The Bold Investor
In this collection of thirty-eight chiseled short stories, George Thomas Clark introduces readers to actors, alcoholics, addicts, writers famous and unknown, a general, a lovelorn farmer, a family besieged by cancer, extraterrestrials threatening the world, a couple time traveling back to a critical battle, a deranged husband chasing his wife, and many more memorable people and events.
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They were in his backyard, and she was smiling at him. He knew what she wanted. He wanted it, too. But not now. He wanted to wait. He needed more to drink, and lifted the bottom of a cold can toward branches of an oak tree shrouding his yard. The beer went down fast and easy, as ever, and he said, “Be right back,” and walked into the garage to the kitchen and pulled open the refrigerator. There were only a few left, and he popped one before stepping back to the shady backyard.
She was still smiling. “Let me have some.”
“I’ll get you one.”
“I want yours,” she said, gliding up to take his can and a small sip before she tossed it into grass and hooked his arm with hers and led him inside.
“Let me go, Bob,” she said, easing to a nightstand.
“It’s almost the same,” she said.
“No, it’s not.”
“It’s the only way I’ll do it. Here.”
He picked her up and gently rolled her onto the bed, and in a few minutes he reached down and Sarah yelled, “Bob, no…”
“You don’t like children.”
“Yes I do,” he said.
“Just not your own.”
Bob did not reply.
“You should’ve told me,” she said.
“No, you didn’t.”
“I implied it.”
“Were you afraid I’d leave?”
“I wanted us to have some time together.”
“I want kids.”
“You already have a little boy.”
“I’m not waiting.”
“It’s only a counseling session next week, and two days later …”
“No. If you want this done, get me in tomorrow.”
Bob called every place in the yellow pages, found one, and left a fifty percent non-refundable deposit by credit card.
About a dozen people were picketing back and forth on the hot sidewalk.
“Don’t do it,” a man told Sarah.
“Get away from us,” Bob said, pushing a shoulder.
“You’ll always regret it.”
The waiting room was large and packed. Mostly couples. Only a few of the women didn’t have men. One was alone, looking into her lap at thumbs scratching each other. Bob and Sarah stood at the check-in window and took care of paperwork. In a few minutes a woman walked slowly, from inside the facility, into the waiting room and looked somberly at some guy, and he got up and put his arm around her and they left, and Sarah took the seat and Bob stood at attention facing her and kept crossing and uncrossing his arms until she put a hand on his hip and pushed him around toward the waiting room.
Several doctors must’ve been working in back because women were coming and going fast, and Bob thought Christ this is like lube jobs. He was doing a lot of thinking, and so was everyone else. No one was talking. No one was reading. Everyone was quiet and still in the big waiting room.
“Sarah,” said a nurse.
She got up and they followed her down a long hall of closed doors and into a room appointed with some strange equipment. As instructed, Sarah stepped behind a curtain and emerged in a white gown. A short doctor came in, wearing a green surgical uniform, and asked Sarah to please lie back on the examination table.
“You go now, Bob,” Sarah said.
“I thought you’d want me to stay.”
“Not for this.”
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September 13, 2013
This collection of short stories from George Thomas Clark showcases a rare talent for writing from multiple perspectives and within various genres. Very creative stories, all very different from one another, but all referencing dark thematic elements. I was intrigued by every story. Knowing the diversity of readers, I would not recommend this book to people who like to be automatically grabbed on the first page and carried through on the author’s easy analogies and superficial dialogue. This is some Meat and Potatoes writing. Thanks for the great meal, Mr. Thomas.
September 15, 2013
What a collection of short stories! The book’s title is taken from the last short story, which is significantly longer than the rest. The stories deal with aliens’ demands, a time machine, General MacArthur, and Ernest Hemingway, and an alcoholic accountant. A few, however, seem to lack an ending, not just a satisfying ending, but an ending at all. Some are as good as it gets. Writing short stories is very difficult because all elements must be compacted. This collection seems to have something for everyone.
October 16, 2013
Finished reading these outstanding short stories. Don’t look for those Hichcock endings but when they do end you’ll be scratching you head. George Thomas Clark finishes off most of his stories with a thud. You’re expecting to read more then it ends. I usually finish the story with a ‘what?’ Then I start thinking about what took place and then —– I get it.
Thanks, George, for a different kind of approach to short stories.
October 3, 2013
“The Bold Investor” is an excellent companion for trips to the doctor, bus rides or anywhere you must go and are then required to wait for an unknown space of time. The stories captured my interest in the short while it took to read each one and afterward, I enjoyed thinking them over. Could events have happened the way George Thomas Clark describes them? Will things happen that way tomorrow? You’ll never know unless you read “The Bold Investor.” I recommend it!
October 21, 2013
I admit I have never felt less certain of my opinion about a work than I do with this distinctive collection of fiction by George Thomas Clark. I’ll have to give The Bold Investor time to percolate in my mind and probably re-read the collection closely at some point as well. At this point, I can articulate some clear observations and analyses that may be of more service to you, fellow readers, than my ultimate conclusion about the total literary merit of this read.
There were two things I appreciated deeply and unambivalently about Clark’s unique narrative style and plot content:
- His sense of absurdity and his tragicomic sense of humor. The irony in his stories isn’t going to please everyone, and it didn’t always sit well with me. But, his general narrative tone–which I think is best termed a sensitivity to and and appreciation of life’s absurdity–kept me intellectually engaged and entertained throughout my read.
- His unmistakable love of language, which is evidenced throughout the book from the small font packed tightly on each physical page to delicious sentences, which feature vocabulary in clever ways that I consider representative of Clark’s idiomatic style. I had seen such a sentence in one of my favorite stories, “Cal Tech versus Notre Dame,” but I just scanned the story twice and cannot find it. Here’s a pretty good quotation to represent a lot of what I like about Clark’s collection generally in this quotation from the aforementioned story:
“‘That is unsupportable, unscientific, and manifestly absurd,’ said Marx. ‘So many of you traditionalists were unable to adapt to dynamic and challenging new realities. Mired, as you’ve always been, in the arcane and unreal world of the laboratory, you would’ve preferred to gaze into test tubes until liquidators backed trucks up to your doors. The super-universities has been bleeding us for years, offering outrageous salaries to our most esteemed colleagues…It damn near destroyed my spirit, seeing former Cal Tech professors develop cures for herpes, baldness, impotence, and hysteria, and their new institutions reap millions of dollars. Those Nobel-caliber studs have got to be paid years before their work reaches fruition, and there was only one way we could hope to do so.’”
The main problem I had with the book–the only unfavorable reaction I had–is related to the titular, final story “The Bold Investor.” I found the ending hopeful and unsurprising, but I’m not sure I understood it properly. And, depending on how I interpret the story, I might even find the themes offensive or at least disturbing. I would not expect other people to have that reaction, please note. However, it’s an example of a failure to clearly set forth his thematic purpose as well as how his sense of irony might not amuse.
I hope this is helpful to someone; thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts.
Gerard J. Medvec
November 2, 2013
Clever story lines, a pantheon of unusual yet believable characters, including some astounding historical ones, straight-shootin’ narration and true-to-the-ear dialogue made reading THE BOLD INVESTOR a blast! Rarely do I ever say this, but—I can’t wait to read it again!