A Journey Into Carla H. Krueger’s Fiction, by James Bright
This is an author who nurtures our desires, hopes and dreams to show us how we can overcome all that boring stuff holding us back, who reminds us of our passions in life and who gives us the insight we need to become more daring, more creative and to worry less about what other people think.
At the heart of every one of her stories is the belief that even ordinary people can do incredible things. In the darkest of circumstances, when luck and hope and everything else has pretty much run its course, there is always a glimmer of light on the horizon. However traumatic the struggle, no matter how dangerous the rival, freedom, optimism and courage emerge overwhelmingly as heroes.
There are five related stories to choose from, loosely connected by the secrets people keep and by a very unusual deep blue medicine bottle. The stories are drawn together into a scintillating collection that takes place in a series of different landscapes and settings: a bustling city, traffic rumbling by; the quiet countryside where only the sound of the wind rustling grass strands can be heard; an abandoned house alive with a ticking clock; a working class estate full of shouts and gunshots and even a sleeping woman’s mind, overrun by racing thoughts.
Lost love, missed opportunities and failing relationships are everywhere, but so is bravery, freedom, rebellion and the chance to escape. In haunting coming-of-age story, Even the Young Can Be Warriors, a lonely little girl who’s fed up of her bitter, angry father, fed up of being trapped by his rules, lets the full force of her creativity loose with incredible consequences. In This is Where You Join Me, we explore the fragility of success and what happiness really means through the eyes of Natasha, a hard-working woman with everything to live for whose life is changed beyond all recognition after a split-second accident. In powerful, subversive story, Sex Media, two vulnerable women are tempted into the Chinese sex trade only to discover the promises of good pay and decent treatment are pure fantasy. Together, they plot a dangerous escape. In Never More Than 24 Hours drug addict, Fog, overcomes internal demons to figure out the mystery of who’s been tricking him and, finally, From the Horse’s Mouth takes us on a side-splitting, rip-roaring tour of a modern glass-fronted office full of the worst people you could ever imagine working with as they fight one another for promotion, readily lowering themselves to the level of their backstabbing, power-hungry, sex-mad boss.
An overwhelming hunger for life, an unpleasant undercurrent of subtle, sometimes humorous manipulation, a raft of raw emotion and an overriding humanity run through these stories like initials through rock. In each, you feel deeply connected to the characters, quickly developing an understanding of their fears, needs and hopes. There’s a surge of excitement as Katie decides on a shocking course of action against her father, as Fog plans his revenge on the mystery trickster and as the Sex Media girls put the final touches to their jaw-dropping plan. In Carla’s fiction, people get the life they want and the revenge they deserve – but not always in expected, legal ways.
If nothing in the new collection takes your fancy, you can always try the still-popular short novel, Slaughterhouse, a treacherous, psychologically-disturbing tale of entrapment and redemption that doesn’t aim to gently tug on the heart strings, but tear them out altogether. With its eerie backdrop of quiet, rural Texas and its dark characters and sharp edgy writing, this is a subtle, but chilling piece of work.
In Carla’s own words: “For me, the whole point of a writer’s existence is to interpret the world from their perspective, to turn what they find interesting into something that will entertain and inspire readers. I want to make fiction that will last, that is consistently good to read and I’m not afraid to experiment or take a few risks along the way.”
So, as she steps away from chilling readers with her horror-like descriptions of violence and deep-rooted psychopathy and moves into the subtler, but no less arresting macabre of everyday life, Carla H. Krueger is developing her power and versatility as a progressive, daring, but ultimately compassionate writer with heart. She no longer merely desires to shock and challenge. Instead, she aspires to tell the truth about tough subjects and open the lid on the human condition, but with a more mellow, often comical and considered approach that draws readers in at their own pace and lets them make up their own minds.
By James @ Twisted House