Edited by Gary Couzens

Reviewed by Sue Phillips

Elastic Press is unusual in not being willing to pin itself down to any specific genre. This policy has allowed its writers to give free rein to their creativity resulting in some of the most original and diverse anthologies around.

As far as I can see, Extended Play is Gary Couzens' first foray into the world of editing and I was interested to see how he performed. A few paragraphs into the first story, Marion Arnott's superb The Little Drummer Boy, I decided that he had probably put the very best first to hook the reader into buying the book. The story was impossible to put down and real life became a hindrance to finding out how it would all end. Further reading of the other tales corrected my assumption, resulting in my being in turns fascinated, moved and intrigued by the wide variance in style and genre.

As with most anthologies I won't pretend that I enjoyed every item; Tim Nickels' fight Music, though well written, was too weird for my tastes and Some Obscure Lesion of the Heart by Nels Stanley confused me in places (not a difficult feat). Tremolando by Becky Done was beautifully observed and Andrew Humphreys' Last Song nicely chilling. I would have liked a little more editing on In the Pines by Rosanne Rabinowitz, which dragged just a tad--not that it stopped me enjoying the story; I just felt it could have been even better than it was. That, though is the trouble with a really good tale, its quality makes me want it to be totally perfect. The Barrowlands' Last Night by Philip Raines and Harvey Welles worked perfectly and Tony Richards' A Night in Tunisia had me feeling nostalgic for a musical genre I don't even like very much, while the beautifully poignant First and Last and Always has put Emma Lee firmly into my “watch this author” file.

Interestingly, fiction is not the only thing in this book. Between each story is a short commentary by a musician, some so famous even I've heard of them, on their relationship with literature. Contributions included are from JJ Burnel, Rebekah Delgado, Catherine and Susan Hay, Lene Lovich, Gary Lightbody, Sean Mackowiak, Jof Owen, Iain Ross, Chris Stein and Chris T-T. This is a bold idea that mostly works very well. It is always interesting to get inside the mind of creative people and see how the thought processes work.

A fine book that deserves any accolades that may be thrown at it.

Extended Play edited by Gary Couzens. Tpb, 320pp, £6.99 plus £1.50 p&p direct from Elastic Press, 85 Gertrude Road, Norwich, Norfolk NR3 4SG, UK

Website: - www.elasticpress.com

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