I can honestly say this kind of an anthology is truly intriguing to read. First of all, the short story in its own right, deserves a much more significant position in modern society, as its brevity imitates life as we know it. Naturally, this task is a huge challenge for any author, as the reader must be taken to new and unexpected places with fewer words. Twisted Tales's authors have prepared for the readers a rich buffet of delicacies to taste, and it is up to the readers to enjoy something new and different; and possibly acquire for a taste forcompletely new authors. I know I have. Congrats to all authors tackling the short story - it is a small piece of literary art, but only small in word count.
Story 1: A Man Walks out of a Bar by Julie Mayerson Brown
I loved the title. An interesting assumption by author J. M. Brown, about seduction and deception, and an intriguing decision to tell it from the viewpoint of the husband. Not a punishment everyone might wish for an adulterer, but certainly one that made me giggle with a certain sense of justification.
Story 3: Old Habits by Elizabeth Horton-Newton
Scary beyond words! So well-written you could buy the book on its own value, not to mention the treasures of other stories. The psychology, the seemingly calm tone in narration, the rhythm in the organisation of events, the linking between past and present events, the horrifying villain and his own justification of everything he does... brutally well-created and shocking! And then the ending - painfully morbid and true! Makes you wonder what depths authors dig into to unleash their stories, all puns intended (avoiding spoilers for future readers;). If you are interested in crime, serial killers, horror - this wil be your favourite dessert tray! This one is not for the faint-hearted, I can tell you. Elizabeth Horton-Newton truly throws down the gauntlet with Gaunt for every reader. But she duly delivers a tale of a creepy, fearful man nextdoor, and her tale may give you nightmares!
Story 4: Insanitary by Robyn Cain
This is a highly unusual tale. After you have read it, it may leave you with that ugh-feeling of shock at the very end (due to events, not the writing). The disbelief, dismay, and not so much fear as disgust at the unbelievable paranormal event which eventually develops from a seemingly ordinary event of walking your dog.The suspense is well-built upon throughout the story, making you wonder if you are just imagining it or if it is really there, that awful premonition of fear. The moral of the story? Follow the rules? Maybe. If you had to learn it the way this character does, it would indeed be a tough lesson to take.
Story 5: Julian:The Rise of the Prophecy by Lubna Sengul
This is a well-chosen appetizer for the fans of Sengul's fantasy, serving as a teaser into her novel. It introduces her unique syntax, with intermittent clauses following the flow of thought. The story is actually a scene where the main character deals with the eternal dilemma of princes, potential rulers, tormented between obedience and ambition.
Story 6: Karmic Odds by Mark Fine
Having already read the Zebra Affaire, I expected exquisite linguistic abundance - Mark Fine has managed to comprise a small novel into the phrasing of this short story about a man's life and marriage. Staying true to his style, he also sneaks in an important element of human history; this time it's the wall that once divided Germany. As his main character goes through all the motions after moving from East Germany to the USA, trying to adopt his new country and language, without letting go of the old, his wife doesn't. An unusual serendipity occurs, raising the eternal issue of luck or destiny, and changes his life. The author skillfully leads us to the surprising ending, and makes us chuckle slightly at the workings of karma.
Story 7: Letting Go by Michelle Medhat
I loved the psychology behind this story. As the past comes to haunt the two protagonists, the author shows that past mistakes sometimes should remain in the past, because the evil causing them was pure malice, not caused by mistake. There is an interesting twist in the story as the victim turns into predator. The brief moment when the lady recognizes traces of her original violator in the new one is masterfully entwined in the tale.
Story 8: Prime Meridian by Geoff Nelder
On the basis of recommendation, I expected to read a witty, intelligent and quirky approach to a semi-scientific topic, with a uniquely mundane touch. I was delighted to revel in exactly that. Whatever I say about the contents of this story would be a shameful spoiler, so I will try to skip that. Just let me say old houses are never what they seem. I did sort of guess the ending half way, but still relished at reading about it, perhaps even more so. This is a delightful turn on science and pseudo-science (even relugion), and the greatest science-fiction of all - the human mind. My hat off to the author - I will be reading more of his work in the future!
Story 9: The Agent by Alex Shaw
Splendid action writing! The story thoroughly reads like a thriller action movie, with firm and steady syntax, clearly set characters, engaging plot and a great ending. This is the first story I've read by Alex Shaw, but clearly won't be the last. I particularly enjoyed the depiction of the sleezy BC character, all his brutality, narrow-mindedness and biggotry displayed through speech, thought and action. A very fast-paced read for any thriller fan!
