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Review: Choice Cuts by Joe Clifford

Chris Leek
Independent Reviewer

This week we run the rule over one of our own, and take a look at Joe Clifford’s Choice Cuts.
Some of you might be thinking this is an inside job, but Joe ignored my requests to be bribed with Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, so you can all relax on that count.

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These 16 stories are hard to slap a label on and I’m not even going to attempt it. Joe Clifford doesn’t shackle himself to a genre; instead he cuts through all that bullshit to get at the black, fractured heart of the story.

In Choice Cuts you’ll find people from all walks of life; TV producers, Russian political prisoners, thieves, cops and even a couple of movie buffs. The one thing they all have in common is they exist on the ragged edges. These characters are the meat for the grinder, the acceptable losses of society’s blue on blue battle for the moral high ground.

The bad, the damaged and the weak have rarely been so beautifully drawn or empathically considered. Joe writes with a compelling voice and a hard earned honesty that is impossible to fake. His vivid prose grabs you at the first sentence and refuses point blank to let go until the story is done.

Every one of these tales is worth the price of admission, some like Red Pistachios and Tripping for Biscuits really are outstanding, but for me the pick of the bunch is Nix Verrida. It’s a story about Ray, a combat vet struggling to come to terms with life back home.
His slide from loving husband and father to a detached observer of his own life is just a flat out stunning piece of writing. It’s a story I can’t shake off and one that makes me eager to read Joe’s upcoming longer works.

To sum it up, Choice Cuts is a dark, diverse and gritty collection of stories that never disappoints. There’s a hell of a lot of bang here for just a measly couple of bucks and if you haven’t already taken a look, then I really think you should.

Go on, you know you want to.