Just afore I go….

… I thought I’d let you have my thoughts on the book that I am currently reading for review – Steve Duffy’s Tragic Life Stories, published by the good people at Ash-Tree Press. A preview, if you like. Admittedly I have only read the title tale, the first one in the book, but in all honesty, if this is representative of the other eight stories in this collection then I am definitely in for a treat.

The story revolves around a simple conceit; the eidetic image, or the creation thereof. It posits the idea that this is where some writers derive their strongest imagery; that they can, in effect, imagine things so completely in their minds that, to all intents and purposes, they feel like they’re actually ‘there’. Dan, our hapless protagonist, has this ability, and this is central to the story. He’s lost his wife, he’s lost that all important seven-book deal that’s been keeping him going (and on the bookshelves in shops) and now he’s slowly losing hope. Until, that is, he meets Molly, a misery-lit loving divorcee who seems very intent on him, in every way. Maybe, just maybe, he can put that eidetic ability to good use here…..

One of the great things about Duffy’s writing is that it brings you in to the world of the main characters – you can empathise with everything that they’re thinking and feeling. You get caught up in Dan’s misery as the bad luck piles up around him, but simultaneously we feel that rush of hopeful excitement when he realises that things could be getting better now that the prospect of Molly is on the horizon. But this is a Duffy tale. Nothing is ever as simple or straightforward as that…..

Steve’s writing enables us to get into the inner workings of the character, to see just how fragile the mind really is. That the mind can, indeed, turn on a sixpence – going from despair to hope and back again in the space of a single sentence. Creating empathy in the reader is one of the most important skills a writer can have, and, judging from just this one example of Steve’s work, he has it in copious amounts. There’s a quiet intensity about the way Dan gets caught up in everything, an intensity that leaps off the page and grabs on tightly to us. When Dan is gripped by happiness, so are we; and when he feels dread and horror, we follow suit. Sterling stuff, indeed, and a great portent of what is to come.

Look out for the full review at the Bookgeeks website (bookgeeks.co.uk) very soon.


This’ll be one of the last blogs I post for a few days (until late Sunday or Monday), as I will be in Nottingham living it large at FantasyCon 2010 with those writery-and some bloggery-types. Looking forward to good friends, good conversation, good food (mostly curries it seems) and good drink. All of which adds up to good times.

Sadly, the one thing I was looking forward to, meeting up with Steve Duffy himself, won’t be happening, as he is unable to attend FCon for various reasons. So, in effect, this tiny review is by way of recompense.

But then, I guess it means that there’ll be more beer for us….  =)


3 Responses to “Just afore I go….”


    This is one set of stories, each one of which is as different from the Jamesian ghost stories as possible, and yet they stand proudly taller than the stuff strewn across most of the horror anthologies and magazines. They deal with the human feelings only, and show us: how fear stalks us in the simplest possible disguise, in every aspect of life. My personal favourite was: “Certain Death For A Known Person”, what is yours?

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