By P S Gifford

Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

I am the Imaginary Friend. You know - the one you conjure up to talk with when you're consumed with loneliness, greed or visions of imminent doom.

Using the literary device of the friend revealing the strange stories and the bizarre secrets heard from people confessing to him their problems and reporting their experiences, P S Gifford has assembled a bunch of short tales providing a wide range of samples of human frailties.

To cover and mention all the little anecdotes (there are forty-five in the book!) is an impossible task.

Just a few examples, then.

In this collection we meet a clumsy wife murderer ( Confession of a Madman), a revengeful husband killed by his greedy spouse (Long Memories), a man determined to unmask fake mediums at any cost (Reaching Out), a young doctor seriously misled (House Call), a dishonest undertaker paying his dues (A Grim Affair).

The reader will also make acquaintance with a peculiar brewery offering beers with a funny taste (The Evils of Drink), a couple savouring the pleasures of cannibalism (Watts for Dinner), a sad case of self-cannibalism (The Gastronome), a mischievous young girl playing with fire (The Old Necklace), a man finding an unhappy ending while trying to trace his roots (Home is Where the Heart Is), a guy anxious to get revenge but discovering that others have been on it for years (The Nefarious Plan) and so on...

Some of the stories are ordinary, others just funny, a few quite original, most very entertaining.

The problem is that even to me, a confirmed lover of short fiction, most of the tales appear too short, just quick vignettes to be forgotten in a matter of seconds.

Plots are slim, characters are obviously only slightly sketched.

Gifford can write well and certainly has a knack for storytelling but he seems either unwilling or unable to develop his ideas in a more structured way, to add flesh to his fragile skeletons.

He's a short runner who needs to practice hard in order to enter at least a medium-length race.

Mind you, I don't mean a novel, a novella or a novelette (God forbid!), but a regular short story running more than three or four printed pages.

So, let's keep an eye on P S Gifford. He has talent and can do much, much better.

I am waiting for his next book.


The Curious Accounts of the Imaginary Friend by P S Gifford. Virtual Tales trade paperback, 232 pages, $ 14.95 from the publisher and various online outlets including Amazon in the US (also available in electronic format)

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