Short Stories, Vignettes and Anecdotes
By Robert Bruce Drynan
A review by James Tipton
Lakeside writer Robert Bruce Drynan is the author of two well-received books: Domain of the Scorpion, about a man and a woman being pursued by drug terrorists in Venezuela and Colombia, and What Price Liberty? about the unprovoked attack by the Israeli Air Force on the unarmed intelligence ship USS Liberty in 1967. The Phoenix is a collection of short pieces. A recurring theme in The Phoenix is characteristic Drynan: love and loyalty in the midst of life’s challenges.
Drynan is a former US Marine and an Army Intelligence Officer and several pieces reflect this. “Quatsch” is a touching pair of love stories—that become interwoven—spanning war-torn Europe and the years that immediately followed. In “Home by Christmas” we meet a soldier, only a teen, on the frozen wastes of North Korea, December 1950. This story will be doubly pleasurable to those who have read Drynan’s first novel, because that young soldier is Ryan Haggerty, who becomes the hero of Domain of the Scorpion.
“Road Rage” recounts the author driving a Chevy Silverado pickup—with its underpowered V-6 and mushy transmission—at night on a dark road near Cali, Colombia, “a narrow, winding, potholed slab of crumbling concrete, cut into the side of a deep ravine.” Suddenly he is trapped into a cat and mouse game with a “a huge powerful Mack dump truck.” Each piece in The Phoenix is followed by an “Author’s note” that connects Drynan directly with the material. “Plato o Plomo” places us on the present-day Mexican border as the honest and dedicated Police Inspector Domingo Dosantos—a widower and devoted father to three lovely daughters—is forced to confront, very personally, US and Mexican corruption. He is soon faced with a terrible dilemma. The “author’s note” tells us why he wrote the story: “It is my reaction to the casually cast aspersions about the corruption of Mexican peace officers and other public officials” and “It also is meant to draw attention to a simple fact, that the tragic corruption of Mexican officialdom and Mexican youth will not end until we in the United States come to the realization that as long as drug consumption is illegal, there will be great lucre in the production and smuggling of ‘estupefacientes’ as the Mexicans identify recreational drugs. The term shares a common etymological origin with ‘stupor’ and ‘stupid.’”
Told with sympathy and insight—and often even love—for his characters, The Phoenix will delight new Drynan readers and fill with joy his already established ones. The Phoenix is available at various locations locally, including Coffee & Bagels, Diane Pearl Colecciones, Galerías Dos Lunas, the Buganvilias Book Store, the American Legion, and SuperLake.