“Twisted Piccolo” by Steven Lane Smith

Twisted Piccolo: Based on a True Story

Steven Lane Smith
Outskirts Press (2021)
ISBN: 978-1977247780
Reviewed by Megan Weiss for Reader Views (11/2022)

“Twisted Piccolo” by Steven Lane Smith follows Daniel Cromwell from the plane crash that killed his wife through his excruciating years recovering in the burn unit, life as an Air Force pilot and, finally, working covert missions for the CIA. Known by his friends and comrades as “Stitch,” Cromwell finds himself unfulfilled by the life he has and riddled with money issues, an imperfect marriage and prejudice from fellow pilots because of his disfigured appearance. As Daniel sets his sights on improving his financial situation, he ends up flying unapproved missions for the CIA to aid the smuggling of cocaine for a Mexican cartel. 

“Twisted Piccolo” read quite like the life journal of a real soldier or Air Force pilot. While not broken up into day-by-day passages, the book is told through Stitch’s observations and internal thoughts over the years of his life. The prose, action and dialogue are seemingly dictated from his memory, which makes for a highly personal reading experience. The specificity of Stitch’s experiences and the expert knowledge and terminology about the different planes and flying terms reflect on the fact that the book is derived from a true story. 

“Twisted Piccolo” was certainly a unique read, but the action being filtered down through Stitch’s later recollections made the pacing drag a bit. It was also hard at times to determine how much time had passed, or whether we were reading a current scene or experience in Stitch’s life, or an even older memory to support the wider backstory of the book. I also had a hard time connecting with the book because of the specific terminology and references to specific types of planes, or flying maneuvers, etc. This is mostly due to my own lack of knowledge about this field, rather than the fault of the author. The book would merely be best geared towards a more specific audience that does have this knowledge. Since I could not always successfully picture in my mind what I was necessarily reading about, that’s something that makes it harder for me, personally, to really identify and connect to a book. That being said, the trials Stitch went through, particularly in the beginning of the book, definitely made me empathize with him as a narrator and provided a solid base from which his character was built. 

“Twisted Piccolo” is a unique, action-filled book that constantly finds the reader in new, stickier situations, and wondering just how Stitch is going to find his way out of the latest pitfall in his journey.  Readers who enjoy military fiction, aviation, historical fiction and indie-coming of age type books would make for especially great audiences for this book.

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