Tag Archives: Douglas Thompson

Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #44

tqf44My next gestalt real-time review is of the fiction in Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #44 and it takes place in the comment stream below as and when I read each story.


ISBN (print) 978-0-9561533-8-8


Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction website.


The fiction is by Charles Wilkinson, Allen Ashley, Howard Phillips, Douglas Thompson, Ross Gresham.


My previous reviews of TQF publications: Real-Time Review of TQF #37 & Real-Time Review of TQF #39 & Real-Time Review of TQF #40 & Real-Time Review of TQF #41 & Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #43.


All my real-time reviews from 2008 are linked from HERE.


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The Ironic Fantastic

Just received my copies of the Winter issue – in two discrete aesthetic volumes – of SEIN UND WERDEN entitled THE IRONIC FANTASTIC as published by Rachel Kendall and edited by Rhys Hughes. It is really an honour for me to appear in this publication. And this represents a rare ‘outing’ for me these days, and I am very grateful to Rachel and Rhys.


Other authors included: Jason E Rolfe, Sissy Pantelis, Hannah F Lawson, Changming Yuan, Henri Jouvial, Chris Kelso, Caleb Wilson, Gaurav Monga, Kristine Ong Muslim, Douglas Thompson, Theo Travis Geller, Bob Lock, W.C. Bamberger, Nikhil Mane, Lou Antonelli, Jonette Stabbert, Ellaraine Lockie, Renuka Mahadevan, Mark Lewis, Steve Dodd, Bill West, Edwin Birch, Aliya Whiteley, Deviant Moon Tarot Deck, Dan Tannenbaum, David Rix, Terry Grimwood, Steven Pirie, Trent Walters, Adele Whittle.

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Real-Time Review of TQF #41

Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #41Silver Age Books: 29 July 2012.

This is a paperback book I have purchased.

That cover – truly stunning in the real-time life of the book I hold in my hand – is by Howard Watts (who once mentioned ‘Marmite’ to me).

All my real-time reviews are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

My previous reviews of TQF publications: Real-Time Review of TQF #37 & Real-Time Review of TQF #39 & Real-Time Review of TQF #40

CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.  There is no guarantee how long any real-time reviews will take to complete, whether it be days or years!

There is much more in TQF#41 (i.e. book reviews etc.) but, as has always been my custom with real-time reviewing, I shall only be dealing with the fiction. The authors of the stories are: Ross Gresham, Charles Wilkinson and Douglas Thompson. As ever, my aim is to identify leitmotifs from all the fiction in any one discrete publication and mould them into a gestalt.


Milo Don’t Count Coup – Ross Gresham

Pages 7 – 13

I mean, what price can you put on peace? All part of whole-universe reconciliation, and our role, Marmite’s and mine,…”

This seeming novella, at this early stage, seems to have a style to which a reader may need to acclimatise before fully enjoying and/or understanding it.  But I’m sure I’m already at least halfway there on both counts, it being a lively, prose-buzzing viewpoint from the year 4068 regarding a Universal War peace conference of Burpers, Tonies and others: mixed with ordnance (probably not ‘ordinance’ as the text has it?), officers of armies and their names (some female), tentative breakings out of non-peace with melted weapons, side-stories as opposed to backstories and a “both/and” rather than an “either/or” ethos of futuristic vision of Weird Wars and even Weirder Peaces, or so I infer so far. Milo (the narrator) and Marmite seem to be chums who are just one slant upon the angles slanting back at them of this strange conference (as well as digging a pit toilet). Very promising. Most acclimatisable. Can’t cover all its text-crisp details: and my future reviews of this novella will probably be shorter if not sweeter.  (7 Aug 12 – 11.15 am bst)

Pages 14 – 20

“Nothing in their wiring allows them to conceive of defeat.”

…which is not promising for a peace conference,  I guess – even if the eventual treaty is in wonderful verse? Meanwhile, we are given glimpses of a past battle, Marmite and I, as Burpers, against Tonies, Capos, Frogs, each force against the others… With the enticing conceit of alliances, side-alliances, friendly fire etc. rather than an all out battle that merely two forces of enmity normally conduct? Wonderfully conjured-up crazy-ordnance, robots,  ‘carpet’ of suicide spiders et al – and they even remember Custer’s last stand in the 41st Century – a comforting thought for issue 41. And a topical Olympic reference to ‘synchronised swimming’ – indeed I wonder if the peace conference itself will eventually have retrocausal effect on past battles? A beautiful image of a robot with a neck like a “swan leaning in to sip out your liver.” (7 Aug 12 – 12.45 pm bst)

Pages 20 – 31

“I didn’t hear the specific human demands — ‘Earthling’ demands — sparkling versus spring water, you know. I guess we walked out a few times over the placement of the candy dish.”

