Four banging stories that stood out in June and one novel recommendation for you.
A Thousand Acres of English Soil by Benjamin Myers (from the collection, Male Tears, pub. Bloomsbury Circus, 2021) is a tale made chilling by its inevitability. The prose is so evocative that I could almost smell the earth under the characters’ feet.
Opening sentence: “The hare is on its haunches and sniffing the air when the man enters the middle field.”
Another from Male Tears by Myers: Bomber is quintessentially masculine, delightful and tragic.
Opening sentence: “That final night Bomber had an argument with Karen in the pub. It was very vocal and involved much waving of limbs and waggling of digits, mainly on her part.”
Fairy Tale by J S Breukelaar (from the collection, Collision, pub. Meerkat Press, 2019). The characters in this collection are often battered; the masterfully written stories, dark yet philosophical. Fairy Tale is one such story, focussing on a war veteran suffering from PTSD.
Opening sentences: “Spring came late that year. I had just finished planting the cherry tree in the yard when I heard the grind of a skateboard out on Route 90, the thuckathuck of tiny wheels up the driveway.”
A note on the publisher: Meerkat Press are now becoming one of my go-to publishers for thought-provoking work.
Call Out by Steve Toase (from the collection, To Drown in Dark Water, pub Undertow Publications, 2021). A simple, short horror story set in rural north of England that deftly shows the eternal battle between faith and superstition. A great opening to an impressive debut collection.
Opening sentence: “Opening the field gate, Malcom sensed something born wrong sheltered in the old cattle shed.”
Foe by Iain Reid, (pub. Simon & Schuster, 2018). Interesting read, this one. I swung between feeling uneasy to frustrated to fully creeped out each time I picked this book up. It’s a dialogue-packed, quick-flowing novel with a slightly irritating protagonist, a disturbing villain, and a satisfying conclusion.
Opening sentences: “Two headlights. I awake to the sight of them.”
(image credit: John Willie)