Saturday, February 19, 2005

Graffiti Red by Jason Duke

Graffiti Red” by Jason Duke, Shred of Evidence, February 2005

This story starts off with the attempted assassination of a gang leader by the main character, Joseph Ortiz. Apparently Joseph is a tagger, a graffiti artist. A friend of his tried to do some tagging in the subway tunnels claimed as territory by the Tunnel Bombers, led by a punk with the appellation, Dreadhead. As retribution, he was forced to do something that got him killed.

Now Joseph is being forced to take up where Carlos left off. He is given three suction cups, one for his left hand and one each for his knees, and five cans of paint in five different colors. He is supposed to attach himself to the side of a train with the suction cups and paint something with the cans of paint, ending with the red, graffiti red.

Frankly, I didn’t understand this part at all. Was he supposed to leave long streaks of paint on the tunnel walls as the train traveled through them, or was he supposed to paint something on the side of the train. It wouldn’t be much more than a blob of paint considering that the train is moving, and he was attached to the side of it. I wouldn’t think, once the suction cups were applied, that he could move along the side of the train. And the author did nothing to correct this assumption.

Moving on. Dealing with the moving train, the rush of the air, the nearness of the tunnel walls, the insecurity of the suction cups, and rats the size of Shetland ponies, Joseph has used up all the cans of paint except the last, graffiti red, which was sucked from his hand by the rushing wind.

Joseph detaches himself from the train at the next stop where he gets involved in an imbroglio with Transit Authority cops and Dreadhead. There’s fighting and killing and a surfeit of “graffiti red” in the ending.

Now, how Dreadhead saw Joseph off at one station and met him at another further down the line is not explained. I guess if I had lived in New York (I assume this was New York) perhaps I wouldn’t need any explanations about the intricacies of the subway system and the tagging of same. But I’m just a pore ol’ country boy that don’t know much about such big-city things as subways and Metro Transit Authorities. And the author didn’t seem to think he was going to have any readers like me.

In case you hadn’t guessed, that annoyed me somewhat. I know, I know. I’ve done the same damn thing myself, and, believe me, I’ve been called on it.

However annoying I found Mr. Duke’s failure to make me comfortable in the scene of the crime, his description of Joseph’s trip through the tunnels attached to the side of a train was well done and suspenseful.

Unfortunately, given Joseph’s and Dreadhead’s behavior at the beginning of the story, I couldn’t believe in their behavior at the end. If, at the beginning, Joseph had actually fired his weapon, the ending would have been more believable.

In short, too many holes.


At 3:24 PM, Anonymous Jason Duke said...

Thanks for the critque. I'm glad you found Graffiti Red well written and suspenseful. The story is by no means perfect, but some of your concerns are explained in the story, namely that Joseph must finish the graffiti mural Carlo started on the side of the train. At one point, Joseph tries to move along the side of the train, but decides against it. Instead, he gets off the train at the first station and gets back on the train a few ledges down from where he started. New York taggers have been painting moving trains since the 70's (and getting killed in the process), but I wouldn't characterize their murals as blobs of paint, though I can understand how you might think this without knowing more about the graffiti culture. It would be possible for Dreadhead to make it to the other station before Joseph arrived, but again, I can see your point about wanting some explanation. In short, what can I say -- it wasn't written for a "pore ol’ country boy that don’t know much about such big-city things," but I will try to keep your comments in mind for the future.

Jason Duke

At 8:56 PM, Blogger Bob said...

Bravo! Thanks for leaving a comment. I'm always interested in hearing from the authors I review. I'm an engineer, and as such I always get a bit annoyed when something isn't explained to my satisfaction. It's a personal failing. Though I do understand about talking about things that are so familiar to you, you just assume that everyone else is just as familiar. I have been called on that myself from time to time. My own PI series is set in El Paso, Texas. Sometimes I forget that not everyone knows that you can throw a rock from El Paso into Juarez, Mexico. When that is pointed out to me by an editor, usually with some heat, I find that only a few well-placed sentences can correct the situation. I'll be on the lookout for your next story.

BTW, I liked the "In short" sentence. 8-)

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