The so-called peace conference is really taking off within my reader-imaginarium: what with Marmite and I having our own alliances and enmities concerning life as well as war, music and sex, with sexually-demanding women at the conference, then who subject to whom as Burper friend or gunner or driver or member of the same music band: as moving parts in this multifaceted cyborg conference that seems, with its various wild constituents,  to spin round a sort of madcap Olympic velodrome (my conceit, not the story’s, but true nevertheless)  with all manner of weapon ‘ordnance’ with the ‘I’ of me and us and you and them embedded, yes, embedded cyborg-like amid the word to make ‘ordinance’? Wonderful stuff. Meanwhile, I sense my own backstory with a “fiancé on another world, sending confusing signals…” like whether the word should be ‘fiancée’? “Of course I was just making this shit up.”  (7 Aug 12 – 2.35 pm bst)

Page 31 – 44

“…WD-40 killed it off, just little squirts.

I had thought I was reader-enough to cope with this story. Thank goodness for the WD-40: just a squirt – and it all dawned on me… But, then again, was the peace conference just a counter in some sort of futuristic chess game where checkmate is just another coup, where honour passes not with a physical struggle (“A lot of this story, really, is the misconceptions that arise from the human form.”) but with a symbolic touch on the shoulder or the hostile pirating of music or sexual politics merging mind-and-flesh-and-metal or the winning of a pointless argument really being the act of losing it? (“‘Where’s Marmite?’ I asked. ‘My gunner.‘”) — My mind’s still frazzled but satisfied.  Concepts of “living metal“, fiction-on-fiction bribes to win out as a victorious reality, more war than peace misperceived as a beneficial force, war extrapolated into a form of music or a symbolic touch on the shoulder with a conductor’s stick during an atonal symphony concert (my conceit, not the story’s, but true nevertheless). A story with an arguable moral. But also quite amoral and mad. A reading experience I shall hardly forget, not being naturally attuned to such ‘friendly fire’ fiction, of which new genre (first named by me here?) this story, I suggest, is a prime  effective exponent: a suggestion from between the word-frazzlings my mind is currently ‘suffering’ as result of this story that has enabled me to think I have nailed it down — but only after it nailed me down first? (7 Aug 12 – 3.50 pm bst)

Oh you sweet thing
Do I what
Will I what
Oh baby you know what I like
—Big Burper.

[Marmite and I. Or Milo and I? NB: The novel ‘Milo and I’ by Antony Mann.]


Notes on the Bone – Charles Wilkinson

It was, he thought, the season when every colour had an undercoat of grey,…”

I was thinking, if I had not got into the habit of reading and reviewing TQF issues, I would surely have missed this substantive, high-quality story that would greatly appeal, should they happen to read it, to many lovers of Weird Literature and Horror Fiction: blending together, with a stylish prose worthy of such a blend, many of my favourite elements in such fiction: Aickman-like characters and scenes, the ‘knivish’ prose of Gary Fry, a blend of Corporate Ligotti (that early undercoat later becoming paint beside a decorator’s ladder and rain that rains ‘industrially’ and graveyards with ‘official’ stone tag-graffiti, or so I infer from the context), the backstreet bed-sits and house-shares, the shadowy menace of shapes and figures, the colleges and museums of jewellery-making that echo the cyborg quality of this TQF issue’s first story: causing me to think of the central figure of the boy-man character, as seen by the main protagonist, to be a sort of walking statue or spider-robot or knife-sharpener… leading, in turn, toward a conceptual usage of human bones for which I would have simply died just to get it for my recent-published book anthology containing multi-authored ‘Classical Music’ Horror Stories. This Wilkinson story seems so honed from textured mineral on the page, it is sure to ‘outlast’ me or any other reader.  In interesting contrast to the far-future Weird Wars  of the first story, yet strangely dovetailed with it in a way I can’t yet explain other than by means of that cyborg connection… and, yes, the ‘outlasting’ into such a future – as a sort of fiction-alchemised cryology? (8 Aug 12 – 2.50 pm bst)


DogBot™ – Douglas Thompson

But of course it could also talk to its friends in the sky, the drone planes. It had many friends it seemed,…”

A neat bracketing of another exciting robot chase, here around the velodrome of Messiahship and/or Holy Terrorism with the mixed motives, the mixed ends and/or means of two opposing states of eternal grace beyond suicide or friendly fire by machine and/or flesh (now both ‘both/and’ and ‘either/or’), and it takes from Wilkinson’s earlier mention of Damien Hirst a new dimension of preserved dead-animal art (with or without golden horns) and spin-painting.

