From Schoolgirl Pranks to Family Murder

It’s almost as if the characters in Shelagh Scoville’s new collection of long short stories have decided not to behave themselves. For the most part these people are polite and respectable well-to-do members of society. But as any fine storyteller knows, these respectable people are only as interesting as their compulsions to bend and break rules.

No great harm done, perhaps, when the transgression is as innocent as stealing the safety pins off the habits of nuns, as a team of San Francisco Catholic girls do over the course of their high school years (“The Pin Collectors”). Nor is it a mortal sin, perhaps, when an unrequited lover ruins a Monterey community theater performance by herding a troupe of barking sealsunder the stage (“Waiting for Zilly Finkbine”).

But Shelagh Scoville’s craft makes a subtle shift from light to dark in “Clara and Ben,” as two siblings rehash the stories of their parents’ marriage and their mother’s supposed suicide. In the title story, “Ulu’s Dog,” set in Hawaii, a quiet volcanist named Hector goes mad in his passionate devotion to the goddess Pele and experiences the violence of storm and flood in his mind when a brash young man is killed, perhaps as a punishment for his impudence.

Shelagh Scoville tells us that these stories all contain parts of her life, which she has spent in California and Hawaii. But it is clear that real life was only the springboard that inspired these seductive yarns, which range from polite cocktails to mayhem, murder, and even the supernatural.

Shelagh Scoville (Kresser) lives and writes in Montecito, California. She has lived much of her life in Hawaii, where she served as the president of the local chapters of the National Society of Arts and Letters, Achievement Rewards for College Scientists, the National League of American Pen Women, and the English Speaking Union.

Ulu's Dog
And Other Stories
by Shelagh Scoville (Kresser)

ISBN 1-56474-415-9
320 pages, paperback, $14.95

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