Legends Of Glory

Feature by Willard Manus

The distinguished and prolific writer Harry Mark Petrakis has just published his 21st book, LEGENDS OF GLORY AND OTHER STORIES (Southern Illinois University Press). The volume contains eight new stories by the author, plus a novella, Legends of Glory, which deals with the impact of a young soldier's death in Iraq on his midwest family. It's a powerful tale, one which expresses Petrakis' anger at the way the war has damaged Americans, not just physically but spiritually. Petrakis paints a vivid picture of a husband and wife trying to cope with their remorse and grief after learning that their only son, Noah, has been killed in action. The loss is overwhelming and almost wrecks their marriage, but eventually they manage to find the strength, courage and love to survive. The novella is moving in a profound and human way.

Most of the other stories are lighter and more upbeat, but never trivial or superficial. Petrakis is too skilled a writer for that; he always tries to go deep and give dimension to his characters. Even as he exposes their flaws and foibles, he manages to discover something surprising and worthy about them, without spilling over into sentimentality; it's his rare, enviable gift as a writer.