The Last Days of Jack Sparks
For me ‘The Last Days of Jack Sparks’ was a trip down memory lane; if that lane were full of impending doom, drugged up protagonists, horrific events and well…the supernatural. It’s a trip I really enjoyed taking again. And the memories of everything I used to love so much about the genre came flooding back. My following of horror has waned over the last 10 years mainly due to the rehashing of common clichés, remakes of films when there is no need and a dearth of ‘Found Footage’ films which seem to come out every week since the Blair Witch Project (1999) first brought this to our screens eighteen years ago. Having said this we are talking about a book – and what an ingenious book it is, so lets get on with it.
Flesh and Bone and Water
‘Flesh and Bone and Water’ is the debut novel from Brazilian born journalist and short story writer Luiza Sauma; who was later raised in London. One would be foolish not to notice the links between her own transition to the UK to that of her main character; which I feel helps get the passion and connection across in the story from the picturesque, boiling pot of Brazil; to the cold, rainy and bleak London.
‘To Andy and his parents, it looks like any other carnival: creaking ghost train, rusty rollercoaster and circus performers. But of course it isn’t. Drawn to the hall of mirrors, and enters and is hypnotised by the many selves staring back at him. Sometime later, one of those selves walks out and re-joins his parents – leaving Andy trapped inside the glass, snatched from the tensions of his suburban home and transported to a world where the laws of gravity are meaningless and time performs acrobatic tricks. And now an identical stranger inhabits Andy’s life, unsettling his mother with a curious blankness, as mysterious events start unfolding in their Irish coastal town…’
Sherlock Holmes: The Counterfeit Detective
I have a confession to make. About a quarter of the way through reading Sherlock Holmes: The Counterfeit Detective I closed the book and said to nobody in particular, “What’s the point? What is the point of a new Sherlock Holmes novel?”
Sex and Death
Sex and death: two timeless and oft-coupled themes that can be traced back even to the earliest Sumerian literature. Think of the epic tale of Gilgamesh, his quest for eternal life, the death of his best friend, his irrepressible sexual desire which of course leads to a downfall. Sex and death: powerful imperatives of our existence that have been explored countless times and yet always seem abundant. Perhaps the most intriguing mystery to explore of all is why these two processes seem intrinsically linked, why, as Laurence Fishburne’s Marion Bishop remarks in Assault On Precinct 13 (2005): ‘The Greeks called it Eros and Thanatos’.
The Other World, It Whispers
It is hard to say what makes a good short story collection, assessing the quality of one story is hard enough, let alone many. A short story collection can manage to delight and disappoint at the same time; it can push the boundaries and simultaneously stay safely within them. There are no rules on how to construct a short story collection. One may strive for coherence, a uniting of themes, of sentiment, imagery, then again one may not – the stories may flit between genre, time and space. Also, the length of a short story may stretch the notion of ‘short’ to its very literary limit, essentially constituting a baby novella, or, ‘short’ might seem a little far off the mark, being closer to poetry rather than prose.
The Essex Serpent
It’s the late Victoria era and the citizens of a bloated British Empire feel confident they have mastered nature. The role of religion in everyday life is receding. More and more about the world is understood.
Rotten Row by Petina Gappah
The purpose of a book review is to give you an opinion, dear reader, as to whether the book at hand is worth splurging your well sponged money on. The short answer for those busy readers is yes. Whether that is a ‘definitely yes’ or a ‘maybe yes’ depends on, well, you and what you like. As such, here’s the rest of the review.
Blackout by Marc Elsberg
Blackout is one of the few books I’ve read in the last couple of years that lives up to the word “thriller”. Originally released in Germany, and a best-seller of over 1,000,000 copies, Blackout has finally been translated into English (by Marshall Yarbrough) and is being published by Black Swan Press. Full throttle from the get-go, with every chapter bringing a new turn of the screw that raises the stakes even higher, this novel is an exciting delve into a world without power. While at times some of the writing in Blackout comes across plain and prosaic, the un-pretentious approach to storytelling becomes infectious and part of its charm.
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman’s new book Norse Mythology is a retelling of many of the classic stories of the pantheon of Norse gods. One might ask, why? Why bother with old stories of forgotten gods. Well, dear reader, apart from the obvious answer, which is why not? The answer is that they are quite important, culturally speaking, but mostly our contact with them is much removed from the actual stories themselves.
