Reviewed by Gary McMahon
Being a fan (and past contributor to) Roadworks, Trevor Denyer's previous title, I was looking forward to reading Midnight Street. The editor has an eye for a good tale, and isn't afraid of fiction that examines the nasty stuff of life. He also tends to use his publications to showcase the work of a different writer in every issue, which is very commendable indeed. This issue it's Peter Tennant, a wonderful writer I've long admired, and whose body of work rarely gets the attention it deserves.
There's also an interesting article by Allen Ashley titled Second Page Syndrome, an interview with horror writer Sephera Giron, and the magazine is peppered with small pieces of verse that range from the interesting to the rather good. But now to the stuff that really matters...
The End of Things by R.D. Robbins. This is a lively and surreal tale of the end of humanity as decreed by a giant inflatable clown named Loopy. Yes, it is as potty as it sounds, but it's also weirdly resonant and highly enjoyable.
The Beautiful Dead by Peter Tennant. Strong stuff (and a great title), as usual, from the talented pen of Mr. Tennant. This is actually quite a controversial story, evoking memories of the Jill Dando murder from a few years back. It continues Tennant's obsession with violence, its effects, and the people who commit it, and also has an occult plot thrown in for good measure.
The Choices You Make by Peter Tennant is a story that I remember well from the much-lamented Nasty Piece Of Work. I recall being shocked and appalled by it at the time, but also immensely impressed by the wonderful writing--the use of second-person present-tense narrative to make the reader implicit in the action, the parts in the story that give you the choice to stop reading (“turn back to the beginning and consider the consequences”), the unflinching portrayal of sickening acts of violence...
This time I return to the tale as the father of a 10-month-old son, and I read it with different eyes. By the time I'd finished the last line, there were tears running down my cheeks. This story is devastating, utterly, utterly devastating. It is also Peter Tennant's masterpiece, and one of the most powerful pieces of short fiction that I have ever read. Today, its subject matter is possibly more timely and appropriate than ever. In a word: brilliant. But only if you can stomach it.
Tooned In by Byron Starr is a clever, ingenious little tale. It's basically a post modern rendering of the old Warner Brothers Roadrunner cartoons, into which reality is introduced into this animated world by way of a real gun that inflicts real damage. Personally, I would have preferred to see the situation taken even further than it is, but this is still a good piece of work.
A Specialist in Souls by Tim Lees. This strange Hemmingway homage was a bit slight for my tastes, and I actually found it rather smug and self-satisfied. Well written, yes, and with some great lines, but I failed to grasp the point of the piece. I didn't exactly dislike the tale, just didn't get it. But perhaps that's just me being a bit obtuse.
Silence: Deathmasques VI by A.C. Evans is more of a prose poem about death--or rather a very specific form of death - than a story. It is enigmatic, hallucinogenic, and possesses some lovely imagery. I liked it; certainly enough that I'd like to read Deathmasques I to V!
The Condition by David Penn is a beautifully written, tender and tragic love story about two people suffering from an unnamed disease that makes them unable to tolerate direct sunlight. This touching tale is about the difficult choices that we make in order not to be alone in the world.
Analog by Jonathan William Hodges is a strange and heavily stylised tale of murder, revenge and madness. With this one it's the style in which it is written that gives the most pleasure in a slight, but enjoyable story.
Natural Freak by Roz Southey. This is an entertaining sci-fi caper about cloning in a heartless future world.
Stock by David Hudson is a neat and very atmospheric and lyrical fantasy that does something new with a familiar genre figure.
Coffin Dream by Terry Gates-Grimwood ends the issue on a very bleak note indeed. The tale is an unrelenting nightmare by an author who rarely disappoints that gripped me from the start, and left me shaken by its grim conclusion.
So there you have it: issue 2 of a magazine that I'm sure will go on for many more, becoming as much a cornerstone in genre fiction as its editor's previous title. I look forward to issue 3.
Midnight Street edited by Trevor Denyer, 7 Mountview, Church Lane West, Aldershot, Hampshire, GU11 3LN, England. A4, 52pp, £3.50/$8US/£6(9Euros)Europe/£6.50RoW or £9.50 for 3 issues/ $22US/£15(22Euros)Europe/£18RoW. All cheques etc payable to “T. DENYER” (online purchase details at website).
Website: - www.midnightstreet.co.uk
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