Category Archives: Short story

Home Ground

Home Ground is a short, but necessary, story. Alan Gibbons has written this for Barrington Stoke, and like most of his books it is very much a book for boys.

Alan Gibbons and Chris Chalik, Home Ground

It’s got football at its heart, and would appeal to all football fans out there. And the other thing that matters is friendship. Fairness. Understanding that not everyone is the same, but that we are equal in our own way, and that we all matter.

Even refugees. Some of the boys in this story don’t like outsiders, or change. Not even if it helps their team win. Or at least, not come last.

So here is a story that shows the reader why people are the way they are, and how it can be good for everyone to include newcomers, who might look and speak different. But they’re all football players.

Alan has included short pieces on refugees, what they are, and why. He mentions what might have happened to them before they came here, and what their lives can be like. This could seem too obvious, but for the target readers in this case – boys between eight and twelve – it may well be necessary. There is also some information on famous, refugee, footballers.

I hope this book will both entertain and inform, and change.

(Illustrations by Chris Chalik)

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Iceland noir, with some colour

To get in the mood for Iceland I reread Ævar Þór Benediktsson’s short story about the librarian who finds her library empty of books one morning. And who then drops her Moomin mug.

No, I didn’t go to Iceland. Daughter did. (It was ‘on her way’ back from Baltimore…) And no, there has been no dropping of Moomin mugs at all. But I gather Reykjavik had all sorts of lovely things a person could buy. Including a shop window full of every colour Kånken backpack. (She gave me one for Christmas, so no need to shop for more. The backpack; not the shop window.)

Kånken

She did go to the library, though. They had an exhibition of photographs on, which to her surprise they charged for. Must be in case more Moomin mugs drop. She got her zeroes a bit wrong, too, having recently exposed herself to the Chilean peso, where it was quite reasonable to pay 15,000 for lunch. (I think, anyway.) 1000 krona in the library, however, was more than expected.

The day after Daughter’s arrival in Reykjavik, I noticed BBC Four had the new season of Icelandic noir Trapped on. I wasn’t entirely sure it was wise to watch the horrendous things that might happen in Iceland, but we did anyway. Seems the Resident IT Consultant had watched season one, while I hadn’t. I’d forgotten this.

It’s grim. I suppose if the weather was sunny, the noir would kind of fail, so maybe the grey drizzly surroundings are to be expected. I find the people – the fictional characters – unlikeable. I went to school with that girl. Didn’t like her then. Don’t like her now. The men are all the same as those who sit on Swedish park benches with a carrier bag next to them. And don’t drink the water in the stream, whatever you do!

The lit up town at night is pretty, though. And I almost understand some of what they say.

On a Cold Winter’s Night

It’s that time of year, again, when proud dad Declan Burke shares his daughter Lily’s Christmas short story with the rest of the world.

Those of you with really good memories, will recall what I wrote about Lily last December. If not, you just follow the link, and the link there-in, and so forth. It’s good to feel good right now, about how we might have new authors to be excited about some time in the future.

This year’s story is called On a Cold Winter’s Night, and Lily very kindly sent it to me to read:

‘Kate sank down into the squashy armchair in the living room, having just had dinner. She had eaten in silence, staring into space. This is what she did most days, since May the 4th, 1998, when Paddy had his terrible accident. Kate shivered. She went to…’ (continued on Crime Always Pays)

Lily is ten. I’m guessing her parents will force her to finish her education before she gets to write novels full time, but I am hopeful.

Wishing you a ‘God fortsättning!’ as we say in Sweden.

Killing me

I don’t know if you noticed me mentioning Fleshmarket Close last week, and how I avoided walking down it with Helen Grant? It pays to be careful around someone like her. Helen likes horror, and kills quite a few people – characters – in her writing.

Some time last year, I think, I might have moaned a bit on social media. I wasn’t bad, but Helen must have thought I felt worse than I did. Which was kind of her. To notice, I mean. And she then asked if I’d ‘feel better’ if she put me in the short story she was writing just then. Which was kind of her.

Not one to turn down an opportunity to feature in fiction, I agreed. Helen made it quite clear I wasn’t going to survive.

