January 16, 2013 Book Reviews

















Selma Sergent 


Quarto Barto is from Cincinnati, Ohio. A Tuck Magazine contributor, he is self-described as:

‘The great grandson of Vaudevillian performers, he writes poetry and prose with an American flair. Quarto has travelled extensively and draws influence from the cultural blending of metropolitan life.’

His novel Shooting Pigeons has been independently published. I would classify it as a psychological thriller. The novel begins with an airplane crashing into the Ohio river leaving a litany of unanswered questions behind. The crash and its consequences plague the main characters Macy Jacobs, James Blanco and Jessica Johnson for the next ten years.

Twists and turns. That’s what I wrote in my notes as I was doing the initial read on this book. I also wrote conspiracy and intrigue.

There is page turning action here, for sure. Quarto Barto has created a very good dramatic plotline that in combination with the elements of mystery and thriller, focuses heavily on the unstable emotional states of his characters.

“Reflexively, he froze and held his hands out to the side.  She grabbed him by the collar and pulled him forward out of the chair, he fell sideways as the wires holding his ankle to the chair dug deeply into his flesh.  A rivulet of blood began to flow along the seam in the floor.  In an act of sheer desperation, he screamed for help.”

Instability, a quick recourse to violence, lack of accountability for one’s actions, colour the world of these characters…

“The longer she listened to him talk, the more hollow his voice sounded to her.  She tried to remember what it was like to make love with him, but she couldn’t. She imagined him throwing the plates of food to the floor and taking her violently on the table.  And while she could envision the gasps and embarrassed stuttering from the other patrons sitting around them, and the curve of his back as he thrust into her over and over again, she couldn’t imagine a single disturbance to her thoughts. “

I enjoyed the narrative with its extra serving of suspense and revelations around every corner but I would have liked the hints dropped regarding the inner lives of the characters to be further explored. Right at the beginning the chance for this presents itself:

“A breeze stirred James’ hair as the sun warmed the skin of his eyelids.  Somewhere between the banks of the Ohio and a dream, James remembered his father smiling at a cloud.”

Here we go, I thought. Action, thrills, and philosophical considerations. The whole package.

One of the issues the writer faces when working in the thriller genre is how far to develop the life of the characters. Their motivations, their cogitations, what they regard as the reasons for their existence…it can be hard to know how deep one should plunge into that pool.

Quarto Barto teases us again with passages like this:

          “She closed her eyes and listened to the tires roll quietly over the dirt roads in the camp.  A few moments later, they hummed over the blacktop.  Even though her eyes were closed, she could feel the sun’s warmth lift from her face, and she knew the car had entered the gorge that funneled the river into town.  A few minutes later, she felt the sun on her face again, and even through closed eyes, she sensed that they were safely on the other side.  The skin on her face and neck warmed in the sunlight, and she drifted off into a light sleep.  She imagined that if she awoke, she’d be somebody else. “

And again with this:

“I’m not talking about wishful thinking, Dad– happy thoughts, white lies, and thin flatteries are just politeness gone retarded.  I’m talking about the idea that truth is that which functions as the truth.”

Quarto hints throughout the novel at more intellectual issues, greater discernment, a desire to make the gravy in which the novel sits thicker and richer. I am sure that as Quarto Barto develops as a writer that the expansion of inner thought will be the result.

There is a visual, visceral experience to this novel that highlights its suspenseful nature. While I did want more from the characterisation this visual, visceral experience did allow the plot to unfold nicely, somewhat like a film. And according to the almighty Twitter –  

‘Film rights to Shooting Pigeons are still available for writer’s credit and toffee bars. ‘ (@QuartoBarto)


Shooting Pigeons – a psychological thriller, dotted with the promise of further philosophical inklings is a good initial offering from a smart, methodical mind and shows a writer with the potential to develop into a multi-faceted talent.

You can buy Shooting Pigeons from Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Shooting-Pigeons-Quarto-Barto/dp/1481085964

You can find Quarto Barto at –




Selma Sergent

I am a former teacher and musician. I have worked as an editor and writer for several small publishers in Sydney, Australia. I have had some short stories published, as well as two plays. I also mess about with fiction on my blog. Once I was a hairsbreadth away from a publishing deal with a major publishing house. I have too many full length novels in my filing cabinet waiting to be submitted. I understand the vagaries of the writing life yet remain passionate about writers and writing. The world with all its flaws continues to inspire me.



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