A Review of ‘Shug’s Place-A Novel in Stories’
‘Shug’s Place’ and Bob Strother’s writing can handily fill the shoes of Robert B. Parker, if you’ve been missing Spenser in recent years, for Strother’s characters share with Parker’s that same gritty kind of urban beat (Detroit in ‘Shug’s Place’, opposite Parker’s Boston and environs). Shug and Spenser, as characters have much in common: They are both “men in full”, strength combined with complexity, goodness with a shot of ethical pragmatism, which is a mix that works very well for these stories, which range over fast action, police procedures, ethnic divisions, and human relationships.
In addition to Shug and the other engaging characters in Strother’s human cast, the title character should not be overlooked: This collection is named ‘Shug’s PLACE’; the present-day name of the bar Shug runs. Strother has lovingly imagined a deep history of stories connecting the ongoing tales born within those walls to persons, some long past and forgotten, whose lives were shaped by the same place; the building or ownership or patronage of the same little bar. Taverns, as a center for human congress, are fast slipping away from their original role in our history. American democracy, it’s been argued, was born in taverns. Strother has, like a film’s set designer, taken great care in etching careful details into this central setting, and using the flashback, has given the place its own deep back-story.
This all works very well, and the pages would “turn themselves” as I was reading. The book came my way at the recommendation of a friend, and I’m pleased to have received an advanced edition because of it. I always feel an obligation to provide a review when I get an ARC, but it’s not often such a pleasure to write them. ‘Shug’s Place-A Novel in Stories’ is a solidly entertaining collection for the “action/detective/tough-guy-with-a-heart-and-a-brain” audience. It will be available from Mint Hill Books, Main Street Rag Publishing Company, Charlotte, NC.