First published back in June of 1985, Richard Laymon’s short story ‘Cardiac Arrest’ was released as a stand-alone story for the Learning Development Aids ‘Fastback’ series.  The Fastback series were designed to encourage reluctant readers to take up reading, keeping the stories short, sharp and thrilling.

The Fastback was later followed by a sequel story entitled ‘Beginner’s Luck’ (1986).

DLS Synopsis:
Joyce Walther was over-the-moon to have her first story – ‘The Opal Ring’ – published in ‘Whispering Shadows Mystery Monthly’ magazine. At just eighteen-years-old, she was hoping this might be the beginning of a prosperous career as a mystery and crime writer.

In fact, only last night Joyce had thought up an idea for a whole new story. Now she was keen to get working on it. Breakfast first, then maybe a day of writing. That all sounded like a perfect Sunday to her.

Although as Joyce and her parents were about to find out, their Sunday wasn’t going to go quite as any of them expected. Rather than a day spent writing, shopping, or cleaning the pool, the three instead faced two gun-wielding intruders on a mission to rob My Walther’s jewellery shop in town.

All of a sudden Joyce Walther found herself flung into a high-octane situation, akin to something she herself would write. The thing is, how do these situations pan out in real life?...

DLS Review:
The short story is marked as being one of the “Fastback Mystery” series. However, it would probably be more appropriate to put it into the “Thriller” category. There’s really not a huge amount of ‘Mystery’ within the story, but rather a tense hostage scenario with a nice little twist ending.

The story is a very character-driven one. Laymon does well with quickly and efficiently getting the character of Joyce Walther established. A keen and fresh-faced mystery writer who at the age of eighteen, has just had her first story published. Now she’s faced with two intruders into their family home. Two thugs who want to rob her father’s jewellery shop in town, whilst they hold her and her mother hostage.

Of course, Joyce has some newfound confidence because of her recent publication. A slightly cocky confidence that sees her questioning the two impatient thieves at every opportunity. It’s a highly unrealistic response to such a situation, but one that does make you smile somewhat with how far-fetched this whole setup is. But that only adds to the joy of the piece. You also know damn well a twist is coming. You know Joyce has undoubtedly got a plan up her sleeve…the only question is, how she’ll execute it?!

The Fastback runs for a total of 30 pages (which are just 4” x 5.5” with an average word count of around 100 words per page).

© DLS Reviews


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