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Dust by Cole Parker

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One chapter and he already has me hooked. Perhaps it is the Film Noir feeling I get when I read detective novels, but more than likely it is because Cole seems to be off on a tangent with this one. Either way I am going to be an eager beaver all week long waiting for the next posting.

Now that we know Cole likes a good detective mystery novel to read it wets the appetite for what lays ahead with this Dust story. How much I agree with him...since I am working my way through the mystery fiction section of my local library.

So cue the theme music from Thin Man and get out your pipe and fedora, something is afoot in Parkerville. Thank you, Cole.

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Yes, Paco is an outstanding artist. And, Cole is an amazing writer. I admit to reading the story before it was posted and I was absolutely blown away with the plot and the characters. Cole could write just about anything he set his mind to and do it with style, panache, and skill. In fact, there's an awful lot of talent (forgive my Okie-ism there) running around Awesome Dude. This is a great place with great writers--and artists!

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Sigh, I am happy to see that Cole is back on track. I was beginning to believe he'd flipped and was now writing heterosexual (emphasis on the sex) mystery stories. I have the feeling that we are only beginning to be amazed at what he is giving us...in slow painful spurts. Oops, did I just say that?

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I had the same fear over the first few chapters. He warned me it was different, but thank goodness it wasn't different in that way! However, if he chose to write something in that genre, he could. Cole is an amazing writer and could create something great in almost any genre!

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  • 4 weeks later...

I hope you are still following this story. Longer stories are always at risk of becoming tangled up with a variety of characters, although Cole hasn't run afoul of that yet. So what do you do when you're afraid a group of characters might get stale? You change the point of view, of course.

The young lad in this story, Dustin, is the most empathetic of characters, the most needy. His view of life has been tainted with abuse from almost every adult he's encountered. Giving him a voice helps us understand his situation in life and how the details affect him.

Without giving too much away I am enjoying this interlude of contemplation but fear the consequences of the things that have been set in motion. Cole still has time to shock us with another plot twist. And after all, isn't that why we enjoy reading his work?

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  • 4 weeks later...

Still following Cole's story and he has given himself a good deal of room to expand the plot. Changing the POV has worked well. Good enough to introduce a new character and spark a little gay interest.

I hope everyone understands this is Cole writing and we can be subjected to a plot twist at any moment. My suggestion is that the readers should remember where this all began. I have no idea where he is headed and I don't want to know, I would rather be stunned. I'm sure Cole hasn't forgotten how this tale began and perhaps he hopes you have.

Bravo...I think...I don't know...isn't that grand?

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  • 3 weeks later...

Generally speaking, I hate the change of point of view in most stories that do it.

But this one... It's nothing short of a masterclass in how to engineer a change in the point of view. No tedious and clumsy explanations, no darting hither and thither and no nasty unexplained three letter abbreviations - another pet hate of mine.

Roll on the next instalment.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Warning: Many spoilers ahead!

This might be my favorite Cole Parker story.

I know, I know - "EC, how can you pick a favorite out of such a big collection of great stories?" - but bear with me.

Cole Parker stories are always good, but there are certain things Cole does better than most. There are a few recurring themes and motifs that come up in Cole Parker stories that, while they are used by other authors, no one else pulls them off quite as well. DUST draws on all of these strengths.

One big, recurring theme in Cole's work is the mental effects of child abuse and neglect. A lot of 'net authors (and print authors, for that matter) work with the same theme, but Cole does it deftly and deeply. While other authors may have a kid being rescued from an abusive situation, Cole will explore the lasting impact of that abuse on the kid's psyche for the majority of the story, even when it's not the central focus. Exploration of self-image and self-esteem in a natural, practical way is something that sets Cole Parker apart from other authors who use "rescued abuse victim" characters. (See: Tim, Josh Evolving, Distorted Perspectives, Duck Duck Goose, and more.) Cole Parker's stories always remind me of one of my favorite quotes from Frederick Douglass: "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."

Another thing that sets Cole apart is his use of antagonists. When Cole writes an antagonist, he writes an ANTAGONIST. Not a schoolyard bully or a stuck-up teacher, but someone willing to break laws, abuse their positions of authority, ruin lives, and commit homicide. Cole is willing to give his readers whiplash (in a good way), going from "Oh, this is a happy love story" to "Holy hell, everybody's about to get shot!" within the space of one chapter and have it actually make sense and flow together.

Finally, I've always loved how Cole Parker stories showcase character growth. Always explored in the case of abuse victims, but often in other characters as well. By the time you reach the end of a Cole Parker story, you feel like you've watched people struggle and fight and come out of it for the better, and that makes for a satisfying ending.

So now that I've dissected the Cole Parker "oeuvre," what about DUST?

DUST caught me off guard, at first. We start out in a detective novel, all pulpy and gritty and full of "dames" and "buttons" and guns and cash. And what's more, our main character and narrator is a straight, adult man - certainly not lacking in confidence, and seeming like the type to actively change things rather than passively reacting to them. Different.

Then there's a hard right turn, and we start to realize that Briar Wisdom's narration is a frame. The titular character takes control of the narration, and we swing into more familiar territory for anyone who has been following Cole Parker's work. But something about this particular story really worked for me. In a lot of other Cole Parker stories, victims of abuse and neglect are rehabilitated by friends and lovers, and occasionally by foster parents. The majority of this story, however, follows a mentor/protégé relationship - Wisdom isn't a "mushy" character, and keeps insisting that he doesn't even like kids or the idea of family life, but he keeps getting pulled into it.

When the narration goes back to Wisdom, the reader can see how much these events have changed him. His internal monologue has lost a lot of the pulpy detective rhythm, and his thoughts toward the other characters have softened. It's also now - after some 25 chapters - that we realize that we, as readers, know very little about Wisdom's past, and that this character who served as our narrator for the opening of the story is still pretty much a mystery. We then learn that throughout the story, Wisdom has been acting more like a father-figure than we or he realized, and that by the end, he has been changed by Dust's "training" as much as Dust has. Dust wasn't necessarily the main character of this story - he shares the spotlight with Wisdom, as the story explores the effects of both sides of a teacher/student or mentor/protégé relationship. One of the big "rules" of writing that I see all the time is "Never switch between multiple first-person viewpoints - that's what third-person is for!" And usually, I'll agree. Here, however, is an example of an author breaking a "rule" for a reason, knowing how and why to do it, and creating a better story for it.

So in other words, great story, Cole! Thanks for writing it!

...Oh, hell, I wrote an essay. Props to anyone who actually read all of that.

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