An intense gestalt experience: the three stories presented in this issue of TQF. And, as an aside, I am fast becoming a Douglas Thompson fan. Only in the last few days, I real-timed, on the second page of this review here, another quite different story by him.  The inspiring disparateness of Douglas Thompson as well as of each dose of TQF fiction: culminating in some worthwhile revelation from fiction’s ever onward, sometimes frenzied robotic, sometimes human fine-artistic, attempts at cohering…with or without a squirt of WD-40. (8 Aug 12 – 6.45 pm bst)



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BOOK – The InkerMen

I’m due to start below on this page another of my gradual real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt.

And it is of BOOK – by The InkerMen (InkerMen Press 2011).

There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years.

CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.

All my real-time reviews are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

The stories in this anthology are written by Alison J. Littlewood, Nick Mazonowicz, Antony Pickthall, Obby Robinson, Derek John, Dominy Clements, Katharine Orton,  Richard W. Strachan, Douglas Thompson, Peter Griffiths, Jenny Gordon, Monica Germanà, Alex Mack, Brooke Biaz, D.P. Watt, Peter Holman.


My copy of this hardback book has a number of discrete inserts – most of which are lightly stuck in from other books. One is the title page of ‘Structuralism and Since’ by John Sturrock and has been signed by all the book’s authors. Most exciting. Intriguing. Book haunting…

As is common with all my real-time reviews, I shall not read the Preface or ‘Notes on Conspirators’ until after I’ve completed the review of the fiction.  I do sense however – with an uncommon attack of common sense – that the book’s eventual gestalt will be ‘Book’.

They’re Coming for your Eyes – by Alison J. Littlewood

The volume was bound in faded black leather, and Alice caught a peppery scent rising from it, though it was encased in the regulation plastic.”

…and here we have a library book. I remember, as a child, living for library books, like the girl here – ‘Famous Five’ books! Their protective covers, their little pockets for library cards, the paper with dates stamped all over it: (just like one of those ‘inserts’ I mentioned above). Here we range between this girl’s childhood and grown-up status, her now blind mother (to whom she reads), her boy friend, the dreams, the horror book she picks up at the library … and if I expected a cosy nostalgia for books, I was wrong: or, rather more cleverly, it’s a mixture of nostalgia and terror: a terror that it was the book that made me – and later unmade me at the tearful root of the optic fuse that one needs, in the first place, to appreciate real books that haven’t got braille ridges or electronic voices. A great opening story with something stuck inside it: an inner mental trope or numinous metaphor made literally tangible as the smelly remains of an endless summer holiday squashed between two of the pages would have been. (31 Jul 12 – 3.35 pm bst)

BOOK also provided me an ‘insert’ as a loose bookmark from an old (W.E. Johns) Biggles front-cover from my childhood. How did it know to do this?

Bed of Crimson Joy – by Nick Mazonowicz

“I thought we’d continue with the horror theme…”

‘THE BOOK’, ‘YOU’, ‘HIM’ and a ME called Catherine Boucher – but BOOK of URIZEN, BOOK of THEL or BOOK of JOB??? … this takes up Littewood’s theme of the enforced “invisible” in a new light. Unpronounceable but eventually pronounced upon.  A “Bookgroup” like some Jungian Collective  Unconsciousness?  Or a M.R. James Herbert fol de rol? A very strange mixture of the mundane and the cosmic … and the synchronicity of names. This story stands on its own, I guess, but perhaps it is also a conduit between the first story and the as yet unread third story? Only hindsight will tell. Fascinating stuff. (31 Jul 12 – 6.40 pm bst)

The Last Word in Cooking – by Antony Pickthall

He was friends with Margaret Atwood for chrissakes.”