Rosemary Pardoe, A Ghosts & Scholars Book of Folk Horror

Well, last week Helen handed me my own copy of the anthology where her story is published. It’s called A Ghosts & Scholars Book of Folk Horror, edited by Rosemary Pardoe. That’s why I felt that avoiding dangerous-sounding narrow alleys in the dark might be at least a little sensible. Just in case.

There are many more stories in this anthology, but I dived straight in to read ‘mine’ first. And I feel it needs to be mentioned separately.

The Valley of Achor is of course not about me. It is far more about Helen herself, or someone like her. Someone who likes old ruins and who doesn’t mind crawling about in the cold and the mist, actually touching ancient stones and other weird things.

The only thing I’m sure about is that I have stayed in the B&B where ‘I’ stay in the story. Minus the whisky, of course.

And just like you should never walk up those deserted stairs in that haunted house when you’ve heard an odd sound in the night, then I’d not have…

Oh. No.

Death on the Edge

It was lovely to be offered a short story by Sara Paretsky last week, as we wait impatiently for her new novel Shell Game which will be out in four weeks’ time.

Death on the Edge features V I Warshawski back in her childhood neighbourhood, sorting out a fatal dispute with a school background, under the critical eye of her former boyfriend Conrad.

It’s a story that has all that you expect of a V I story, except that it is shorter.

Aimed at the American market (or did the rest of us just get forgotten?) it’s not entirely easy to buy this short e-story. But I set the Resident IT Consultant to work, and after masquerading as his younger brother for ten minutes, the story was in my possession.

Sara Paretsky, Death on the Edge

My Father as an Ant & Other Stories

What a treasure to discover! Diana Hendry, who writes children’s fiction, and also poetry, gave me this collection of some of her adult short stories when we met last month. I took the relatively small volume with me on holiday, and I am so glad I did.

Diana Hendry, My Father as an Ant & Other Stories

The stories are mostly low-key observations on what people are like, with a beautiful retro feel to them and some wonderful humour. Except, I don’t believe they are retro, but were written quite some time ago, in some instances, and might refer further back to what was old when Diana wrote them. It’s like finding a time capsule!

Although presented as a mix, some of the stories are clearly about the same people, at slightly different times of their lives. Many are set on the Wirral or in Liverpool, and are so much the better for it. Several of the stories feature a young girl, through whose eyes we see the ‘drama’ develop, reporting on what she sees and hears, without necessarily understanding what is really going on.

Others are about people perhaps regretting how their lives turned out, or enjoying a dramatic change in circumstance. There is even a slightly James Bond-y sort of tale which made me laugh. The stories are about family, sibling rivalry, marriage, death, friendship.

And what made me so happy was the return to a time I didn’t actually know, but where I felt comfortable to travel. I can’t recommend this collection highly enough!

Finding Matt

I was getting rid of more books the other evening. After weeks of staring at flats for sale online, and admiring how nearly all of the owners have managed to prune their belongings to a ridiculous extent for the estate agent’s photographer, I felt that I would quite like my home to look as though it was for sale. Even when it isn’t. The empty surfaces appealed to me.

Hence the books facing the chop. Some were easy and some were keepers. And then there was one, which I didn’t immediately recognise from the spine, so pulled it out to look at. It turned out to be a short story collection from almost five years ago. Written by already authors as well as hopefuls, with a connection to MMU’s writing school, I remembered them sending me the anthology. I kept it because it looked good, and then I moved house and it sort of disappeared, until I found it this week.

And that was a good thing. Had it been much earlier, the name Matt Killeen would not have meant anything to me. (If you look back to the beginning of this week, you’ll see his debut novel reviewed by your Bookwitch.) I had seen in the press release that he was an MMU alumnus. And here he was, hiding in ‘the gym’ which is where my intermediate reading material rests.

Timelines (MMU)

In Lucky Hits the Skin, we meet a young drummer boy in the army, during the [I think] Napoleonic wars. It’s short, but those ten pages are at least as good as the WWII novel Orphan Monster Spy. It’s nice to see that so many of the people who enrol in the writing schools at our universities show so much promise, and that they go on to be published, and hopefully madly successful. (Liz Kessler is one of MMU’s.)

Now that it’s out of the gym, so to speak, I’ll have a go at some of the other stories, too. Coincidence is a funny thing.