Short Story Review: “The Biggest” by James Patrick Kelly

3 of 5 stars.

Equal parts American tall tale and period piece urban fantasy, this tale revisits depression era New York City in the days after an unnamed King Kong has fallen dead to the pavement below the Empire State Building. A rube from upstate with an extraordinary talent, ie superpower, makes his way to the big city to make a name for himself on the right side of the law.

The inclusion of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a character during his pre-presidential governorship at the time of his dedicating the Washington Bridge is especially nice.

The tale leaves the hero shy of a true self-exploration making it feel more like a tall tale than a superhero tale as may have been intended.

This tale appears in the anthology, Superheroes edited by Rich Horton. I’ve previously read this author’s “Someday”.
 
 
 
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Anthology Review: An Unreliable Guide to London by Influx Press

An Unreliable Guide to LondonAn Unreliable Guide to London by M. John Harrison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The flavor of a city is the combination of its neighborhoods and all the stories of the people contained within. This off-kilter collection of tales and vignettes highlights many of the peripheral neighborhoods of London. Some stories are fantastical and absurdist, while others present a realistic take on a narrower London experience. Above all, the tales show a wonderful diversity of voice doing much justice to the multi-cultural and international megalopolis that is London.

My absolute favorite tale, which I rated 5-stars, was the profoundly moving “Warm and Toasty” by Yvette Edwards. It’s a tale of hope and humanity with an eye on London’s ethnic history.

I’ve reviewed all of the component tales of the anthology. The rest are:
F., George–“Mother Black Cap’s Revenge”–4 stars
Newland, Courttia–“The Secret Life of Little Wormwood Scrubs”–4 stars
Shukla, Nikesh–“Tayyabs”–4 stars
Singh, Sunny–“In the Vauxhall Pleasure Garden”–4 stars
Thompson, Stephen–“The Arches”–4 stars
Budden, Gary–“Staples Corner”–3 stars
Burrows, Tim–“Broadgate”–3 stars
Caless, Kit–“Market Forces”–3 stars
Godden, Salena–“The Camden Blood Thieves”–3 stars
Jacques, Juliet–“Corridors of Power”–3 stars
Oyedeji, Koye–“Thy Kingdom Come”–3 stars
Rees, Gareth E.–“There is Something Very Wrong with Leyton Mills Retail Park”–3 stars
Schilz, Aki–“Beating the Bounds”–3 stars
Victoire, Stephanie–“Nightingale Lane”–3 stars
Williams, Eley–“In Pursuit of the Swan at Brentford Ait”–3 stars
Aridjis, Chloe–“N1, Centre of Illusion”–2 stars
Ewen, Paul–“Rose’s, Woolrich”–2 stars
Harrison, M. John–“Babies From Sand”–2 stars
Okojie, Irenosen–“Filamo”–2 stars
Wells, Tim–“Heavy Manners”–2 stars
Wiles, Will–“Notes on London’s Housing Crisis”–2 stars
Saro-Wiwa, Noo–“Soft on the Inside”–1 star

I received this anthology directly from Influx Press editor and contributing author, Gary Budden.

 

 

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Short Story Review: “Market Forces” by Kit Caless

3 of 5 stars.

Meals are a shared cultural practice the world over. For some, it’s the insistence on a gathered family. For others, it’s the work place rite of the 10 am coffee break. In the culturally-mixed urban centers, ethnic restaurants are often the first mingling of disparate cultures.

This curious piece is an accumulation of 5 vignettes all centering on the ethnic food market in one London neighborhood, Exmouth Market. The cultural origins of the customers and the food mix as a reflection of the neighborhood itself. It also reflects the neighborhood’s mix of residential and business.

The story is in the accumulation of the vignettes and character situations and not in any particular micro-plot of any particular character. The vignettes do not bleed over into each other.

This tale appears in the anthology An Unreliable Guide to London by Influx Press, London. I received my copy of this anthology directly from one of the contributing authors through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com.
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “There is Something Very Wrong with Leyton Mills Retail Park” by Gareth E. Rees

3 of 5 stars.

Sometimes it takes leaving to gain perspective on a place. What was known, if not mundane, can prove to be absurd verging on surreal upon revisiting what one thought one knew. Such is the case in this vignette as the author returns to the neighborhood of his first house as a newlywed. Most of the humor is observational and ironic.

I walk down a tree-lined pedestrianised street with Subway, TK Maxx, Pizza Hut and KFC on one side and a row of fake independent shops on the other, their frontages painted onto the back wall of a building. There’s a pretend shop called Your Fashion, another called Musica with a door that’s been painted ajar as if to lure you in, and a cafe called The Leyton where they’ve painted graffiti onto the pretend exterior. An entirely fabricated boutique called b’Leyton Fun has a sale on, which is great fictional news . . .

