NOTE: My final afterthoughts on this anthology have now been posted.
It’s not often that a short story anthology comes in to my hands and I have a warm and endearing attraction to it even before I begin reading it, but with this one – Various Authors Vol.1 (The Fiction Desk) – I most certainly do. And the reason for that is simple. It’s a debut publication (the first in what we are told will be a quarterly publication) from a good friend who’s not afraid to shoot for the stars.
Rob Redman was, like me, nothing more than a humble lit reviewer ( I had the pleasure of featuring him as my Reader of the Week back in June 2009) until he decided to follow his heart and not just read short stories but to take a key role in bringing those stories to the reader in the first place. It’s a just cause that almost makes me teary-eyed (but not quite because I have to maintain my air of stoic manliness around Mrs. Rob :)), and it’s one that I, as a ravenous short story fan, can’t help giving a standing ovation to.
So join me then as I take a brief opening stroll through Mr. Redman’s labour of love, one which he says in his introduction that is not only steeped in nostalgia but in a desire to enlighten through the art of showing, rather than encouraging through the gift of the gab (or words to that effect :)). We’ll begin as always, with the cover blurb:
These stories will take you from the shores of Lake Garda in Italy to a hospital room in Utah, from a retirement home overlooking the Solentto an unusual school in the wilds of Scotland. Meet people like Daniel, a government employee looking for an escape; and William, a most
OK, that’s as succinct a blurb as I’ve ever seen, but it does give some indication at least that the assembled stories in this anthology are wide-ranging both in terms of geography, and theme (as I would expect with a general anthology like this). Maybe a little more information on the flavour of content would have been helpful, but there’s nothing wrong with going into a short story anthology ‘blind’, anticipating whatever surprises may lay ahead.
So we have some idea on content, but what the blurb doesn’t offer is any indication on who the writers of these stories are (well, it does say on the back cover who ALL of the authors are, but you know what I mean, right? :)). Firstly it may be worthwhile to point out that of the twelve stories to be found in this anthology, all but one of them is from a male. That’s got me thinking. Does that mean that Various Authors Vol. 1 is going to be a white-knuckled, testosterone-filled roller coaster ride, or are these males tuning in to the more feminine side of their muse for this anthology? It’s impossible to say at this stage of course, and to be honest it doesn’t really matter, but I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on the anthology’s pitch and tone in this respect, to see if if it’s a ‘bloke only’ book or not.
So on to the stories and the writers themselves. You can see all of the stories included in this anthology, further down the page (and I will be linking to individual stories reviews as I complete them), but let’s have a quick run through on the writers I know, or have heard of.
Starting with the only female writer in this line up – Lynsey May, and I’m afraid that she’s a writer I’ve never read before. She comes with good credentials though, having had stories published by the highly renowned Irish literary mag, The Stinging Fly, so if any woman can hold her own against a hairy rabble of men (how rude of me :)), then May is that woman.
Moving on to the lads, and Charles Lambert certainly is one that I do know. Having thus far published two novels (Little Monsters and Any Human Face (both Picador)) and a short story collection (The Scent of Cinnamon (Salt Publishing)), he must considered (not taking anything away from the others), the ‘royalty’ in this anthology, and looking very briefly at his story – All I Want, it looks like he may be the one responsible for taking us ‘to the shores of Lake Garda‘.
Danny Rhodes is another ‘heavyweight’ inclusion to this anthology that I’m looking forward to reading for the first time. The author of ‘gritty’ novels Asboville and Soldier Boy (both Maia Press), what’s the betting that his short story, A Covering of Leaves isn’t going to leave an indelible mark too?
Moving on and there’s also an interesting inclusion here from American short story writer, Matthew Licht, whose short story collection, The Moose Show, is published by Salt. He’s another writer I’ve yet to read so I’m getting my first introduction to him too, with a story entitled Dave’s Tough Luck.
Finally, another writer who I have something of an attachment to, and not because of his writing. Harvey Marcus is known in other circles as a marketing executive for Windmill Books, and although I’ve known him for a couple of years now, I had no idea he had ink running through his veins. So, it’s going to be a real delight for me (I hope) to read his inclusion in this anthology, How to Fall in Love with an Air Hostess
I could go on, but then I’d be doing nothing more than blabbing on about every author in this anthology, which I will be doing in due course anyway as I review each story. So we’ll bring my perceived highlights discussion to a close now, but don’t think for a minute that I rate those who I haven’t mentioned, any lesser than those who I have.
In fact, if I’m being honest I don’t think there’s a lot more I can say for now, and I should really begin the more important task of working my way through Various Authors Vol. 1. Before I leave you though, I just want to put your mind at rest. I know at the start of these forethoughts I said that Rob was a good friend, and that I admired his courage in taking such a brave step into the world of publishing (and I absolutely do), but I want to make it clear that I will be judging this anthology as I do with all my book reviewing, with complete impartiality. So don’t think for a moment that I’m guaranteed to declare Various Authors Vol. 1 the ‘anthology of the year’. If that turns out to be the case, then all well and good, but if this publication turns out to be a complete duffer then you’ll be the first to know about it (from the safety of a secure location where Rob can’t find me :)).
Onwards then to the reading journey, as I said a list of the contents of Various Authors Vol. 1 can be found below, which will eventually be linked to individual short story reviews as I complete them. I’ll be back when I’m done to offer up my final afterthoughts. Meanwhile, keep checking back here for progress or keep a lookout for me wagging my tail or otherwise, on Twitter (I betcha you can’t wait you lucky people :)).
Contents of Various Authors Vol. 1
- Two Buses Away by Lynsey May
- How to Fall in Love with an Air Hostess by Harvey Marcus
- Crannock House by Ben Lyle
- Rex by Jon Wallace
- The Puzzle by Alex Cameron
- Dave’s Tough Luck by Matthew Licht
- Assassination Scene by Jason Atkinson
- Celia and Harold by Patrick Whittaker
- All I Want by Charles Lambert
- A Covering of Leaves by Danny Rhodes
- Sometimes the Only Way Out is In by Ben Cheetham
- Nativity by Adrian Stumpp
The Fiction Desk | 18th April 2011 | £9.99 | PAPERBACK | 192 PP | ISBN: 9780956784308
A note about forethoughts
‘Forethoughts’ offer an insight into what my initial thoughts and impressions of a book are before I begin reading it. Informal, and largely written as a stream-of-consciousness exercise in a single sitting, my ‘forethoughts’ capture an important stage of the reading experience for me – the anticipatory period before the book is first opened, when my excitement is piqued for the reading experience which lies ahead.
Blissfully ignorant my ‘forethoughts’ may well be, but when combined with my eventual ‘afterthoughts’, the result is a unique and comprehensive record of a very personal literary ‘journey’ through a particular book; a literary journey which will hopefully be of some value to other readers.