Russell Davis 

Wildside Press


234pp/$14.99/March 2013

The End of All Seasons

  Reviewed by Steven H Silver

The title of Russell Davis’s new collection, The End of All Seasons is a reference to four of the stories the book contains.  Aside for those stories’ titles, “The End of Summer,” “The End of Autumn,” “The End of Winter,” and “The End of Spring,” those stories are unrelated to each other.  The collection contains fourteen stories and five poems, many of them dealing, as suggested by book’s title, with endings.

As noted, the four titular stories are quite different.  “The End of Winter,” Davis’s first professional sale focuses on Danielle Wheatson, a loner who does not seem to have any need for human company, a theme which is repeated in several of the stories included in The End of All Seasons.  Wheatson’s thoughts about other people change, in an uncomfortable manner for her, when she opens her door to James, whose truck broke down.  In “The End of Spring,” an anonymous man sits in a pickup truck contemplating suicide.  Unlike Danielle, this man has had a life that incorporated other people, yet his anonymity and his current situation provide him with as much loneliness as Danielle had.  In her case, she began to consider embracing others, and the lone man in the pick up truck potentially turns his back on other people.  Loneliness is as much perception as reality, as indicated by the relationship, or lack thereof, between father and daughter in "The Last Day of the Rest of Her Life" which focuses on a girl who is estranged from her father following her mother's death, but whose perception of the reality of the situation may not be accurate.

Loneliness is not the only thing Davis writes, however, and in “The End of Summer,” he describes the fall of Camelot, in which Merlin confronts Sir Lancelot and Queen Gwynevre in the wake of King Arthur’s death.  Merlin seems to have little problem with the lovers’ infidelity to Arthur, but rather wants to make sure that Gwynevre and Lancelot do not hold secrets from each other.  The story is a wonderful example of a tale which is overshadowed by the backstory, for if Davis has set it against an incident other than Arthur’s death, it would have had a very different feel.  Finally “The End of Autumn” brings together a retired Texas Ranger, Grant O’Keefe, and a brothel owner, Georgia, in order to let O’Keefe bring to justice Pablo Castillo, a Mexican bandit who O’Keefe had one imprisoned, but who is now free and causing troubles again. There is a melancholy feel to the story as O’Keefe knows that whatever the outcome of his showdown with Castillo, his days as a lawman are essentially over and he will find himself put out to pasture once he is done.

O’Keefe’s story isn’t the only western included in The End of All Seasons.  The final story in the collection, “Letter to Josie” is a look at the formation of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday’s friendship as described by Carlotta Thompkins.  More than just a wary first encounter, Davis incorporates a high stakes poker game between the two men and three strangers, which only poker queen Thompkins, gifted with second sight, can fully understand.

In addition to loneliness, the other recurring theme in the stories is death.  In “Midnight at the Half-Life Café,” a one-time musician must come to terms with his potentially upcoming death after suffering life in a coma.  “The Things She Handed Down” is an author’s attempt to come to terms with his mother’s imminent death and the knowledge that he will be called upon to sum up her life in a eulogy. “The Angel Chamber” is a story of the Holocaust and how it was perceived by a child whose father was determined to keep her sheltered as much as possible from the horrors the Nazis were inflicting upon her community. In “Scars Enough,” Davis depicts an old man waiting for ghosts as his life comes to an end, mirroring the crimes of two young men in a very different place.  

Death and loneliness are depressing enough, but in most of the cases, Davis does not deal with a clean death.  His characters suffer as much in death as could possibly be expected.  Illness and disease are rife throughout the pages of The End of All Seasons, whether it is the dying mother of "The Things She Handed Down," the father suffering Alzheimer's in "Houdini’s Mirror," or the coma in “Midnight at the Half-Life Café.”  

Read straight through, The End of All Seasons is a heavy book, although if the stories are carefully sampled over time, the human condition Davis is exploring becomes more bearable.  As may be indicated by the presence of five poems in the collection, Davis's prose often rises above the level of prosaic and achieves a rhythm and meter which sets it apart from most science fiction and provides a majesty to his stories.

Mother Muse (poem)   Predator & Flower (poem)
How to Forget Your Father (poem)   The End of Summer
The End of Winter   The Angel Chamber
The Last Day of the Rest of Her Life   Scars Enough
Houdini's Mirror   Tombstone, Arizona (poem)
Poem for Monica (poem)   The End of Autumn
The End of Spring   Midnight at the Half-Life Café
When I Look to the Sky   The Things She Handed Down
Engines of Desire and Despair   Letter to Josie
An Orchid for Valis    

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