“Half a Reason to Die” is a collection of eight short stories by the acclaimed documentary filmmaker and photojournalist Chip Duncan. Though a work of fiction, the series of stories is drawn from real people, locations, and events that the narrator, a person with a background in journalism, has experienced.
This book harbors the stark and eerie realities around the world with stories that include: a German woman in exile confessing her loss of a lover from the early days of World War II to a piano prodigy entertaining a patient dying of cancer in a New York City hospital. Each story provides continental anecdotes of courage, humor, or even heartbreaking truth. Readers will get lost in each character’s stories through biting dialogue that reveal glimpses of the inner workings of these unique people.
The voices heard in Half a Reason to Die are weaved together by a journalist’s natural curiosity for a story and the collective, extraordinary voices of humanity. Duncan vividly adds to the immense illustrations—written and spoken—of the unique people we recall encountering in our own travels or everyday life.
“They’re unusual characters from a variety of places,” says Duncan, “and all are based on real-life events I’ve experienced along the way.”
Half a Reason to Die is an unusual and highly entertaining group of stories taking the reader on a dramatic ride around the world, each piece told by first person narrators with a background in journalism.
I didn’t read the entire book of eight stories, not because I didn’t want to, only because my TBR is quite frankly ‘out of control’. I did however want to read at least one of the stories before publishing this blog post.
My review of “Death on a harvest moon” (the seventh story in the book)
This is the story of a journalist who has corresponded with a prison inmate for many years. The latest letter he receives is – somehow – a game changer. The prisoner, Jack Degatano, has been incarcerated since 1979 and is serving three consecutive life terms. While in prison he has earned his master’s degree in sociology. His guards consider him to be a loner who is quiet, unassuming, and polite.
“Prison smells like death”
This most recent letter causes the journalist to ponder on what it must be like to live within the confines of a small prison cell without having any view of the outside world. For the first time in their many years of correspondence, he wonders if Jack Degatano could indeed be innocent…
Chip Duncan’s prose is skillfully wrought, not surprising as he makes his living through the magic of words and images. Current affairs and modern technological advances are mentioned with the purpose, I assume, to bring home the point that the prisoner’s life is completely devoid of everything the common citizen takes for granted daily. Journalistic ethics and the vagaries of fate are just some of the themes running through this eminently readable short story.
If this story is any indication of the other seven stories contained within “Half a reason to die”, I believe that the book will be relished by those who enjoy literary short fiction.
I received a sample of the book from the publisher Select Books Inc. (ISBN: 9781590794081) as I wanted to promote this author and his writing.
Chip Duncan is a writer, photographer, and filmmaker with a penchant for overseas assignments. His professional journeys have taken him to many extraordinary lands, including documentary work extending from Peru to Afghanistan. His previous work includes the book Enough to Go Around: Searching for Hope in Afghanistan, Pakistan & Darfur as well as numerous films broadcast worldwide.
Chip Duncan can be contacted via e-mail at Chip@DuncanEntertainment.com