Book Review – This is How You Disappear by Allen Miles

Allen Miles doesn’t fuck about. Jeezuz. I think he either hates his characters or loves them a wee bit too much.

Sadistically, he drops his characters into the brown stuff and invites all his mates round to watch then swim. Not to mock, not to judge just to observe. Maybe have a wee smoke or a beer and take in the mayhem.

It’s only as the reader staggers through the ragged-edged corridors of each story that it slowly becomes apparent that Miles has issues. The scenes unfolding, the dirty-filthy, wonderful emotions his characters have to suffer and the sheer hardship they endure are excruciating at times. What makes me worry about this Miles laddie though is how he gets the reader smirking when they know they shouldn’t and places you firmly on his characters side rather than laughing darkly at them, from beyond the fourth wall. My granny would describe the boy as ‘Just no’ right, son’. Miles lays bare each and every one of his neurosis for us to see in this collection, at least in my head he does. Simply because it’s much safer to assume the laddie’s ‘no’ right’ than to accept that he’s just this good.

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Allen Miles and his books (and neuroses) can be found at Amazon, UK and US

Book Review – Baron Catastrophe and The King of The Jackals by Ryan Bracha

I hate short stories, I mean I really hate them. Short stories are the literary equivalent of a premature ejaculation. They get you invested very quickly in a good time and ‘splat’….it’s over….Frustration, dirty looks and snoring. Unanswered questions, half-formed plots and uninspiring characters are the order of the day.

Not so in Bracha’s wee world. In Baron Catastrophe and The King of Jackals, Ryan gives us fully-formed and complex characters in just a few pages filled with well-chosen words. I’ve read 800 page novels with less interesting characters.

The people who populate the pages of this short story somehow develop in the miserable little fragment of time that Ryan affords us with them. He’s a selfish man in this regard. A more tight-fisted-bastard-wordsmith you’ll never read. But it works.

The Baron, an Asperger’s suffering, self-harmer trapped in an OCD world of musts and have-tos is perfectly presented. The sentence structure that the author uses to convey his man’s stop/start, itchy frame of mind is skillful and hugely effective. The filthy, sad, brilliant wee creep had me at an itchy hello.

The story’s other main character, a sausage-handling sandwich vendor also left me wanting more.. Sandwich man should have been detestable, he’s potentially awful, but like John Niven does with his creation Steven Stelfox, Bracha has you laughing along with him despite knowing you shouldn’t. Christ, I’d have a sandwich in his shop, nae’ bother.

Short on words this volume may be but each and every word utilised shapes two awkwardly brilliant characters and moves the story at pace to where you didn’t want it, but needed it to go; a sickly satisfying ending.

Did I want more? Yes. Did I need more? No.

You can buy Baron Catastrophe and The King of The Jackals here now.

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