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
At the start of last year, I read American God’s by Neil Gaiman. At the start of this year I read his Anansi Boys. It’s not a tradition or anything. Things sometimes just happen in patterns, or perhaps the mind does strange things without you noticing. I’ve now read all of Mr Gainman’s novels, for grown-ups and their little people, and he is most definitely a wonderful writer, one of my favourites. He is not the people’s writer, though for some he may be, nor the writer’s writer, though again that could also be true, but for me he is the meta-writer.
Mr Iyer Goes To War by Ryan Lobo
Lalgudi Iyer is the elderly star of this debut novel by Ryan Lobo, an ambitious, and mostly successful, Indian take on Don Quixote, a geriatric quest for the 21stCentury. He is a man who imagines himself to be learned and wise, a lover of poetry and someone with a deep knowledge of the Sanskrit epic the Mahabharata. But is is also a man who will claim, “Ordinary life does not interest us! We want fantastic life!…We shall become what we once were – once upon a time. Because real history flows in our veins; in is not written in book.”
Pigeon by Alys Conran
There is more to the sky than just the pretty birds – those with colourful feathers or melodic songs. In among the parakeets and the blackbirds are the pigeons: those clumsy, fumbling and unadorned birds that are populous to the point of invisibility. It can be easy to forget the humble pigeon as it pecks away at the waylaid crumbs of your lunch (most often than not whilst missing several toes), but pigeons are birds too and are as unique as any other bird.
The Dark Place by Michael Bray
Michael Bray is making a name for himself in the world of horror and with good reason. He writes with the kind of fury a young Stephen King wrote with, a restless pace to his work that propels the reader on. It’s rather hard to identify how he achieves this pace: whether it’s economical style, the clipped dialogue, or just a kinetic energy which he has somehow imparted into the text. Whatever it is, it’s certainly still there in his latest offering The Dark Place, a story about a suburban avenue in America, where the lives of its inhabitants are turned upside down by the sudden manifestation of a mysterious sinkhole.
The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaranovitch
Writers of long-running series at a certain point face a choice, expand their universe or continue to focus only on what the fans liked in the past. Thankfully, The Hanging Tree, the sixth of Ben Aaronovitch’s best-selling Rivers of London novels, goes for the latter option
Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo
Welcome and Welcome to Lagos is an enjoyable trip to a destination that is known for its rife corruption, bustling and chaotic city life and quite importantly bent officials. My personal views of Lagos in Nigeria seems to have been stained by the many articles that appear that discuss officials put in place to govern the country but have their own personal agendas which normally involve them being bribed or even finding substantial amounts of money in suitcases. Lagos though against all these odds and a bad PR campaign, continues to thrive in the face of all this adversity, it’s a country where traditions are celebrated in a vibrant, culturally and religiously inclusive way and this is the Lagos that Onuzo paints whilst ensuring she doesn’t scrimp on any of the corruption which forms the undercoat and undercurrent to her colourful story.
The Burning Ground by Adam O’Riordan
For those of you who the name Adam O’Riordan doesn’t ring any bells then this review is for you; firstly, you are going to discover a wonderfully talented writer who is also a talented poet; who’s beautifully poignant collection ‘In the Flesh’ should be a must for your books to read in 2017; plus, you will also be discovering a gifted raconteur who is able to seamlessly move into the short story genre, flexing his undeniable talent with barely any bumps along the path.The Equestrienne by Ursula Kovalyk
The Equestrienne is an interesting, slightly odd, debut from Slovak author Ursula Kovalyk. It is published by Parthian in the UK, in an edition translated from the Slovak by Julia and Peter Sherwood.
Wild Quiet By Roisin O’Donnell
From the current powerhouse of Irish fiction New Island Books comes the arrestingly brilliant ‘Wild Quiet’ written by the supremely talented Roisin O’Donnell who blows up the competition with her debut anthology; where every story is wonderfully crafted and delicately executed making ‘Wild Quiet’ a ride you’ll never want to forget.
A Fish Trapped Inside The Wind by Christen Gholson
A Fish Trapped Inside The Wind is an artful piece of magic carried off by a master illusionist. It follows a significant cast of characters, all residing in the small town of Villon in Belgium, linked in the most surprising and subtle ways. There is Guy Foulette, the illusionist. Marie Ledoux, the seer. Father Leo, the lover. Raoul, the seeker. Liesl Grafft, the stranger. Casimir, the player. And a few other key characters: Poisson, Marie’s alcoholic husband. Phillipe, a young boy and son of a local doctor. The appellations of the main cast, like much of what is contained in the pages of A Fish Trapped Inside The Wind, are often illusionary, temporal and deceiving. Hold on to that thought.
