Publication Date: September 8, 2014
Coffee at Midnight by Brandon Ford is a collection of stories about the darker side of life. From the suicide of a young girl who was bullied to a young tough obsessed with odd porn, this compilation of 13 short works of fiction will cover the bad and ugly side of human existence.
The author, Brandon Ford, gave me a copy of this anthology for my review.
Coffee at Midnight is an anthology with a heavy spirit. It’s hard to say that any story from the work was enjoyed. It was well written, well thought out, deeply insightful to the darker side of life. Coffee at Midnight was uncomfortable in a way of a Toni Morrison novel where the reader is given pause. The reader cannot help but think the author hit a raw nerve. There were points of discomfort and feelings of bringing to light darkness inherent in all of us.
In “Confessions on a Tar Beach,” Aimee, Max and Brian turn a discussion of a suicide jumper whose wife believes it to have been the cruelest way he could have done to the cruelest things they’ve done in their lives. Lubricated by beer and a healthy dose of shame, the three share their stories. Ford implements a sliding scale of bad deeds designed to horrify the reader and yet are not out of the realm of possibility. Interestingly, the horrible acts shock the characters in the stories and the readers, but the narrator of events seem to have learned to live with them — to have rationalized them. Their opinions of each other change within the progression of the story and make us question what we would think of people if we knew what they’d done in their lives? Are we able to forgive in others what we won’t excuse in ourselves?
“Rape Whistle” is a brilliantly written story. It’s surreal in the way of a painting that readers must stare at intently to understand. Martin is relaxing on a bench while he waits for a bus to take him to the University when an elderly woman accosts him. “I know what you’re thinking,” (Page 132) she tells him. “You’re thinking you wanna touch me.” (Page 133) What develops is a commentary on the nature of rape. She tells him that he wants to control her and dominate and that he could break her spirit. The analysis when processed by the reader is so profound. Rape is not about sex but about power and while a lot of people realize that, a lot don’t. The way that Ford approaches this social commentary is nothing short of brilliant. At one point the woman tells Martin “I want my safety.” Isn’t that what we all want? Isn’t it horrible that we can’t feel safe in our own environment and that the threat of those that would try to break us always looms?
The one story with which this reader didn’t really connect was Hellbound Hillbilly Hookers from Hoboken. Three young women are headed for Los Angeles hoping to become “Bigger than the Dixie Chicks“ (Page 17) when they come upon a crashed UFO. There is a feeling of John Updike in the way it’s written that devolves into a bit of slapstick. I wouldn’t suggest that there’s anything wrong with slapstick but in the face of the other work in the piece, it felt to the other stories like the annoying little sister that your mom insists you keep in the play so you get her off of the stage as early as you can.
Coffee at Midnight is a brutal anthology of short stories that are well worth reading. If you like to cringe at the reality of humanity, pick this one up today.
Brandon Ford is a horror and suspense author known for the novels Crystal Bay, Splattered Beauty and Pay Phone. He has also written two further collections: Decayed Etchings and Merciless. He currently resides in Philadelphia. For further reading check out our review of Open Wounds.
Read an excerpt and buy Coffee at Midnight by Brandon Ford on