REVIEW: Return to Spring by Gabriel Hart


“The thing that appealed to me about Palm Springs was its contradictions”

  • From Prodigals by Greg Jackson

Palm Springs is a place that floats in the back of my east-coast mind. I’m are aware of its existence, but I don’t know anything substantial about the place. When someone mentions Palm Springs, images of swimming pools, and the Rat Pack, and dusty mountains come and go, but they move quickly and remain undefined. The ethereal nature of the spot makes it a ripe setting for noir fiction. Palm Springs exists, but I know nothing of its existence.

Gabriel Hart uses this geographical near consciousness to great effect in his 2020 novelette, A Return to Spring, from Mannison Press (24 Pages). Hart is an experienced poet and musician. His skill with verse shines through in Spring. His ear for rhythm is evident. I’ve read some of Hart’s other work and consistently enjoyed it, this volume was no different.

A Return to Spring is the story of Vicky, Tyler, and a Gordon. Vicky and Gordon were involved in a tragic event during spring break in the 1980s. Tyler discovers damning evidence and attempts to extort the pair. Things take a decidedly noir turn of events. It is a fast and tight story, a great way to spend half an hour.

This section shows the author’s talent:

“Salivating ninnies peeped exposed mammaries and began to follow suit, assaulting random young women’s dignities while their boys did their best to fight them off.”

I enjoyed this description of Vicky:

“Everyone except tourists knew how much Vicky Himes hated tourists until a tourist would meet Vicky Hines. She begrudgingly scrubbed another pint glass behind the bar at Zelda’s Nightclub, pondering the point of it all. She stared a thousand miles ahead through her greying blond bangs that hung low enough to make you wonder what was going on beneath the fringe.”

Hart is skilled at displaying internal views through lyrical prose, as shown here:

“Gordon took pause for a rare sublime moment. The Thought of “Blue Eyes” being the Native American slur for white people—for colonizers—suddenly called to mind the nickname white gave to Frank Sinatra, who Gordon could proclaim to be the “Christopher Columbus” of Palm Springs—after all, it was Ol’ Blue Eyes who had put it on the map. He laughed to himself of this secret punchline, wondering if it had ever occurred to anyone else.”

The work called to mind Joe Lansdale’s affinity for violent, mountainous biker characters; Anthony Neil Smith’s desert noir vibe in Slow Bear, and Chuck Palahniuk’s general malaise in Invisible Monsters.

A Return to Spring is a quick read, and worth your money. I enjoyed the book. If you like fast and hard narratives, you will as well.


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