By Steve Vernon

(Illustrations by Keith Minion)

Reviewed by Gary McMahon

Steve Vernon is a writer from Nova Scotia who is just bubbling under the big time in the US market. His down-at-home colloquial storytelling style, coupled with a wry wit, has proved popular with readers across the pond, and it's high time the UK sat up to take notice of a unique and singular talent.

White Noise Press is a specialist small press outfit who concentrate on beautifully designed chapbooks. I didn't quite know what to expect when this one dropped through my letterbox, but when I opened the slim package its contents took my breath away.

Never in my life have I seen such an exquisitely designed chapbook, and to be honest it even leaves some limited hardback editions I've seen looking a bit flat and lifeless.

The Last Stand of the Great Texas Packrat comes in its own special envelope, which is decorated in runaway letters--a theme that continues throughout the book, as if the story itself were unravelling before our eyes. This volume, while slender, is an object lesson in attention to detail. Transparent end papers (etched with those familiar runaway letters) sandwich twenty-two powder blue pages that have been lovingly rendered with both prose and illustrations.

Without giving too much away, the story is a cracker. An ageing book collector called Texas Jack Page looks back over his life, his loves and hopes and regrets, and waxes philosophical about the books that have kept him going. Avid readers and collectors will recognise some of themselves in Texas Jack Page; everyone else will be touched by the pathos of this character. To say more would be to ruin the effect, so I'll say only that this story tugged at my heartstrings while making me smile.

I honestly cannot recommend this book enough. The tale is lyrical and knowing, and the chapbook itself is a thing of wonder, created with real affection.

The Last Stand of the Great Texas Packrat by Steve Vernon. White Noise Press limited edition chapbook, 24pp, $10 plus $2 p&p (for UK prices refer to website). Also available from Shocklines

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