Yes, indeed, a conduit from the ‘The Songs of Innocence and Experience’ by Blake in the previous story to ‘The Holy Sonnets’ of Donne in this one (linked independently in an academic essay here). Meanwhile, I am a sucker for fiction that starts with a carpet that possesses at least as much significance as the person standing or laid out upon it, as in this story. Leading to a Lost Book as an objective correlative of paternal and fraternal relationships, with hilarious consequences involving the ethnic family next door.  As well as carpets in fiction, I love Lost Books, too. Not a book you’ve temporarily misplaced, but genuinely, legendarily LOST: the seeking out of which book involves spiritual quests and, here, with connections (so as to save a direct spoiler before you are ready for it) to this topic on my blog concerning Robert Aickman. All books so far in BOOK seem to lead to or are concerned with invisibility not only to itself by ‘lostness’ but also surrounding the human body (book-blindness, the repercussions that the reader might draw from Blake’s ‘invisible worm’ and, again, here by culinary attrition!) — Another intriguing, engaging story. (1 Aug 12 – 2.30 pm bst)

The Sun-Dial – by Obby Robinson

Her dad was making a big deal about cooking.”

And John Donne wrote: “And all your graces no more use shall have, / Than a sun-dial in a grave:” — Now and again one comes across a perfect gem of a story that is your perfect match of the day, and this, for me, today, is it. Combining music (as well as the previous story’s Donne and cooking) with book collecting, and with synchronicity… and the skilful character portrayal in a short space and the artful observations that stay with you forever … like the keepsake of a special book.  Can you tell that I think this story is little short of a masterpiece? (The thing about sun-dials is that they tell an invisible time from the moving of shapes and of other things in the universe that out-shadow our death). “These books, it seemed to her, held things withheld, but did not themselves withhold. As she gazed up at them, and their spines formed patches of broken colour, it was as a horizon stretched before her, unclear, distant and vast, but seen for the first time.” (1 Aug 12 – 6.40 pm bst)

Le Frotteur des Livres – by Derek John

Gentlemen readers at our magificent Bibliothèque Nationale had begun to complain of the pages of certain rare and valuable volumes being glued together by, and I quote: ‘an unknown organic substance’.”

This is the ultimate hilarity concerned with books (unless the remaining – as yet unread – stories in BOOK contain something unexpected).  Ebooks (the ultimate invisible books) eat your hearts out!  But not only that, this story is stylistically brilliant, too, for those with a “fetish” for words and inserts (literal ‘inserts’ touched upon in my review’s intro above), possessing a seamless synergy, as it does, of three exquisite prose mannerisms that I, for one, have relished for most of my life: i.e. French Literary, East-European Weird and Lovecraftian Tentacular.  What more could I want?  Just further attritionally culinary ‘food for thought’ concerning the 20th Century’s wartime “bonfire of the vanities” towards a new slant on books becoming invisible… And to crown it all, it takes Blake’s aforementioned “invisible worm” in BOOK to perfect synchronous lengths! (2 Aug 12 – 1.00 pm bst)

Bête Noire – by Dominy Clements

He was a suicide.”

The author of the previous story had a fiction in Nemonymous (early in his writing career) and here the composer Dominy Clements, who also has featured in Nemonymous, I’m proud to report, gives us… a substantive and intriguing plot, with a traditional ghost story bent, where the book is a hardback ghost, as it were. And, yes, without giving too much away, it tends to sneak away into parts of the shelving, if perhaps not becoming exactly invisible. But there is a disturbing slant to this otherwise light tale of a book that reads differently on each reading: eg the first reading of the book giving elation, the second despair, without presumably (this being a real book not an ebook) having its text changed from the fixed state it’s printed in. Boxed and columned (within and below London’s St Paul’s Cathedral dome (tome?) of sublime dizzying height from the whispering gallery), that dark side becomes relentless as you, inter alia, wonder by reading Clements’ story again it would cease to be quite so light on the surface and become even more disturbing underneath as you look down at the dizzying spaces between the words…  Claustro- and acro-phobia, in seamless, if increasingly anxious, synergy.  Immaculate prose. (2 Aug 12 – 2.30 pm bst)

Curiosity Blog or A Study of the Worst Book Ever Written – by Katharine Orton

“–living in Sidcup with a housewife and their two obligatory kids in a lower middle-class neighbourhood filled with beige.”

