“Patience, Colorado” by Rob Byrnes from Men of the Mean Streets (Bold Strokes Books). Edited by Greg Herren and J.M. Redmann.

In “Carver Comes Home” the author dialed his trademark humor way back. Here it’s switched off. I thought I wouldn’t like that, but on the contrary, I was riveted. As the events of the plot unfolded I was struck by how much the story felt like a classic film. It might easily be a play, also, because it has a limited number of locales and a small cast of characters. There’s the run down motel, the bowling alley, the train crossing and the culvert that runs alongside it. There’s the main character, Conor Laughlin, who takes a wrong turn and ends up in Patience, Colorado in the middle of the night. There’s Tay, short for Taylor, who tends bar at the bowling alley across the railroad tracks. There’s Tay’s boss, Mr. Thursby, who owns the bowling alley, and a handful of incidental characters: the motel clerk, some other customers at the bowling alley, the town mechanic, a police officer. There’s the sexual tension that erupts between Conor and Tay in this most inhospitable place. But the most important element of the story, by far, is the noose the author slowly tightens around his characters as the plot unfolds.