" America’s true heartland
– Las Vegas. The aberration in the desert. The power of
greed, nowadays, Incorporated. It’s one big trick and mirage
in the desert, and the illusion will never die because even though
it’s a paradise of sin, it’s all shrouded in the
most basic human grace. Hope. "
Reviewed by Sarah Hilary
get the cheap thrill out of the way first. This collection contains
erotica. As someone who’s written a fair amount of erotica in
her time, I can say it’s no easy task to weave sex into
stories which, regardless, are driven by considerations of character,
plot and narrative; perhaps this is why so much erotic fiction tends to
discard plot the way it would a lace bra, dropping it off to one side
early on, before getting down to the serious action. To judge by the
stories in this collection, Susan DiPlacido is well aware of the
challenges facing the writer who wants sex to find its proper place in
story (the way it does in life, but achieves only rarely in books).
Even the voyeuristic Heads
up Poker relies on the dynamic between characters to keep
all of the reader’s senses engaged and stimulated.
For the most
part, the erotica in this collection feels natural, timely and
well-placed. Her characters are laid bare – literally and
metaphorically – by sex. For some, it is a fatal weakness.
For others, a strength they struggle to accept. There are explicit
moments, but few feel gratuitous; the exception for me being Found in Translation
which had the effect of diluting the impact of the preceding story, Right Hand Diamonds,
where we are titillated by a glimpse of the character, Romeo, who
subsequently sighs and thrusts his way through Found in Translation.
It’s safe to say that you need a romantic frame of mind to
get the full enjoyment from DiPlacido’s erotica, which may be
steamy and muscular but still manages to make room for a fuchsia sunset
The best of
these stories hint at a different sort of desire – for
acceptance, love, or survival. This is where DiPlacido hits
her stride, scratching at the bright neon surfaces of her settings
– Las Vegas is a favourite – to reveal more than
just the tawdry underside over-exposed by films and TV shows.
Compassion lurks here, and regret, fear and hope. In the award-winning I, Candy, the
beleaguered Marie despairs of finding happiness unless she invests in
painful plastic surgery. In Bloodlines,
the heroine battles to find her place in a family fractured by loss and
In each case,
DiPlacido uses her settings masterfully. We can smell the bitumen and
the desert, feel the neon staining our skin, the sand scratching at our
sinuses the way it scratches at Rita’s in Coyote Blues. If on
occasion it feels as if the author is using extraneous words, reaching
a climax and exceeding it rather than stopping, revisiting old ground
instead of offering fresh territory (several of the characters appear
in more than one story), we can believe that DiPlacido might
consciously be trying to create a sense in which this world she knows
so well is introspective, self-feeding and inescapable.
Sarah Hilary won the Fish
Historical-Crime Contest with her story, Fall River, August 1892. Her
story, The Eyam Stones, was runner-up in the Historical Contest. Both
stories will be published in the Fish Anthology 2008. Sarah’s
stories have been published in The Beat, Neon, Every Day Fiction,
Kaleidotrope, Literary Mama and the Boston Literary Magazine. Her short
story, On the line, was published in the Daunt 2006 anthology. The
Subatomic 2007 anthology features her story, LoveFM. She won the
Litopia Contest in 2007 with The Chaperon. Sarah lives in the Cotswolds
with her husband and young daughter.
bio: Susan DiPlacido
is the author of three novels. Her short story, “I, Candy”
won the Spirit award at the 2005 Moondance International Film Festival
(this story can be read online.).
Her novel Trattoria has been nominated for a Romantic Times
Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Small Press Romance for 2005.
She has upcoming short stories in Best American Erotica 2007 and
Zane’s anthology Caramel Flava.
with Susan DiPlacido
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