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The Education of Santiago O'Grady
This is a book of nine short stories. The main novella, The Education of Santiago O’Grady, relates the story of a young man who learns the philatelic business, and much more, working in his country’s Posts and Telegraphs office. There are eight more tales. A retired military officers evening out. The Zulu wars. A bank robbery. A Catholic Chaplain’s dilemma. A shipwreck. Saving an indigenous people and finally, a meeting at an embassy reception.
Vine Voice

Reading the collection of short stories and novellas that make up Michael J. Merry's The Education of Santiago O'Grady and Other Short Stories one can never be certain what direction they will go as the situations are rarely what they seem. Each is cleverly crafted and all clearly demonstrate the author's observant astute eye concerning human behavior within a variety of scenarios.The opening novella, which bears the book's title, takes place in a fictitious country where more than five thousand stamps have been issued over the past one hundred years. These stamps attracted world-wide philatelists and thus providing The Republic with an important source of revenue. The Republic went into the collector market business which proved to be quite successful. This now permitted the Posts and Telegraphs to remain funded by the Government and open despite the closure of other government buildings. What is noteworthy is that the philatelic business also provided employment for many of the companions of Government Ministers, Heads of Agencies and Directors of Departments. And as we know, chicanery and double dealing can easily occur, particularly if there are corrupt employees, which was the case with this government body where some of these individuals had their hands in the cookie jar. Much tenderness is shown in The Major, where an almost forgotten ex-military officer reunites one day with a subordinate, who still maintains a great deal of respect for his superior. It is also a recognition of a life lived, hopes thwarted as well as pain suffered. A Few Won't Do Any Harm' focuses on an officer of the Army Service Corps who fails to realize the horrible ramifications in trading stolen ammunition in exchange for gold nuggets to the Zulus. Thoroughly unsettling, this tale illustrates how greed gets in the way of rational thinking. 'Very Professional' is quite amusing wherein Merry illustrates the perfect bank robbery and in this case, crime does pay. The Chaplain recounts how a colonel's wife is turned down in her attempt to seduce a priest. Wrecked is quite a thriller where two young college students are shipwrecked while on a scuba outing in the Cocos situated off the mainland of Costa Rica. Luckily their survival instincts kicked in rewarding them with a story that they will never forget. In The Zone Merry gives his readers a personal glimpse of the time he lived in the Panama Canal Zone from 1959 to 1962. In the The Hand we learn how San Miguel was elevated to sainthood in a shorter time than anyone in the history of the Church. How did this happen? Across a Crowded Room takes place during a cocktail reception in the residence of the Brazilian ambassador, Johnny Davis, who is a married man, spots a twenty-year old blond beautiful young woma, who is a married man, spots a twenty-year old blond beautiful young woman across the room and they eventually meet face to face. The young woman introduces herself as Catia Mendoza and Johnny seems to be baffled as to how she knows him. Unfortunately, Johnny, who is smitten with Catia is suddenly called away and must travel to Miami. While on the plane, he learns more about Catia. Merry's style can best be described as plain-spoken and transparent with energetic dialogue permitting readers to have easy access to the emotional core of the stories. Merry also displays a skillful control of pace, creating just the right amount of tension. In the end, what we have is a splendid collection of short stories on all counts. --By Norm Goldman VINE VOICE