by Stephen Dedman



285pp/$22.95/July 1996

The Art of Arrow Cutting
Cover by The Chopping Block, Inc.

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Stephen Dedman’s first novel, The Art of Arrow Cutting, relates the story of Michelangelo Magistrale, or Mage, who suddenly finds his life in danger after he helps a pretty blonde student, Amanda Sharmon, with bus fare. Up to that time, Mage has only been an itinerant photographer with an eye for the ladies.

For much of the novel, Mage has no clue why he is being pursued, although he is fortunate in the new-found friendship of Charles Takumo, a Japanese-American stuntman who claims descent from Charles Manson and has a deep interest in Japanese mythology and culture. Eventually the two companions discover the talisman Mage has been entrusted with and try to keep Mage from trouble when he is accused of murdering Amanda.

Dedman’s book is enjoyable and fast-moving with likable heroes. Dedman’s villain is just mysterious enough and nearly as likable as Mage and Takumo. Dedman is able to pull this off by making his henchmen dislikable.

There is a slight paradox between Dedman’s ability to describe interiors in a realistic, almost cinematic, manner and his inability to differentiate his cities. Dedman’s Calgary, Las Vegas and Los Angeles are all indistinguishable and could as easily have been Regina, Tulsa and Atlantic City. In a similar way, Dedman’s description of life and institutions seems to be vaguely wrong, although there is another specific enough to point to. Possibly, these minor weaknesses are caused by Dedman’s residence in Australia. In any event, it is not intrusive enough to effect the enjoyment of the book.

Dedman uses a lot of Japanese terms in The Art of Arrow Cutting. He wisely includes these terms in a separate glossary at the end of the novel. This allows the reader to quickly refer to the glossary in order to remember, for instance, that yadomejutsu means the art of arrow cutting.

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