Publisher: Amber Quill Press
After a night at the opera, an elderly man decides to have a nightcap at a favorite watering hole to prolong the inevitable of going home to an empty apartment. But while enjoying the comforts of a twelve-year-old, single-malt scotch, he meets Neal MacIntyre, and they form a fragile bond.
Neal is nursing his well scotch, trying to make it last until closing time. He doesn’t have the money for another drink and he has no place to spend the night. Out of pure kindness and a desire for conversation, the elderly man offers him both – first a drink, then a couch to sleep on for the night. Neal happily accepts. But once the two are at the man’s apartment, Neal begins to tell what events brought him to that apartment. He tells a gripping tale of love and friendship, gain and loss, treachery and murder.
I’ve mentioned before that Victor J. Banis is one of my favorite authors, both for the vivid characters he creates and for his flawless prose, and in A Man of Principle, he does not disappoint. From the first paragraph I was drawn to this nameless elderly man, and could feel his loneliness and need. With a few well-chosen brushstrokes, the author paints a complete and compelling portrait of a man with not much to look forward to – someone who is waiting for something, and who perhaps spends his time savoring his past like his single malt.
With equal skill, he creates a younger man who is running from his past, a past that he can’t really run from. As the story unfolds, these two personalities bond in a unique way that is both touching and sad.
This story made me do something I seldom do: after reading the last word, I flipped back to the beginning and read it again – not for more clarity, but for the pleasure of a simple yarn told with skill and passion. Banis’s gift at crafting short stories is humbling. Take away one word and there is loss, take away any sentence and the beauty is diminished. This is not a story he whipped together in a day or two. It takes talent and patience to produce this kind of quality. This is a story I can highly recommend.