Buy it now from our Amazon.com store –Suspicious Diagnosis
Okay, look at the picture to your left before reading any
further. No, no—force yourself. Isn’t that the most disgusting,
off-putting, unappealing, WTF trainwreck of a cover you’ve ever seen? I mean,
what is that all over the guy’s mouth? Vomit? Crusted oatmeal left over
from breakfast? Ossified scrambled eggs from yesterday’s breakfast? I
hear what you’re thinking—the content has to be better than the cover.
You’d be partially right.
Jardonn Smith’s Suspicious Diagnosis is a short,
uneven book consisting of five stories—well, four stories and a seven page,
two-act play. The first story, “Such a Man,” is basically the internal
monologue of a guy during the funeral service for his partner, and it’s involving
despite its brevity and lack of direction.
The second story, “The Nosy Neighbor,” features straight
widower Daniel McKay, who finds an unlikely friendship with his new gay
neighbors, Jeremy and Fred. Daniel gets a fantasy fulfilled with a blowjob from
Jeremy while Dan’s hanging from a pull-up bar in a doorway but also becomes
involved in their lives. The tone is interesting and Daniel unexpectedly
changes from a nosy, judgmental neighbor to a kind, compassionate one.
The seven page, two-act play, “Senility” tries hard, I
think, to be Beckett’s Waiting for Godot without the wordplay, metaphor
or meaning. It’s almost as bad as the cover. Almost.
But Smith comes into his own with the wonderful “A True
Ring,” which mixes sex, romance and professional wrestling into a lengthy,
truly interesting story. Marshall Strendlehocker is a collegiate wrestler
hoping to break into the pro ranks, but he doesn’t like the
“let’s-put-on-a-show” aspect. The bosses send young Jimmy Dolan to change his
mind, Dolan and Strendlehocker falling in love as the wrestler learns the
ropes. The story is sweet and hot, despite Smith’s over-reliance on labeling
“Suspicious Diagnosis,” the last piece, is a shade over a
page long. Since it’s the title story and very brief, I read it several times
thinking it might provide me with a clue not only to the title of the book but
to the godawful cover. I was wrong on both counts.
Self-published books are always a crapshoot, and most of
them really aren’t worth the trees they take to produce. Suspicious
Diagnosis, however, shows enough raw talent for hope. All Smith needs is
some polish, some editing and some guidance to let his writing shine.
A good art director wouldn’t hurt, either.
Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler