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Book Review: ‘An Hour in the Darkness’ by Michael Bailey

Less than a hundred pages electronically — Michael Bailey has written a short story about the erratic life of Franklin in his new novel An Hour in the Darkness.

Franklin has hit his head. After breaking up with his girlfriend, he moves out of his home in search of love and forgiveness. His only friend is his sister Jenny, but does she even exist? The love of his life Ronnie doesn’t seem to appreciate his stalking and even Jesus can’t give him the advice he needs. Things begin to spiral further out of control and Franklin has to come to terms that he may not be as mentally well as he thought he was.

So, is Franklin just eccentric… or crazy? Initially it’s hard to tell. He talks frantically, can’t seem to finish one thought before hopping onto the next, and seems to have endless stories to rave about. There’s manic in his wording but hey, maybe he’s just hyper.

Well. He’s not.

Franklin is entitled. He thinks he has women all figured out while simultaneously telling you he doesn’t understand a single thing about them. But whatever it is women do — dressing up, wearing perfume or simply existing — it’s all for Franklin. At least that’s what he’ll tell you.

I love the run on sentences and the jumbled way Michael Bailey narrated Franklin. The entire story was filled with unpredictable dialogue and scenarios, one of which features a Jesus who may not really be Jesus. I’ll leave it for you decide. But what makes Franklin so interesting is that he was so clearly not alright.

“I sure felt close to God up there. I don’t know. I got to thinking that maybe God lived inside Old John and so I started to stare real hard at the door in case he suddenly came out. And then he did come out and he came and sat next to me…”

an hour in the darkness by michael bailey

But he reeks of creep. He tells you straight up he can’t talk to women. When he attempts to converse with character Ronnie, a.k.a the “love of his life,” everything he says is vile. It’s daunting. It’s cringe-worthy. As in, I cringed. Every time he spoke to Ronnie, I was immediately uncomfortable. He doesn’t understand the important concept of “leave me alone”.

“Listen, Ronnie, R.O.N.N.I.E S.P.E.C.T.O.R., say will you ‘Be My Baby’? No, listen, only kidding. I am a little crazy to be honest. I had a bit of a bang to the old head a few weeks ago, but I’m alright now. I’m not alright. I’m feeling as right as rain now, it’s just that I get so sad and depressed all the time. I’m lonely, okay, deal with it. No, I get low sometimes –  all the time – sinking to the bottom of the sea and then not being able to swim back up. Can’t quite manage to reach the surface, if you see what I mean old fruit, fruit lady?”

But there’s depths. There’s roots to his lunacy. And as the realization comes, it’s so saddening. I mean, I still wasn’t a fan of the certain key phrases he repeats often or how to talks to women — and not knowing how isn’t an excuse to me. But pieces begin to fit and it’s obvious there’s a lot more here than I actually anticipated — much more to Franklin.

“It sounds beautiful but it isn’t. In fact, it’s just about the most depressing place you’ll ever see. I love all that beautiful-sounding-name stuff for places that are depressing as hell, don’t you? I really get off on that sort of thing.”

My only complaint is the ending. It seemed rushed. Every problem solved quickly and easily. But that doesn’t mean the ending is bad. It’s just not a favorite of mine.

But the writing is lovely. Bailey did a splendid job with his character and captured him, his personality and his sickness, so convincingly well. I recommend An Hour in the Darkness — it was brilliant, and look forward to more of his work in the future.

Get your copy here.