Tribulations by Richard Thomas
‘What’s your earliest memory?’ So a young girl is asked by her grandfather at the end of the world, and her answer, like much of what is contained in the pages of Tribulations, will surprise you. This short story collection by Richard Thomas, released earlier in 2016, is something of a miraculous rarity, a collection that is as thematically unified as it is diverse in its explorations, as coherently stylised as it is eclectic in voice. There is increasingly a trend in the music world for the album which is a collection of songs, far flung from the days of Origins of Symmetry, where an album hung together like stanzas in a ballad. The same is mirrored in the literary world, with many short story collections functioning more like a timeline of stories penned by the same author. Tribulations is different, and stands out as such, but it is not only the thematic unity which sets it apart, but also the deft, confident handling of narrative prose which marks a real master at work.
The Watcher by Ross Armstrong
Ross Armstrong is a working actor from North London who has appeared on stage and screen, with his most recent outing the new series of ‘Ripper Street’. ‘The Watcher’ is his first novel which is due for release by Harlequin on the 29th December 2016 – just the thing to help you survive the festive period and start your new year.
THIRST by Benjamin Warner
Thirst is an intense, stark thriller set in rural America which imagines a world without water, depicting a staggeringly convincing breakdown of society and order. Whilst the author Benjamin Warner is certainly to be praised for his prose style, which remains crisp and poetic throughout, Thirst does not quite successfully land the emotional ending it is striving towards.
THE RATS by James Herbert
It’s London and the early 1970s. The city still bares the marks of the Blitz, peppered with rubble strewn bomb sites, and the flowery hope of the swinging sixties seems to have withered, poisoned by Britain’s industrial, economic and political decline. This is the backdrop to The Rats, James Herbert’s 1974 horror classic.
MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN by Ransom Riggs
Ransom Riggs is a New York Times best selling author and the mastermind behind the dark, imaginative and arrestingly brilliant ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children’ published by Quirk Books. The book was originally released back in 2011 but there has been a surge in the popularity of the novel due to the film adaptation; directed by the captivating and disturbingly visionary mind of Tim Burton…
GRIEF IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS by Max Porter
On occasion you come across a book that is so mesmeric, so delicate, intricate and beautiful that awe is the only appropriate response. Grief is the thing with feathers by (shockingly) debut author Max Porter is just such a book. Describing the novel is difficult. For a start, the term novel fails to adequately describe the format, it’s just the best heuristic at hand. Grief is in reality part-prose, part-poetry, part-academic text, part-abstract, freeform, memoir. And it’s all of this within a slender 114 pages…
CHASING EMBERS by James Bennett
Chasing Embers is a novel about a shape-shifting dragon with an identity crisis, torn between a normal human existence and the mythological roots from which he originates; in many ways, the narrative of Chasing Embers reflects this turmoil, unsure of what it is, at times resembling a naïve procedural YA title and at other times trying to come across as hard-hitting adult fiction…
HOSTAGES by Oisin Fagan
New Island Books have been busy releasing the anthologies ‘The Glass Shore’ and ‘The Long Gaze Back’ and in their wake is an undiscovered gem of a book and we here at STORGY are extremely excited that we found the wonderful anthology that is ‘Hostages’ by the rather unknown Oisin Fagan (but not for very long according to the STORGY office). I first stumbled across Oisin Fagan when his wonderfully original, violent and masterful ‘The Hierophants’ won the Penny Dreadful Novella Prize a magazine I have read quite a lot of and highly recommend to those interested in independent fiction…
DEATH AND THE SEASIDE by Alison Moore
A woman living in a lifeless, depressing seaside town wakes one night to find a blank piece of paper has been slipped beneath the door to her room. The woman, Susan, lives above the pub where she works. Hers is an unsatisfactory, depressing existence that, we soon learn, is the creation of another woman, Bonnie Falls, who also works an unsatisfactory, depressing job in a lifeless, depressing town in the Midlands, where she writes stories on the side but rarely finishes them. Death and the Seaside establishes this dynamic in its opening pages…
SWEET HOME by Carys Bray
This collection of short stories by Carys Bray is one of the best anthologies by an English author for a long while. I found this so entertaining as I am a parent of two beautiful girls that are around the same age as some of the children in these stories. Whilst also seeing myselfand my extended family within these well-crafted stories; I don’t know whether this was good or bad but enjoyed the ride nonetheless!…
FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM by J K Rowling
