Stories by Gary McMahon

Illustrations by Carole Humphreys

Reviewed by Rob Spalding

The first thing I noticed about this collection was that instead of what I've come to think of as the D-Press standard, five or six short stories, it only contains two. This should give you an indication of how bold Gary's writing is. With five stories, if you don't like one, you've got another four, but with only two if one doesn't float your boat then half the collection is wasted on you. Happily this is not the case here.

Breaking Hearts, the eponymous story, is the longer of the two, a case of drunken infidelity and its repercussions. The story works so well because it's grounded in a life we can all relate to. Getting drunk with friends, dealing with problems at work, the thoughts we know we shouldn't think. The main thrust of the story is a young woman who becomes obsessed with the narrator after they have drunken sex, she being the girl of his best friend. In fact the story seems very familiar throughout much of its length, even going so far as to reference Fatal Attraction and Play Misty for Me, two films that the plot echoes strongly. It is with the ending that the story finally shows us its cards and proves it's been bluffing all along.

It gave me a true “What the?” moment as I finally twigged. A fine story that might well give you pause for thought about future drunken escapades.

What's Eating You? is another well written story. The shadowy figure that haunts the protagonist is original and the revelation is obvious once things start to move, but the story reveals it for those that didn't get it very soon after. A tale of grief and suppressed emotions, this is a nice mood piece. It suffers a little in reading this book straight through, because Breaking Hearts is a much stronger story, and I was still half thinking of it when I came to read this. But still a fine story.

Gary's writing is peppered with metaphors and similes that really drag you into the minds of his characters. Dark parts of the mind are 'dark seabed trenches' with thoughts that are 'nuclear waste images that he'd rather not see again.' Great descriptive work and characters you recognise add a sense of creepy truth to the work.

Definitely one to try.

Breaking Hearts, A5, 32pp, £1.00 incl p&p

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