. . . Next door is a place called Livo Jazz–‘open daily from 5pm’–but they’ve painted shutters onto the painted door to show that the non-existent venue is closed. I should come back at five o’clock with a saxophone and start hammering on the fake shutters, crying, ‘Open up you fuckers!’

At the end of the row of fake shops is an alleyway full of cans and sleeping bags. The homeless here are real enough. A sign on the wall says:

Counterfeit DVD vendors are trespassing and may be prosecuted

This seems a bit rich bearing in mind the street I’ve just walked down.

This tale appears in the anthology An Unreliable Guide to London by Influx Press, London. I received my copy of this anthology directly from one of the contributing authors through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com.
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “Warm and Toasty” by Yvette Edwards

5 of 5 stars.

The best of a city is not its architecture, parks and other tourist attractions, but rather the unseen efforts of hundreds, if not thousands, of everyday people working to make the city a better place. Most of a city’s true heroes remain largely unrecognized.

This heart-warming tale shows the best of the best that a city has to offer. Phin runs the Warm and Toasty cafe serving pricey toast and hot drinks to the neighborhood yuppies. This is her post-retirement second career serving the neighborhood she grew up in. Every weekday, Phin sees the same down-and-out woman scowling through the window as she walks her hungry, preteen son to school. So, one cold day Phin invites the guarded, proud woman inside for a free cuppa.

The woman is less angry than she is in pain from her chronic sickle-cell anemia. The government doles booted her after she was unable to fulfill the job they found for her due to side effects of the disease. Not to say that she doesn’t find a cafe serving expensive toast to yuppies ludicrous.

Phin remembers going to school hungry, and her mother’s chronic pain from sickle cell. But she also knows pride. She requests Latisha’s paid assistance, daily from 7am-9am, 7 days a week. And Latisha should bring her son. She only has 2 demands:

“I thought you opened at eight?”

“I open to the public at eight, but I need you here at seven.”

“Don’t you need references or anything?”

“I just need two things; for you to be here on time, and for you not to call my customers ‘fucking yuppies’. Do you think you can do that?”

The next day, Latisha arrives ten minutes early. The door to the cafe is unlocked, and a queue of school children await at the counter . . .

This tale appears in the anthology An Unreliable Guide to London by Influx Press, London. I received my copy of this anthology directly from one of the contributing authors through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com.
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “Broadgate” by Tim Burrows

3 of 5 stars.

One can view a city as the summation of the people comprising it with their accumulated stories and histories. Take two or three diverse sample people and see how they interact to get a feel for the greater neighborhood or city. Such was the strength of Jarmusch’s indie film Night on Earth forcing interactions in the backs of taxis in LA, NYC, Paris, Rome, and Helsinki.

This vignette set in London’s eastside pairs The Banker, a white-collar, privileged married cad, with Daniela, an immigrant from Colombia who for a dozen years, still holds the city at arm’s length. Their crossing paths is sudden and realistic. Their parting is just as quick albeit left open. The cad’s reaction to the experience is dismissively on point, if ultimately dissatisfying.

This tale appears in the anthology An Unreliable Guide to London by Influx Press, London. I received my copy of this anthology directly from one of the contributing authors through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com.
 
 
 
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Short Story Review: “Tayyabs” by Nikesh Shukla

4 of 5 stars.

Restaurants provide a communal experience even if just by observation and eavesdropping rather than by direct interaction. This tale is an accumulation of 5 conversations and 1 interior dialogue in a single Pakistani restaurant in East London. The effect provides a larger glimpse at the mix of cultures in the neighborhood and a hint as to the more recent fluctuations in ethnicities. It also shows the cultural importance of food and the dining experience.

In a series of solo ventures into Tayyabs, a Pakistani restaurant, the narrator has four confounding interactions. The first is with a cocky hipster in line before him. While waiting to get seated, the guy espouses a few prejudiced beliefs and laments his inability to represent ethnics as a talent manager. The second has a wannabe lawyer and arguer misrepresent his intentions as he finagles food from the narrator’s plate. A female hipster laments the loss of authenticity of experience in her history with the restaurant in the third conversation. The fourth merely has a misinformed or paranoid woman conjecture on her skewed view of history and culture:

. . . She tells me 9/11 was an inside job. She tells me that yoga was invented by the ostro-goths. She tells me that the recent ebola epidemic was the first strike in a religious war . . .

A fifth conversation with the son of the deceased previous owner provides context to the history of the restaurant. Then the narrator has his own epiphany . . .

This tale appears in the anthology An Unreliable Guide to London by Influx Press, London. I received my copy of this anthology directly from one of the contributing authors through bookreviewdirectory.wordpress.com.
 
 
 
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