Reviewed by Adrian Fry.

In his brief editorial, editor Trevor Denyer, the man who brought us the estimable Roadworks, sets out his stall for Midnight Street. 'Colour cover, A4 size, allowing for more artwork, and more focus on some of the best writers around.' In other words, Midnight Street is a publication designed to showcase established writers rather than dredge up new ones from the cesspool, sorry, slushpile. The magazine is closed to submissions - never a good sign, especially in a debut issue - and there's a competition announced to try and stave off just this sort of complaint. There's the usual subtext about convincing the non genre world of the quality of genre writing, with all the sense of innate inferiority that entails.

Andrew Humphrey is the first of two writers to be showcased, with a pair of stories and an interview. War Stories is a typically character driven tale touching on isolation, the motivations we have for telling stories and the tricky business of deciding who and what to believe in. Other Voices is a slightly clumsier affair, the tale of a policeman whose emotional disintegration has him possessed by the personality of his violent, alcoholic father. Humphrey is a fascinating writer, brilliant at the quick sketching in of psychologically complex characters and able to handle entirely convincing realism and almost poetic passages of melancholy. Trevor Denyer's interview with Humphrey asks all the usual questions - surely even Alan Partridge has stopped asking 'Where do you get your ideas from?' by now - but the answers are interesting, especially Humphrey's revealing list of literary influences.

Jesus God In Heaven by Cathy Buburuz combines some tried and tested ingredients - the difficulties of a Catholic adolescence, dysfunctional family life and the kindly old lady with a nasty secret - and makes a rather average horror story out of them. If heavy religious symbolism was supposed to lift this one onto a higher plane, it failed, at least for this reader.

Much better is David Rawson's witty science fantasy fable The Final Thing. The story of a far future egomaniac scientist who claims to have found a route to immortality and happiness, this comic fantasy dramatises the old philosophical chestnut about the desirability of immortality and has a satisfyingly ambivalent conclusion.

In recent years, there's been something of a vogue for stories about our society's shoddy attitudes to the elderly and Paul Finch's Rat is a good one in this sub-genre. Joe decides to dump his elderly father at an abandoned coal mine but seriously underestimates the old man's capacity for survival. The story is well written, though Joe is more caricature than character.

Second showcase in this issue features two stories, a review and an interview with Antony Mann. The first of his stories, Sweet Little Memory is narrated by a man who sets out to exorcize parents of their memories of deceased children. Mann writes well and the story certainly disturbs. His second offering Show Time is a satire on our tabloid obsession with murderers and their victims. This story is a little too obvious to do more than convey Mann's disgust with the media; the television satires of comedian Chris Morris raised such issues better and still left room to doubt the editorial intent. Good work as ever from Allen Ashley who conducts a worthwhile interview with Mann and reviews Mann's collection Milo & I with typically impeccable balance.

Gary Couzens' Outstack takes us to the Highlands of Scotland and a look at the intimate relationships and jealousies between a bisexual student and his two partners. This is a thoughtful story, perhaps the most 'mainstream' in the magazine, and it works because Couzens describes a relatively unusual situation in an emotionally realistic way.

Joel Lane's Against My Ruins is the tale of two people attempting intimacy as they scavenge through a post holocaust city. The descriptive writing is excellent, calling to mind Paul Auster and J G Ballard, but the story about which it is scattered felt too insubstantial.

The mood changes dramatically for Steve Redwood's very funny comedy Nastassja's Honour: A Cautionary Tale. Ronnie Hughes' self indulgent evening in front of his favourite arousing film scenes goes awry when characters from the film start tumbling out of the video screen. Redwood isn't my favourite writer but the zest with which he goes at his comedies isn't easily resisted.

And so to the final story in the magazine, Old Songs. Catherine J Gardner's tale begins by plunging us into a compelling vision of a modern, videocentric Hell but becomes a rather busy piece about a return from that afterlife. Your reviewer had trouble figuring out what was going on in the story and hence some trouble caring.

Overall, Midnight Street is a well presented magazine with a healthily mixed bag of styles and stories. The concept of showcasing authors is misguided, in my opinion, because Midnight Street is never going to be the window on the mainstream literary world its editor seems to yearn for. But those who can tolerate the vice of ambition better than I can are in for a good read.


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