Lou Antonelli has been writing short fiction for just over a decade. Most of his work falls into the subgenres of alternate history and secret history. The Clock Struck None collects some of his best work to date.
Antonelli is a transplanted northerner who moved to Texas a few decades ago and calls the northeast part of the state his home. He’s been a newspaperman all his adult life. Both of these things inform his fiction. Reporters are the protagonists in more than one of his stories, such as “Hearts Made of Stone”, in which an editor revives a golem during the Civil Rights Movement in East Texas.
Many of the tales herein are set in his adopted state. But it’s a Texas most nontexans wouldn’t recognize. Texas is a big state, with a long and varied history, a history that Antonelli mines for gold nuggets. A great deal of alternate history focuses on the major turning points such as battles, assassinations, and the like. Antonelli looks deeper than that.
There are 28 stories in this book, so I won’t try to summarize all of them. They range from novelettes to short-shorts. Instead, I’ll highlight some of my favorites and why I like them.
“The Great White Ship” is a combination of steampunk and alternate history in which an airship from a parallel timeline arrives in East Texas. “Meet me at the Grassy Knoll” is Antonelli’s take on the Kennedy assassination.
Famous literary figures make appearances in stories such as “Across the Plains”, “Twilight on the Finger Lakes”, and “Pirates of the Ozarks”. I find a lot of alternate history stories involving famous people annoying because they’re downright silly, with little to no extrapolation of what could have happened. Antonelli’s tales are logical, believable, and thoroughly enjoyable. In some cases, you don’t know the famous person the story is about until the end. The characters referenced in these stories include Gilgamesh (“Tell Gilgamesh I’m Sorry) and The Three Stooges (“Re-Opening Night”).
While in college, Antonelli studied South African history. He puts his education to use in “The Centurion and the Rainman” and “The Amerikaan Way”. Both of these stories deal with apartheid but in entirely different ways.
Several of the stories make reference to a prehistory in which Atlantis and a rival nation destroyed themselves in a thermonuclear war. These were some of my favorite bits. I say this apart from any connection to the stories in which they appeared. I have no idea if Lou intends to write a whole series of these stories or if he was using convenient story device. I hope it’s the former.
I found the stories in The Clock Struck None to be fresh and original, and most importantly, entertaining. None of them were like anything I’ve read recently. Antonelli has unique voice. It’s easy to see from reading the stories in The Clock Stuck None why he was a finalist last year for a Sidewise Award.
The release date for The Clock Struck None is February 14, so it’s just hit the shelves. Check this one out.
I’d like to thank Mr. Antonelli for the review copy.