By David A. Sutton
Reviewed by Lawrence R. Dagstine
I was delighted at the opportunity to review Mr. Sutton's latest release, a 44-page dark fiction chapbook entitled The Fisherman. After all, Mr. Sutton is the winner of a dozen or so British Fantasy Awards, as well as a recipient of the World Fantasy Award. He has also edited the Screaming Dreams anthology Phantoms of Venice. So you can understand why I'd feel privileged and jump at the chance to read one of Mr. Sutton's works.
In terms of layout and design, The Fisherman is put together quite nicely. It's published by Gothic Press (www.gothicpress.com), staple-bound, a medium-textured, quality card stock. I'm not sure what the sizes overseas are, but here in the U.S. it would measure in at around 5.5 x 8.5. The cover art is very relaxed, drafting pencil or charcoal sketch, and it's of a pretty woman standing on a beach. She's glancing over her shoulder at the shadow of a man (or woman) along the sands. Marge Simon, whose work I am very familiar with over the years from Sam's Dot Publishing, drew the cover. The text and initial design was done by Bruce Boston. There's another nice little charcoal-looking sketch of a fisherman on the inside of the book, too. So we have a nice-looking product here. It's relatively short; I breezed through it in an hour. But what is it about? How's the overall storyline?
The Fisherman takes place in a sort of coastal village along a beach in Wales, with your isles and inlets and crashing waves against cliff edges. The perfect place to get away on holiday and rekindle romances. The story belongs to Stephanie and Rod (husband-wife protagonists), as they travel here for a little vacation; possibly even salvage their marriage. Our other character, Gilbert, would be the old salty-dog fisherman, who hasn't been right in the head since he lost his wife in a drowning accident some time ago. The cottages here are run by private families in a sort of bed and breakfast fashion.
The first few pages lend itself to Stephanie and Rod going on walks, learning about the place, eating, being romantic. Eventually they come to meet a man named Ted Rollason, who runs one of the cottages with his wife, while out at a pub-restaurant. He tells them the story behind the “wife's drowning”. And it seems there is more to this “Gilbert” than meets the eye. The tale itself is pretty much urban legend or myth meets minor mystery and suspense. There's also one piece of text in the book which mentions drowned bodies floating back and something appearing from the water. Stephanie and Rod apparently see it from their rented cottage. Gilbert always takes his boat out to the place in the water where this “thing” supposedly is. There was mention that it could be a dolphin, but I would think that dolphins could be found in much warmer climates, such as the Florida Keys, the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico. But we really don't know for sure what it is, why Gilbert rows out beyond the flotsam where some thing or someone lurks beneath its shallow depths. Or what role Stephanie and Rod play during their investigation of it.
The Fisherman, at times, offers a good read. I felt it could have been more developed, though, because you have a great storyline and three great characters here (Steph, Rod, and Gilbert). Perhaps make it a short novella? Overall, I thought it was decent. The prose wasn't stilted, it was easy on the eyes, VERY atmospheric, and I have to give Mr. Sutton credit for that. Atmosphere and characterization were the highlights of this chapbook. And for 6 bucks, how can you go wrong?
The Fisherman by David A. Sutton. 5.5 x 8.5 chapbook, 44pp, $6US (overseas refer to website). Available from Gothic Press, 2272 Quail Oak, Baton Rouge LA, 70808-9023, United States of America, or from various online outlets.
Website: - www.gothicpress.com
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