Well, hilarity comes in many forms, and we explore its spectrum again from ‘maniacally disturbing’ to ‘hysterically funny’ with this story told by the ‘personal notes’ of a blog-keeper dealing with a book that is the brother or sister of the book in the previous story. There are genuine frightening moments in it and an effective satire of the obsessive use of the internet to further one’s writing career etc. – another dizzying drop above the nothingness between the uncarpeted floorboards of what I call the Nemonymous Night (that I fear paranoiacally may be the real target book of this story!) – a dizzying drop like that viewed from the inner dome or tome of St Paul’s in the previous story. The acro- and claustro- of creativity. Genuinely cosmic — genuinely creepy with another hardback ghost and the ghost of its author — genuinely able to make me LOL and cringe. To combine those feelings is no mean feat. Here a book’s own imposed invisibility as its biggest gift – or weapon? (3 Aug 12 – 10.05 am bst)

On the Whole a Pretty Good Story – by Richard  W. Strachan

I was not even allowed to cannibalise these failed stories…”

A clever fictional essay upon the obsession of creative writing to make one’s mark in life, a feeling echoing that in the previous story, but here it is the writer’s father who has the vicarious obsession…  Again the perceived book being written or already written — a novel with, for me, constructively naive Henri Rousseau-like recurring images — becomes tantamount to invisible, but here it is in the hindsight of narrative pecking orders. More food for thought. (3 Aug 12 – 11.25 am bst)



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Real-Time Review of TQF #37

I’m due shortly to start below on this page another of my gradual real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt.

And it is of the fiction stories in ‘Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #37’ – Silver Age Books: July 2011. This is a book I have purchased.

There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years. Indeed, this is said with the knowledge that a busy Season is afoot and many people have calls upon my time. So I do not wish any of you interested in this review to keep returning to this page and finding nothing added. However, I do not know how to resolve this problem ….

CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.

All my real-time reviews are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

There is much more in this book (i.e. book reviews etc.) but, as has always been my custom with real-time reviewing (e.g. of various issues of ‘Black Static’ etc.), I shall only be dealing with the fiction. The authors of the stories are: Douglas Thompson, Mike Sweeney, Rafe McGregor, Ben Kendall-Carpenter, Alex Smith, Skadi meic Beorh, David Tallerman, Chris Roper.


Apoidroids – by Douglas Thompson

“Suddenly the occasional cactus started to look like the soft option.”

A story that appeals to my interest in the hive- or swarm-consciousness – intriguingly less a version of Jungianism to which insects and other bugs might be subject than a “conferring by WiFi” – interlacing the virtuous-circular eco-sustainability of our planet, robotics, cut-throat business, satire (Steve Dobs and Bill Yates!), politics, and, for me, an implicit view of economics not irrelevant to today’s ‘default’ debates in USA and the Eurozone. It is SF-crisply written as well as with a satisfyingly textured prose – including stream-of-consciousness (aptly!) as well as direct narration. I enjoyed the ending – an ingenious comparison of insects as thoughts – but the final pay-off I will not spoil here.  (26 Jul 11)

Make It Sacred – by Mike Sweeney

“The old man placed his head in his hands. Tears weren’t far away. / ‘I know, I know,’ he whispered. ‘It’s time for me to go.'”

This story is one with traction, with difficulty (in a positive sense), a gradually emerging meaning, an invitation to re-read.  Yet, I sense I have it already somewhere inside. Vonda McIntyre, Kazuo Ishiguro?  Fruit-stoners like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Rich man, Poor man, Beggar man, Thief – here Physician, Judge, Armourer, Artist, Facilitator, Writer &c. – telling of young mother Shimako’s work in the Bunker of a sexual or role-playing nature, and a  most amazing concept of ventilation-shafts or slits that have varying degrees of darkness, some serpentine: which bring us to the last three devastating sentences of the whole story … a story that is its own Platonic Cave. Something that,  with recent events in the news, we all need to read, I guess. Or re-read? To make things sacred again. If one can see through all the mixed intentions and complexities of life that we all have to negotiate as if in “the reptile house at the zoo.” —  “can you be of the thing and not be the thing itself?” — “…wiped an imaginary something from his eyes.” — “…that would make a Microsoft executive blush.” — “Peace that’s where the real money is. That’s when everyone buys their weapons. We need peace.” (26 Jul 11 – three hours later)

The Last Testament – by Rafe McGregor

“…a cloud of flies and other insects milling around the rotting flesh and fur.”

But not only this book’s erstwhile swarm- or hive-consciousness – this “Boy’s Own” yarn (amid a military campaign in 1874 in Assam, Lucknow? I’m not a history-detail expert!) is from the point of view of one of the soldiers and is, for me, an enjoyable Lovecraftian skirmish among tribes and with the Crawling Chaos hive-consciousness here in well-described physical form  – ‘experienced’ within another form of the Platonic Cave or Bunker or Snakepit? – and the story’s closure will remain unknown as far as this review is concerned “Because I have a sacred trust.” (27 Jul 11)

Curios – by Ben Kendall-Carpenter

“…where each reading sees new and sometimes distinctly inappropriate rhymes -“

A perfect gem of a vignette, listing an enticing collection of curios with (just up my street) a hilarious take upon the nature of identity itself.  It even has a homing miasma! (Cf: the swarm-consciousness). (27 Jul 11 – thirty minutes later)

The Model of a Boy – by Alex Smith

“I was only myself as I looked and behaved from moment to moment, and I was allowed to be whoever that was.”

