A Dry Heat

Insightful and entertaining literary fiction about the lives of boys and men

Fiction - Anthology
181 Pages
Reviewed on 04/24/2024
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

A Dry Heat by Gregory D. Williams is a collection of short stories that principally, although not exclusively, focuses on the themes of death, loss, and grief, as experienced through the eyes of both young boys and men. As the late author was a physician and anesthesiologist, it should be no surprise that a number of the stories are medically focused and involve the experiences of the unexpected loss of a patient. From Charlie, a young adolescent coming to terms with the awakening romantic feelings he’s beginning to experience for his previous best friend and baseball buddy Kelly, through a doctor frightened about the possibility of his thirty-nine-year-old wife giving birth to a Downs syndrome child, to an Iowa farmer determined to fulfill his late wife’s passionate desire to visit Arizona and the racing greyhounds that she so adores, this collection has something different, unusual, and quirky for everyone to enjoy.

A Dry Heat is an eclectic anthology of short stories with enough variety and message to keep all readers interested. One of the beauties of short story collections is that they can be picked up and read whenever the time dictates. The author, the late Gregory D. Williams, has captured the essence of our fears and emotions regarding loss, loneliness, and grief and editor Marylee MacDonald has paid a great tribute to the author with this collection of his stories. I particularly enjoyed the story of Charlie who struggled mightily with his feelings, when his best friend Kelly’s father was unexpectedly taken from them. His struggle with how to talk to her about her loss and his growing romantic feelings for her is something we can all remember as young adolescents and teenagers. Perhaps the most beautiful and poignant story for me was that of the Iowa farmer Harlan, whose wife Darlene had long had an ambition to leave behind the cold of Iowa for a visit to the warmth and beauty of Arizona. Harlan’s pain and grief at her untimely loss were both sad and uplifting. Although these stories do principally have an overarching theme of grief and loss, there is a warmth and positivity within them that shines with love and lust for life. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection and can highly recommend it.

Constance Stadler

A Dry Heat by Gregory D. Williams is a collection of short stories that probes into the dimensions of the human condition. While that may seem a lofty goal, few modern writers can masterfully convey the subtle shadings of what is possible and what cannot be achieved—to effectively explore commonalities and singular aspects of self-hood embedded in plotlines that compel immersion. Whether a prepubescent boy coached by a more baseball-savvy young girl comes to understand that ‘fundamentals’ extend well beyond the playing field, the realization by an overconfident anesthesiologist that there is no such thing as the creation of imperfect life or a fisherman’s consideration of a gentle yet seasoned epiphany, there is invariable familiarity where surprise is an ever-present constant.

Transition is never predictable, yet closure is always natural and illuminating. In Who We Were At Twelve, an aside that ongoing events seem akin to the injustice that pervades To Kill a Mockingbird sets the stage for developments as intimate as they are cataclysmic. Gregory D. Williams skillfully creates portraits of human frailties that become moments of affecting poignancy, through penetrating illustrations of everchanging resolve, particularly when delving into the mutations of love. The book abounds with finely crafted interior and exterior monologues revealed by insightful evolution in word and deed. Divided into three sections that trace the life course, there are also puckish inserts. A delightfully wry prose poem celebrating the wonders of Chapstick highlights the constancy of irony and humor as dry as the title suggests. While ‘brilliant’ is used all too frequently in comments about works of fiction, the rich and myriad facets of the memorable writing in A Dry Heat well deserve such recognition.

Essien Asian

What does a man’s attempt to carry out his dying partner’s final wishes have in common with an intricate vengeance plot gone wrong? These are just a few of the short stories that make up Gregory D. Williams’s short story collection. Read along and be enthralled by how far a boy is prepared to go to support his friend because of their mutual love of baseball, the disturbing consequences of a surgeon's guilty pleasure, and what follows when a doctor misinterprets a pregnant woman’s scan results. Gregory D. Williams presents the intrigue of life from a male viewpoint in this one-of-a-kind anthology titled A Dry Heat.

Art imitates life in Gregory D. Williams’s thought-provoking collection. With themes that vary from adolescent love to darker angles on revenge and tragedy, this collection of stories highlights the ups and downs in the evolution of the human male species. The characters in the stories are well thought out and their conversations are easy to follow. The stories are presented in chronological order, with the first one featuring a young child. As the conclusion approaches, the stories gradually shift focus to men who are in their twilight years. Williams's narrative style is particularly noteworthy. His stories have an introspective, almost unfinished quality to them as if he wants you to work out how it should conclude. Editor Marylee MacDonald deserves special recognition for her contribution to bringing this invaluable book to readers' attention. A Dry Heat will make you question the wisdom of your youthful choices.

Asher Syed

A Dry Heat by Gregory D. Williams is a compilation of the author's original short stories, covering the themes of adolescent evolution and the maturation process that leads to the emergence of adulthood. The book is broken down by part, and each story ranges in length, tone, and tenor. These include Call of the Wolf, which describes living with a wolf spider for five days and an initial repulsion that turns to fascination, imagining whimsical adventures with its eight legs; What the Doctor Didn't Know, which centers on the tumultuous life of William T. Barnes, M.D., exploring personal and professional challenges, substance abuse, medical complexities, and the emotional toll of a traumatic patient death; and Baggage Claims, which has an overriding theme of the shared human experience of travel disruptions, portraying the tension, frustration, and fleeting connections among holiday travelers facing delays and baggage issues.

A Dry Heat by Gregory D. Williams is a wonderful example of the versatility of a short story compilation that can work within a structured theme while still allowing each work to stand independently of the others. Williams does an excellent job in the use of intentional symbolism to both deepen the meaning of the stories beyond a straightforward narration and add that extra layer of literary verve to make them stand out and above the crowd. For example, in Rainbow Trout, Williams' description of the trout's colors and the comparison to a rainbow not only paints a strong visual picture but has symbolic meaning, representing the cycle of life in a tale that also connects father to son. Williams is also able to inject humor and importance into the otherwise mundane, such as the end of a Chapstick's lifespan, its stoic presence in a pocket, and its offer of comfort and healing, leaving behind a fragrant legacy of an unheralded life. Overall, a thoughtful, well-written, and amusing body of work. Very highly recommended.

K.C. Finn

A Dry Heat is a work of fiction penned by author Gregory D. Williams in the anthology, cultural issues, and slice-of-life subgenres. It is best suited to the general adult reading audience. As the title suggests, this astute work captures the essence of boyhood and its enduring impact on manhood in the sun-soaked landscapes of Arizona. The collection of nine short stories presents a poignant exploration of life's quirks, dilemmas, and humor under the relentless sun of the Sonoran desert. Williams, with his insightful prose and wry humor, delves into the lives of boys navigating the complexities of youth, from Little League lessons on rounding bases to revenge plots with unintended consequences.

Author Gregory D. Williams has lovingly crafted a collection of tales that are vastly different from one another but all have a fine blend of humor, wisdom, and humanity. Williams crafts characters that resonate with authenticity, facing the challenges of Arizona's dry heat, both literal and metaphorical. I enjoyed the sharpness with which new figures are introduced, and the accomplished storytelling techniques allow us to get to know them through actions, trials, and experiences rather than being spoon-fed any information. The atmospheric feel of true American literature permeates each work, from the authenticity of the dialogue to the vivid descriptions of the Arizona setting. Each narrative is a gem, revealing layers of human experience and the enduring impact of youthful moments, offering moments that feel so real you begin to forget the work is fiction. Overall, A Dry Heat is a literary treat that skillfully weaves together the threads of everyday life, creating a tapestry of poignant and memorable tales, and I would not hesitate to recommend it.