Sunday, March 1, 2020
This is McCormick' fourth appearance here, and it's quite a change. The others were humorous stories but this one is sheer suspense.
It is 1939 and Stalin and Hitler are playing footsie. As part of their nice-making the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany are exchanging prisoners.
Our narrator is a German-born Communist named Moller. He has lived in the USSR since its origin but is now being shipped back to his homeland in exchange for some unfortunate Russian the NKVD wants to get their hands on. He knows that the vehicle he is about to board "might as well be my funeral train." The Gestapo will soon torture him death.
But there are plots within plots on board that choo-choo, and an unlikely ally might be able to help him out.
I read this in one sitting, because I had to know it ended...
Monday, July 8, 2019
This is the third appearance here by McCormick and the second for Quintus the Clever. But our hero, if that's the right word, takes a while to arrive.
The story is set during the rule of Caligula the mad in the Roman empire. The narrator is Camilla Tertia, which is to say, the third Camilla. ("Siblings with identical names, especially amongst girls, were common in conservative and affluent families...")
Tertia is twelve and, she reports proudly, "already considered far and wide the scoundrel and gossip of the family." Reports have not been exaggerated.
Her sister Secunda is about to make an unhappy marriage. Tertia decides it can be prevented if her expensive engagement ring is lost - a bad omen! And who better to make it disappear than the luckless thief she meets after he is caught and whipped?
Quintus is clever enough to want nothing to do with her - what's Latin for hellcat? - but she doesn't give him much choice. The best part of the story is their conversations.
"Be an honest man, Quintus, and rob my sister!"
Monday, March 11, 2019
This is the second appearance in my blog by McCormick. It is his third story about Tasia and Eleni, two young women who, with their mother, run a lodging house in Odessa at the turn of the century.
At the moment their only lodger is an actor named Oleg Olehno. He wants to hire the women as claquers, that is, members of the audience secretly paid to raise enthusiasm for a certain actor. Tasia, our narrator, doubts the ethics of such an occupation, but her sister is delighted to get paid to attend a show.
The complicating factor is the arrival of a giant - truly, an eight foot tall man - who is hunting for Oleg. Fee fie fo. Oleg explains that he borrowed money from the claquers guild in Moscow and this monstrous debt collector has been chasing him all over Russia.
Ah, but this is theatre, and theatre is all about illusion... This story is a lot of fun.
Sunday, July 31, 2016
This is McCormick's second story about Quintus the Clever, a thief in the early days of the Roman empire. And Quintus is having a bad day.
It isn't enough that he is in a city under seige by the Roman's deadly Scythian enemies. No, he also has to deal with Vibius, a large, nasty, unscrupulous rogue. The brute has decided Quintus is the perfect co-conspirator to help him with a dangerous scheme. The last person involved was actually killed by, uh, Vibius. So, what could go wrong?
At one point they pass through a house whose residents had been killed, supposedly in a Scythian attack.
"Since when do the Scythians use short swords, Vibius?"
"Since I sold them short swords," he grunts.
So things are pretty bad for Quintus. But don't worry; they will get worse. And then Quintus has to make a decision and either choice will break his tiny, larcenous heart...