And the ending of the previous story resonates with the beginning of this one – and of its end – by dint of this skirmish with ‘identity’ and its collections of curios (a spurious number of them) – a collection-with-a-personal-history kept in moist-aired Hotel Reynolds beside a lake. One such curio is a model of Huckleberry Finn whose life, I recall, intriguingly parallels the father-and-son mis-synergy here, including, at the end, the lake as if it were a mighty river of escape. For me, this is a very atmospheric, Aickman-like fiction – and I can give it no greater compliment. There is a lot of mature thoughtfulness to this story that I cannot cover here and many a frisson of both character and incident. Meanwhile, it’s infested (almost unnoticeably) with “insects”, “mosquitoes“, “bugs” and one “night moth“.  But no “gnats“, albeit they are mentioned. (27 Jul 11 – another 3 hours later)

Harrowing of the Barrow – by Skadi meic Beorh

“…for an intrepid gloom moved with a personality of its own…”

This is an inspiring mythic Druidic story, one that is as if the father-son relationship in the previous story is interpreted by an Irish Robert E. Howard.  It is tractable music rather than fiction, echoing itself as well as the foregoing context in this book: “Here, sir, is where you are.” — “See how the earth beneath us rolls ever so cunningly, as if it were ocean waves?” Tides swarm as well as ebb and flow? — “creeping silence” — “self-wrought fools” — “He slid into the gore beneath him…” — “Hear, then, the yarn of a lost man.” Another last testament or statement of proffered truth? — “skirmishes were a rare thing, indeed…” –“the return of the White Serpent King…” “I was deep inside a warm cave…” — This is a haunting story, too, of the ‘Androcles and the Lion’ legend, echoing thecrucified tigerearlier in this book.

“Small thorns cause great pus”. (27 Jul 11 – another 2 hours later)

Devilry at the Hanging Tree Inn – by David Tallerman

“The inn grew more dilapidated with each passing year, and featured on only the most pedantically drawn maps.”

I laughed out loud when reading that sentence. This is an engaging fairy story of pent-up monstrousness with the air of a fable-and-a-moral – and, if the previous story was a variant of the classic Jack and the Giant, this is Jack and the Devil, the latter out of the fire into the shape of Jack’s back-clinging ‘Old Man of the Sea’, via cockerel fat. Well, you’ll see what I mean when you read it!  I enjoyed it. [If there is a running theme in this book’s fiction so far, it’s of the often misinterpreted interface of age with youth, wisdom with quick instinct. Life’s quick instinct or considered wisdom are not however the sole possession of any one age or any one temperament since they are carried by many items-of-osmosis around and through us all; they don’t necessarily lie within us; they need absorbing, processing, then releasing and given due consensual dissemination when sunk within the cavernous labyrinth of the Collective Unconscious. Consensual dissemination or “…casting blows like rice strewn at a wedding.”  No easy process.] (27 Jul 11 – another 2 hours later)

The Watchman – by Chris Roper

The man stared for a long time at the seascape, trying hard to get a feel for its motion, understand its idiosyncracies. They’d trained him to study the water, to build a rapport with the pattern of the waves.”

Bravo! That sort of sums things up for me. This is a powerfully written story of a lone gunman (or believes himself to be alone despite helpers in various Beacons controlling from a distance and also firing guns) trained to be Watchman for monstrous things that come out of the sea. And you must read this story – as I will not give you even a hint of what these things are like and how one of them carries its young etc.  He is underpinned by a reported situation with his father in the past. You see how everything potentially fits? You may disagree when you come to read this incredible set of stories. Each separately satisfying, yet as a gestalt: extremely powerful. [This book’s copyright page indicates it was published on 4 July 2011. I am reviewing it today: 27 July 2011.  Much has happened in the world in the interim.  This designated Watchman – what did he see? What did he imagine threatening him and the world? “The man watched with casual indifference as the waves gently eddied around their limp, lifeless forms.”]  One of those monstrous things had a mothering-lair or ‘cave’ or Bunker (my expressions, not the story’s) in a dune: “The hissing of the grains grew louder as the sand spilled…”  You see it all fits Between each “caffeine buzz”. (27 Jul 11 – another two hours later)



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