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Midnight Street #12

01/05/2009. Contributed by Gareth D Jones

Buy Midnight Street in the USA - or Buy Midnight Street in the UK

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pub: Immediate Direction Publications. 56 page A4 magazine. Price: 3.80 (UK), $11.00 (US), E6.80 (Europe), 5.50 (RoW), three times per year.

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It's been a while since the last issue of 'Midnight Street', but it's back faithfully with another fine selection of stories and some fabulous sketches by Marge Ballif Simon to accompany many of them. The magazine also has a relatively large proportion of reviews, interviews and articles to make a nicely varied publication.

'The Crows' are gathering ominously in Tony Richards' story where the news keeps on getting worse and a small countryside village doesn't provide a peaceful retirement. The story is told from the viewpoint of a retiree who just wants a quiet life and it builds up an air of unease and expectation that make it very effective.

The longest story of the magazine, David Gullen's 'The Cabaret At The World's End' is told in various strands from unusual viewpoints. Half of the story is told by a walrus and the other main viewpoint character is a bar owner overlooking the walrus' beach who is hosting a cabaret of drag queens. Reports of strange happenings filter through the beginning of the story until the menace arrives in their remote Alaskan town.

The sections told from the drag queen's viewpoint cleverly show the dichotomy between their stage personas and their real lives. It's a gripping story that unfolds rapidly into drama and tragedy.

In 'The Last Gallery', Joel Lane describes in painful detail the tedious life of a self-harmer who is looking for something more. It's a short story but atmospherically described, making for an uncomfortable tale that leaves you with a shiver.

I have a soft spot for Victorian stories and William Mitchell's 'The Turning Of The Screw' is written in suitable Conan-Doyle style, describing the bizarre and frightening in very proper, stiff-upper-lipped English. The title refers to a circus sword-swallower that draws a crowd for all the wrong reasons. Mitchell's Victorian gentleman is an enjoyable narrator for this classic story.

Marion Arnott's 'The Persistence Of Memory' is the story of an old woman who relives the terrors of the war as her mind shies away from the worries of modern life. It might be a touching tale, except that it's narrated by a great-nephew who has very little patience for her eccentricities and only humours her in the hopes of being included in her will. It's an effective story that portrays both the horror of warfare and the equally depressing fate of the old lady who had survived so much.

In 'Waving, Not Drowning', Allen Ashley describes an ironic future where the nanny state has put fresh broccoli stalls on every street corner and has the King as Prime Minister. While working off a conviction doing public works in a seaside town, one man attempts to resist the inertia of society but finds himself swept along with events. It's a deliciously satirical story full of little quirks like the ladette sirens who live just off shore and it kept my face twitching into a series of smiles right to the end.

'The Man Who Came To Dinner' is Carl Barker's first published story and he does an excellent job of capturing the occasion of a dinner party and the mysterious visitor who arrives unannounced. The man is uncomfortable in his surroundings and, through his eyes, the dinner party becomes a strange and incomprehensible ritual. It's an impressive debut.

This has been my favourite issue of 'Midnight Street' so far. I enjoyed the selection of stories which all came across well and displayed a greater spread of style and genre than previous issues. I hope now that I don't have to wait too long for the next issue.

Gareth D Jones

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