01/12/2009. Contributed by Gareth D Jones
pub: Immediate Direction Publications. 110 page paperback. Price: £ 5.40 (UK), $10.15 (US).
check out website: www.midnightstreet.co.uk
Trevor Denyer's debut short story collection, 'The Edge Of The Country', has an evocative watercolour landscape on the cover, one that makes you think of that mysterious place suggested by the title. This sets the scene for the entire collection: stories that take pace on the edge of our reality. For the most part the stories occur in mundane settings where strange things happen or stranger things live. People are haunted by memories of the past and premonitions of the future as Trevor Denyer's finely-crafted prose invokes captivating images of poignancy.
The title story, 'The Edge Of The Country', epitomises the entire collection, described perhaps by that indefinable word slipstream. Haunted by past mistakes, a man travels across London by train to confront his inner torments. It's a moving piece, bordering on the depressive. Trevor Denyer has a knack of wringing the emotion out of a situation and creating characters in torment. Maybe not the most enjoyable of reads, but a masterful display of prose.
There are two stories that stand out as different from the rest, best described as SF and fantasy perhaps. Though the SF story 'Landfall' could equally be a far-future urban fantasy.
The first time I came across Trevor Denyer was the story 'Landfall' in 'Scheherezade' magazine. He obviously had great fun creating his octopus-like character searching for others of his kind in this SF story. It manages to combine a bit of mysticism and romance into a gloomy tale of the far future and is my favourite of the collection.
As you may know I'm not one for fantasy, but in 'Old Slowbones' I found myself enjoying and appreciating a short fantasy story for the first time. The eponymous character is an aged wizard, who initially is portrayed merely as a wizened, slightly grumpy guide, maybe even a servant of the royal party he is escorting. That's what I liked about the story: the characters aren't stereotyped fantasy characters. The landscape is meticulously described and the fate of the cursed town comes across powerfully. Like all of the stories in the collection it has a dark heart, but is enjoyably satisfying.
'Special Place' takes us back into a more uncertain genre, re-visiting themes from several of the stories in the collection. On a balcony overlooking the ocean, a woman enjoys the company of her lover or maybe dreams about him or reminisces or all three. It's an enigmatic tale, like several of the others, yet the descriptive work, even of her dream sequence, is rendered in brilliant detail and I was transported into and captivated by the scenes.
This is not a collection to read all at once, it may just leave you melancholy and morose. 'Wycere' and the previously unpublished 'A Rose From Elvis' pull together a wide variety of ideas and characters, knitting them into the fabric of everyday life to produce something quite magical. Many of the other stories follow the aforementioned memes - regret, depression, inner turmoil, longing and searching. All of these, however uncomfortable each individual story may be, are crafted to perfection. Enjoy them one at a time.
Gareth D. Jones
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