[I'm breaking my usual practice of reviewing short internet literature to post the following review of a short story from a print publication. The magazine in question is called Paradox. It presents historical fiction (as is this story) as well as alternate history and its close kin, time travel intervention stories. Because I cannot link directly to the story, I shall provide the URL for the magazine's website in case anyone is interested in investigating the semi-annual publication. The next issue will not be out until next October due to unusual reasons.]
A gentleman once informed Mark Twain that he had regretted having read the latter's Huckleberry Finn. Before the bewildered Twain could respond, the man elaborated, "So I could have the pleasure of reading it again for the first time." One is reminded of this anecdote when finishing "The Luck of the Irish," [Paradox; Issue 10, Winter, 2006-2007] by Brian K. Crawford.
Mr. Crawford has accomplished a rare distinction in regard to myself. Along with rare literary delights such as A Confederacy of Dunces and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, he afforded me the pleasure of laughing aloud while reading the printed word.
What distinguishes Mr. Crawford's story from the aforementioned comedic masterpieces is that "The Luck of the Irish" is ostensibly not a comedy and contains not a one out-and-out jest. On the surface, it is a straightforward, rather dark adventure story. Nevertheless, the author's sublime, sardonic wit permeates throughout this delightfully farcical piece. Indeed, one senses the story could well have served as the basis for a Gilbert libretto to be set to a Sullivan score. The story might be characterized as Horatio Hornblower meets O. Henry, as imagined by the master storyteller that Mr. Crawford gives every indication that he is.
The story involves three Irish petty criminals who have made a daring escape from a penal colony administered by Captain Bligh—yes, that Captain Bligh!—as governor of New South Wales. Ambler, the leader of the fugitives, is an apparently well-educated confidence man, perhaps having been transported for one or more various frauds. He has the gift for blarney; a true son of the old sod, sure 'n enough! He is also the only one of the three with any seamanship experience, and it is only—by his own admission—by virtue of his masterly seamanship that the trio managed to survive the daring escape at sea in an open boat; a feat worthy of Bligh himself!
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