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them begins with an introduction – by way of dramatic effect – to our protagonist Grindelwald– via a montage of his villainous acts (for the novice, a montage is a series of moving shots, in this case; newspaper articles). It works well, however, I couldn’t help but desire more; I wanted to know the in and outs of the various atrocities and acts of terrorism previously performed, which in novel format, may well have been uncovered. In a screenplay, this type of background information is rarely required and largely,alluded to, particularly as the screenplay is theoretically a working document – what actors and crew use on set, thus overloading it with large sections of backstory etc is unnecessary for many who make use of the screenplay…
IMPACT by Rob Boffard
Impact by Rob Boffard is an enjoyable slice of survival sci-fi, comparable to recent bestsellers such as The Martian or Hugh Howey’s Wool. Its central conceit is a familiar one. Nuclear fallout has rendered the Earth almost uninhabitable. This has forced humanity, bar a few hardy souls, to flee to ‘Outer Earth’, a series of orbiting space stations. But now the planet appears to be reviving and explorers, both willing and unwilling, are returning to see whether civilisation can be renewed…
HACK by Kieran Crowley
Kieran Crowley loves alliteration and hasn’t met an adjective he doesn’t at least like. The first sentence of his novel, Hack, reads: ‘On my third day on the job at the tabloid New York Mail, I was weaving a quiet, climate-controlled cocoon of predictability inside my beige, carpeted cubicle.’ Two sentences later we get: ‘I watched a flock of dirty pigeons in tight formation wing up from the unseen sidewalk below, shape-shifting past my window, mounting the space between the buildings.’…
FATES OF THE ANIMALS by Padrika Tarrant
This collection came very highly recommended; I was a huge fan of her work from previously reading her collection ‘Broken Things’ and her fiction novel ‘The Knife Drawer’ both of which I would recommend you popping to the shop and purchasing…along with ‘Fates of the Animals’. When opening the book and fingering my way through the first few pages, I was astonished by how many short (short) stories were in this collection forty-five yes that’s right….forty-five beautifully crafted short stories in this anthology Published by SALT…
THE HATCHING by Ezekiel Boone
In the immortal words of Henry Jones Jr: “Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?” Okay, scrap that. Although some people have a fear of serpents (sure, they’re slithery, writhing fork-tongued devil creatures and in some instances, very deadly), the subject that we’re talking about today is Spiders. The hairy, creepy, clicking and skittering kind that devour flesh and incubate themselves inside a living human host. That type of spider…
THE HIDDEN PEOPLE by Alison Littlewood
The Hidden People is a novel firmly steeped in the Gothic tradition, with Victorian-styled prose that explores the familiar dichotomies pertinent to literature of that era: city versus rural, genteel versus peasant, fact versus fiction, real versus imagined. Unfortunately, the effect it produces on the reader is also one of dichotomy: at times carrying off a fantastic atmosphere and convincing narrative voice, and in other instances, losing its way and falling short of the mark of true catharsis…
HABIT by Stephan McGeah
Sometimes the change in tone, in storyline, of a novel can be so unexpected, so jarring, that the reader feels completely derailed. It’s as if you’re on your way somewhere expected, you’re enjoying the travel and the view, when all of a sudden there’s an almighty crash, the ground is suddenly the sky and people are screaming…
THE BEGINNING OF THE END by Ian Parkinson
There’s a problem that faces authors trying to write characters with a mental illness. Being inside the head of someone with a psychological condition doesn’t necessarily make for an interesting experience for the reader…
THE LONG GAZE BACK by Sinead Gleeson
No place I have ever visited celebrates the authors it has produced with quite somuch gusto as Ireland. The English habit is to adduce Wordsworth and Shakespearewith the same smugness with which you then profess never to have read them, while in the U.S. the title of any major novel is rarely mentioned without being followed by the words “they made a movie out of it with”…
THE TREES by Ali Shaw
It is often hard for an author to bring something new to an already overworked, packed genre like the post apocalyptic realm. Ali Shaw not only delivers, he has crafted himself his own sub-genre. Skillfully extracting elements from familiar territories and weaving them together into a colourful tapestry with mastery; he has created the quite stunning and aptly titled ‘The Trees’…
DODGE AND BURN by Seraphina Madsen
This book is a beautifully crafted psychedelic road trip written by debut novelist Seraphina Madsen, published by the independent UK Publishing company DoDo Ink. Dodge and Burn crosses many genres and is reminiscent of the crazy heights of the late great Hunter S Thompson’s ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, mixed with the strong female sass of a Sigourney Weaver from ‘Aliens’ and the dark fairy tale storytelling found in the great Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’…
STORGY SHORT STORY PRIZE ANTHOLOGY – VOLUME II
Cover design by Rob Pearce.
