Andrew Hook, Residue. Halfcut Publications, 2006. Pp. 130. ISBN 0954953517. £7.00.

Reviewed by Karina Kantas

Residue, leftovers. Scenes that would have been deleted from a film. Unwanted, as there is no reason for them.

A collection of nineteen stories by author Andrew Hook. Unfortunately, only two of the stories created any impact on this reader.

The stories are hard to get into, as there are no actual plots. Hook writes about emotions and actions. Detailed, so you can picture the time, place, and mind of the characters. These stories, however, have no beginning or end. The author takes the reader into scenes and uses movement and senses to describe what he wants us to feel and see.

Hook displays skills as a writer of multiple styles. Residue has styles that will suit all tastes. Some will delight, others will torment the reader. The collection describes how warped ones mind can suddenly become when coping with a solitary life, or life with a partner and yet still feeing that there is something missing. These characters are searching.

‘Dirt’ is the first story in the collection. The reader appears in a scene with a lonely, lost man. Andrews shows how valuable mundane chores and objects can suddenly become, when faced with loss. I think it was a mistake to use Dirt as the opening story. Unless you enjoy over descriptive pieces, you'll find yourself skipping paragraphs, hoping to read something remotely interesting. Unfortunately, this is not going to happen: the first four paragraphs describe the main character wakening up; another four paragraphs describe him vacuuming. The last line reads 'I towel myself down, open a can of tomato soup. I cut my finger on the lid but the contents make it hard to spot the difference.'

‘Double Cross’ is the only story that will make you smile. A delightful tale about a father who jumps to the wrong conclusion about his son, resulting in the boy seeing his father in another light. The reason this one works is the little twist at the end of the story gives the reader a reason to smile and incentive to carry on reading the rest of the collection.

‘OffOf’ is a story about a meeting in a launderette between two, not so different people. Dave is a homeless beggar. Andrew is an employed man who lives with his partner. The two strike up a conversation. Against Andrew's better judgment, he takes a liking to Dave. Before the end of their discussion, Andrew is secretly willing to give Dave a room in his house. However, all Dave wants is a little loose change. Andrew is happy to handover money to the beggar, in payment for the needed conversation. There is not a lot of point to this story. Nevertheless, the dialogue makes you read this one to the end. You know the beggar is going to ask Andrew for money. You want to know how and when.

If you like to lose yourself in creative writing for writing sake, then you'll appreciate Residue. For those of you that enjoy excitement, a scare, a laugh, stories with plot, an arc, and more than just flashes of poignancy, you'll need to look elsewhere.

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