wife learn what it’s like to fight, or die, when all they have is each other.
Serial is probably the best known collaboration between Konrath and Couch. It was downloaded over 250,000 times, stayed on the Kindle best seller list for over six weeks, and led to several expanded versions of the story. I, for one, can’t wait for the movie adaptation.
Serial pits two psychopaths against one another in the ultimate case of irony. Remember how your mom always told you not to pick up a hitch hiker? Well, she was right, because Serial pits a psycho hitch hiker against the psycho who picks her up. This is the breeding ground for the larger universe of the killer called Donaldson, and the elusive murderer named Lucy. Think of this as a sudden death match between two generations of murderers; there can be only one…right?
The third story, The Newton Boys’ Last Paragraph, isn’t really a story. It’s theater of the imagination.
The fourth story, The Meteorologist, revisits Blake’s love of weather. Instead of horror, this is really a touching tale about a man, who is lost, save for his one final obsession. This story shares the journey, and unexpected romance, of Peter; a man who chases storms for all the wrong reasons, and Melanie; the small town waitress who just might be his new ray of sunshine. Blake uses weather as its own character in this story, with dynamics that will have the readers smiling from page to page.
The final story is Unconditional. As a father, this story is hard to read, and I can’t imagine what Blake was feeling when he wrote it. This story targets a tormented protagonist, torn between the memory of his son and his reality. I don’t really want to describe it, because I don’t want to spoil it. I would just challenge any father to step into the lead characters’ shoes, and to do anything different.
Blake and Konrath share a similar Modus Operandi. They write their characters to that the readers give their hearts to the protagonist. Then they put that character through hell, taking the readers’ affections with her. That formula makes for a deep emotional investment, and keeps the reader turning pages as fast as she can process what’s going on.
Six in the Cylinder is available as an eBook. It runs 107 pages.