The STORGY Short Story Competition Anthology – Volume II celebrates the continued resurgence of the short story genre and showcases some of the most talented up-and-coming authors from across the world. This outstanding collection features all fourteen finalists and competitions winners, as judged by critically-acclaimed author Paul McVeigh. These wonderfully diverse short stories will move, amuse, unsettle, and entertain, combining to create the most eclectic collection available online.
This collection features the works of fourteen writers from across the world, whose short stories span across genres, ranging from drama to science fiction, fantasy, comedy, horror and romance. The writers published in the STORGY SHORT STORY ANTHOLOGY (vol.2) come from all walks of life, from actors to academics, to insurance brokers and netball players, and each offers a unique short story which is guaranteed to make you laugh, cry, or vomit.
Jessica Bonder – ‘Not Today’
Gina Challen –
‘The Broom Maker’
Krishan Coupland – ‘Three Second Memory’
Alistair Daniel –
Mark Dixon –
‘Inside the Machine’
Sarah Evans –
Sarah Hahn –
‘My Co-pilot Jessica Tandy’
Benjamin Johncock –
‘By the third time Gramps showed up he’d been dead a month and it didn’t seem like such a big deal.’
Arkadiusz Kwapiszewski – ‘Frankly Reconstructed’
Tamsin Macdonald – ‘B Below Middle C’
Alexander Paul – ‘Greenwave’
Eva Rivers –
Tom Vowler –
‘Romi and Romina’
Kat Wiliams –
‘No Better Helper’
HarlotVonCharlotte is an artist living and working in London – she graduated from the University of Plymouth in 2009 with a BA(Hons) in illustration, subsequently discovering that the years spent there were a complete waste of time. She primarily focuses on figurative illustrative artwork of the slightly odd and macabre persuasion and has also used sculpting, painting, figure drawing and graphic design to create new styles and unique works of art. She is currently experimenting with laser cut acrylic collages. She collaborates with other artists for live drawing events. Her client list ranges from corporate to personal commissions.
London based tooth fairy and monster enthusiast Amie Dearlove, works in a sweet shop by day and creates creatures by night. When not making tiny toothy jewellery Amie can be found keeping sketchbooks and live drawing with her fellow artists
Henry began exploring his artistic mind with finger painting at the age of three before graduating to drawing dinosaurs at approximately six. Not long after, teachers dictated what to paint and draw, but that didn’t last long and soon he began to draw the things within his head – despite often being reprimanded. He has produced work for theatrical productions, in addition to personal commissions. He seems to be in search for something that he’ll probably never find, but drawing helps, besides, it’s not healthy to keep such stuff locked inside.
JUDGE – PAUL MCVEIGH
Paul McVeigh’s short fiction has been published in the New Century New Writing, Rattle Tales 2 & 3 and Unbraiding the Short Story anthologies, Harrington’s Fiction Journal, Flash Flood Journal, The Stinging Fly and been commissioned by BBC Radio 4. He has read his work on BBC Radio 5, at the Belfast Book Festival, the International Conference on the Short Story in Vienna and the Cork International Short Story Festival. He represented the UK short story for The Brittish Council in Mexico this year.
He is currently working on a short story collection and his first novel; The Food Son was published by Salt Publishing and shortlisted for The Guardian’s ‘Not The Booker’ Prize, Longlisted for The Polari First Book Prize 2016, Finalist for The People’s Book Prize 2016, Shortlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award 2016, Chosen for City Reads 2016, Shortlisted for the Guardian Not the Booker prize, and ELLE Best Books of 2015.
Paul is the Co-Founder of the London Short Story Festival and Associate Director of Word Factory, The UK’s leading short story salon. He has judged numerous short story competitions and prizes and his blog on the short story receives approximately 40,000 international hits a month. He has also interviewed prize-winning and critically acclaimed authors such as George Saunders and Kevin Barry.
STORGY Short Story Prize Anthology
The STORGY Short Story Prize Anthology – Volume I – is now available on Amazon for a reduced price of only 99p.
Chris Arp – The Talk
H C Child – Doppelginger
Lucy Durneen – Noli Me Tangere
Curtis Dickerson – Acknowledge My Sacrifices
Aleksei Drakos – Between Universes
Karina Evans – Building
Sarah Evans – The Failures of Love
Rab Ferguson – Ricia
Dyane Forde – Nor’easter
Juliet Hill – Property Is Theft
Jacqueline Horrix – Yesterday Once More
Rowena Macdonald – Live Meat and Freedom
Scott Palmer – The Salesman Rings Twice
Thomas Stewart – Cremations
We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who entered the 2014 STORGY Short Story Competition. It was a truly wonderful and inspiring experience to read your short stories. Stay tuned for an announcement about our first ever STORGY Flash Fiction Competition.