In a short story collection of Musgrave’s caliber, the dilemma becomes which tale to review from The Mayan Magician and Other Stories (2009, CIC Publishers, ISBN 0-9776503-8-3).
With “The Mayan Magician,” this compilation’s lead story and namesake, Musgrave weaves a mystical tale of love, courage and resolute faith in the great Mayan Warrior God, Kukulkán. Musgrave’s story revolves around a contemporary young Mayan woman, Isabel Velasquez, or “Dipsie Izzie,” as she wows baseball fans and wins over male colleagues and skeptics with her almost-supernatural knuckleball. She becomes the first female pitcher for the minor league Yucatán Leones — and later, the first woman awarded a major league contract, signing with the San Diego Padres. A million-dollar contract, no less.Anyone, who is a fan of baseball — or even those readers like me, who possess little more than a headline-recapping knowledge of the sport — will appreciate Musgrave’s erudite interlacing of baseball and the spiritual Mayan culture. Musgrave affords his readers the privilege of accompanying Isabel on her extraordinary journey of acclamation, unwavering faith in her Mayan religion, betrayal, kidnapping and the realization of true love. What more could you ask of a short story? I give this one a huge thumbs up.
Throughout the “other stories” in The Mayan Magician and Other Stories, Musgrave flexes his creative genius and satirical, oft times irreverent, humor as he navigates the reader through a cross-genre exploration of diversity, acceptance, greed, community, faith, political corruption, cyber-lust, conformity and the lack thereof.
Whether the vehicle Musgrave chooses to transport his fictional characters is a black widow using the internet to feast and fornicate, a hurricane with human-like qualities, a text-messaging mime or a depraved ride on Amtrak’s Sunset Limited on the brink of its demise, this writer weaves his tales with wit and wisdom. Is there rhyme or reason to this anthology, an interrelated theme? No. Nor is there the coziness of chicken soup. But if you love short stories, thought-provoking reads and quality entertainment, The Mayan Magician and Other Stories will not disappoint.
Jim Musgrave is an award-winning author and college educator in San Diego, California. He holds a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing, and has published short fiction in many literary journals, including the San Diego Writer's Monthly, Stone Magazine, FirstDraft, Sniplits, Back Channels, Pacific Review, California Quarterly and Cowles Mountain Journal. Among his novels are Sins of Darkness, Russian Wolves, Iron Maiden and Lucifer’s Wedding. These are available through Amazon.com and other fine booksellers.