STORIES BY PAUL BECKMAN
“Moving seamlessly between voyeurs and Vespas, Kosher soap and secret lives, Peek goes from clever to heartbreaking to outright bizarre with equal dexterity. It's as if Woody Allen and Charles Bukowski got your favorite uncle hammered all weekend and made him spill the family dirt in perfect, flash fiction sized bites."
Nancy Stohlman The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories
More Reviews of PEEK
“"Paul Beckman explores the relationships between the peekers and the peeked at in this creative collection of flash fiction. PEEK is a large and vast range of stories that show off his creative skill as a writer and his flexibility to easily move between completely different voices. The stories fit together so well that even though they are all different, not one of them feels out of place amongst the others.”
Eleanor Hemsley "Sabotage Reviews"
“ Paul Beckman's "Shop Talk". "Session #1". and "Mr. Ice Cream Truck" will make you laugh out loud. Seriously. Do not read these stories on public transportation because people seated around you will think you're insane when you keep busting out with giggles as you read these brilliant words.
Screaming with Brevity
A Review: Peek by Paul Beckman
Paul BeckmanPeek is a flash fiction collection by Paul Beckman where the structural frame that trust and communication are built around are repeatedly disassembled by a host of instantly relatable blue-collar characters. Through chance encounters, bar conversations, speed dating, pillow talk and various other platforms, Beckman uncovers the complex and often hidden motivations in everyday interaction. Most of these flash stories are only a page or less in length, the shorter ones being the most impactful. In some cases, within the confines of a brief paragraph the author completes an emotionally charged arc where each of the characters are fully developed and stay with the reader after the story’s completion. It is, in fact, Beckman’s ability to sketch a character so completely with so few words, that makes these stories work as well as they do.
Two reoccurring characters are Mirsky and Elaine, a couple whose relationship is based on deceit and manipulation. This unfortunate pair is introduced in the story, Two Ships, which being over three pages in content is one of the longer pieces within the book. Both parties are as bad as each other in terms of loyalty, or lack thereof, yet in spite of their questionable moral fibre these two experts in infidelity are quite likeable.
There is an obvious sense of fun all the way through this collection, even in its darker moments; which at times takes the narrative into the realm of bizarre fantasy. Beckman has a subtle comedic disposition which he uses to hone in on his character’s flaws as he satirizes the self-deprecating side of the human condition. In terms of humour, intrigue, character development and pay-off, a very high standard is set early on in the book. There are plenty of gentle twists throughout the narrative but it is in the final pay-off and punch line that the majority of these stories really come into their own. Secrets are revealed bit by bit as the author misdirects the unsuspecting reader into the perfect position for a magicians reveal.
Beckman uses a mere 50 words in the story For Sale: Fast + Cheap, which essentially is a list turned into a thought-provoking story by its two-word conclusion. The only problem with this technique is that the reader is naturally disappointed when the pay-off isn’t there, which it isn’t in several of the stories. For that reason, this collection is perhaps best dipped in and out of rather than reading the book from front to back in one sitting.
Peek is exactly that, a peek into the intimate aspects of interaction that one would normally only be privy to as a participant. It would be misleading to describe these short tales as didactic, but there is a moral to be found, and it is one of consequence; lies give birth to lies and truth gives birth to truth. Sometimes though, honesty has more devastating outcomes than deceit and the consequences have to be outworked before their participants can know whether they made the right choice or not.
It is not surprising that some of Beckman’s stories have been adapted for the stage, as his character-driven style of prose revolves around revealing private moments between everyday individuals. Peek, with its twists and turns, dramatic climaxes and ironic humour is full of vivid imagery that would lend itself perfectly to the stage or even the screen.
“Paul Beckman’s irresistible stories give us a world in which everyone thinks about sex all the time, and nobody hesitates to get what he or she wants - whether it’s sex, a last laugh before being executed, or a substitute mother who’ll do the complaining when your real mother has died. Some of these dark, ambitious stories of desire and anxiety are hilarious. In others the joke is on the startled reader, who has not quite anticipated how far our fellow creatures - and Beckman - will go.”
Alice Mattison, "When We Argued All Night"
“In stories both accessible and profound, rife with humor and pathos, Paul Beckman’s Peek delivers. Telling details, nuanced themes and characters are all demonstrated here, with a range that is stunning. What a stellar collection this is.”
Robert Scotellaro, "Measuring the Distance"
“Paul Beckman’s work is always fresh, evocative, and engaging and never more so than in the pages of Peek. I found so much to like about this collection that just a peek was impossible. After reading one story, I found myself immediately turning to the next. Good books are hard to put down, and this is a good book by anyone’s measure. I wish I had written so many of these wonderful pieces. But the next best thing to writing a great story, is reading one, or two, or three...”
Michael C. Keith, "Everything is Epic"