Written by: Kate Genet
I find myself metaphorically holding my breath whenever it comes time to try a new author – and this goes for trad-pubbed work as well as self-published. It’s just a bit of a crap-shoot, and I never know what I’m going to get. Of course, it’s all part of the fun, and more often than not these days, it pays off.
This week’s new read belongs to Birney Reed, and to my great delight, his is a fun and entertainingly creepy book. The Tales Of Victor Coachman is a collection of short stories linked through the literary efforts of the fictional Victor Coachman, who has signed away his rights to an agent who takes his job just a little too seriously. An agent of, shall we say, some particularly dark forces. A fun little twist to the collection.
But it is actually Reed’s voice that impresses most in these stories. Or rather, the character’s voices. Every writer settles into their own style, but every story has its own voice, usually that of the main character, and it is here that Birney Reed shows himself to be particularly accomplished. His characters come across as real, believable, and strange to say for a collection of dark urban fantasy, but quite captivating. It’s like sitting across the table from someone, nursing the inch of bourbon left in the bottom of your glass, and listening as they spin you a yarn. I wondered if Reed would be able to continue this across every story, and he does, only stumbling here and there, but each story’s voice is real, and distinct, and more often than not, disturbing.
Short stories are a lot harder to write than we give credit for, I’m sure, but Birney Reed should be proud of his collection. He managed to keep me engaged in most every story, and some of them I found especially delightful – in the proper, macabre manner. Half the time, I didn’t even see the twist coming at the end, and considering how much I read and write, it ain’t easy to pull the wool over my eyes these days.
The story ‘Don’t Pull the Plug’ did just this, and I still don’t know how. Written in the first person, it’s the story of a growing obsession with the idea of killing someone. Just to see what it feels like. The guy telling the story sounds so damned normal, and this is what I especially like about this collection – these characters could be your next door neighbours, your drinking buddy, hell, even the person you married.
There’s a matter-of-factness to Reed’s writing that works well with the subject matter. When everyone sounds so clear, so sensible, so believable, what hope is there that we might escape the insanity?
All in all, a collection worth reading. I’ll look forward to more from the author.