Story 10: Skully by C. A. Sanders
This story is yet another proof of how games imitate life, or even create it, balancing between the right and the wrong and the shades of grey. As the author talks about boys playing a game of skully, with your everyday bullies, followers, onlookers, crybabies and weirdos, you can easily picture them all as the adults they will grow up into. What I like about the story is that it simply shows, without any preaching, how kids tell the difference between right and wrong, loyalty and greed, even when faced with surreal adversity. Another thing I loved is the pleasant consistency in the author's 'writing voice'- you practically read the story in such a way that you can hear a voice narrating it in your head. I find that to be a rare quality in writing, which only adds to my joy of reading.
Story 11: The 13th Sign by Jean Gill
Such an unusual dip into the parallel universe by author Jean Gill, with Zodiac signs as 'live' characters fighting to keep the 13th sign from obtaining his rights! Abundant in detail, as if a fantasy novel was comprised into a story. The telling is rich with wit and play on words, and a perky tone, despite the mention of beasts and cliffhanger ending! I'd love to read this as a fully-fledged novel, knowing from previous experience how well the author defines characters and settings.
Story 12: The Burglar by Glen Barrera
Let me admit I half-chuckled at and half-pitied the burglar in this story, as well as his collateral victim (avoiding spoilers here)! The author tells a witty story about a man who will not have his lazy daily routine spoiled by actually looking for work, and when faced with divorce and having to earn for a living, he decides to burgle an old woman's house. As ridiculous as his logic is, so is his bungled and botched burglary, resulting in a punishment well-deserved and yet awful. I admire the way the author managed to stay in the burglar's head the entire time, as he is not really the kind of person one can relate to. What a silly, unfortunate man Harold is, and all thanks to his own ridiculous self!
Story 13: Margarita Mix by Joseph Mark Brewer
J. M. Brewer spins a seemingly simple tale of a young man who has decided to change his life. His plan only has a few steps, and is not highly ambitious, but he stumbles upon and o stacle and failure at the very first step, in the romance department, after taking things for granted. Even the best laid-out plans have means of going wrong. Still, he doesn't stop; he adapts and somehow lets his intuition, and memories of his father's last words, lead the way, even changing his final destination. Burning bridges can sometimes seem liberating. Whether it is or not, only time can tell. My favourite part of the story was not the main character, nor the plot or the message - what I loved was the author's rich, unencumbered, flowing style of narration. I haven't yet read any of this author's Shig Sato mysteries, but his style certainly makes me curious about reading more.
Story 14: Weather the Storm by Neil Newton
Having read Railroad, N. Newton's first novel, and really enjoying it, I was curious to see what he would do with a short story. Although completely different in topic and approach, there is a recognizable pen-stroke in the curious use of language, and the slow yet consuming way the author develops his character and plot. I admire the way he displays the inner world of a genius in his own field of expertize, linguistics, a man balancing the thin line of a huge discovery and bordering on madness, due to a brain tumour; the arrogance, the smugness, the awareness of both due to being bullied as a child, the knit-picking, overthinking analysi g of everything and everyone. And somehow, despite my own interest in linguistics and the curiosity dialects arise, the reader is gently reminded, from time to time, that all this hugely important stuff will not make a huge difference to the world as we know it. When the story took a sort of a SF turn towards the end, it reminded me of a line spoken by ObiWan in Star Wars - 'there's always a bigger fish'. It is funny and somewhat ironical when, eventually, the genius hopes he is not a puppet in the whole scheme of things, and yet gets beckoned by a higher being. Intriguing tale indeed!
Story 15: The Night Passengers by Charlie Flowers & Hannah Haq
A seemingly mellow story, about a mundane meeting of two people in a train, touches, quite inobtrusively, upon the hot topics of current world affairs - the western and eastern culture, customs and religion clashing. As ambitious as it sounds, the authors never push this or press the matter in any way. They simply depict the scene, guided by their main characters - a young woman and man, through immaculate dialogue (wonderful speech patterns and a flowing read), having created believable and living characters, and let human prejudice and habitual thinking do the rest. And wonderfully enough, despite all initial misconceptions and superficial comments, the conversation steers itself into kind and respectful waters, thanks to the characters being open-minded and willing to communicate. I enjoyed the simplicity of talking about complicated things, and the simplicity in the solution it offers - if we are willing to understand each other, we do.
From the Inside Flap
- Hashtag #RCAP
I had to shut outthe world to finish editing this short story collection.
Banged on mydoor.
My kidnappers hadtaken me down to the cellar with a copy of the book.
I read it againand again, and over again...
It made mytorture and captivity so bearable that I was annoyed when the Marines rescuedme.
Readers Circle ofAvenue Park
P.S. TwistedTales is mixed-fruit jam for the soul. Laugh, cry, dwell deep and sigh. Enjoy!
*Notefrom the assistant to the assistant to The Editor-in-Chief, "Alas, our esteemedE-in-C has gone into hiding with a dog-eared copy of Twisted Tales; as such his(or her) identity remains a secret. Only splendid reviews from readers like youmight bring him (or her) back into the sunlight..."