With the ease of self-publishing, there are an increasing number of single author collections that make their way onto Amazon. It can be difficult to choose which to pick up, but previous exposure to the author’s work is often a good starting point.
This is a short collection from McDroll, Fiona Johnson, and having read a few of her Gemma Dixon stories, I was looking forward to seeing what was inside this pack of five shorts. As expected, the writing is filled with the ease and familiarity that I expected.
While Gemma makes a few appearances, the real standout is “Drowning”. It’s the tale of a teacher that is struggling with work and personal issues. The writing is touching, and we get a glimpse into the person trial that plays out. As the tension escalates, the motivations for the later act are established with crushing weight. The final send-off of the story delivers a nice knock-out punch.
As the title indicates, inside are six tales set in Manchester. The writing is lean. Gets to the point and dispenses with extra description that might halt the flow of the action or dialog. You feel as if you are being swept toward the end by a tide of words, taking little effort or thought.
The best piece is “Fists of Destiny”. This is a fast, hard hitting story with fists, guns, bombs, terrorists and tall buildings. Action and an internal monolog pull the reader through much of it, building tension through the delayed acts of Steve, our noble protagonist. His discomfort at oddities, recollections of the city, and unwanted memories of war play on his mind, even as he plots his more heroic moves. It’s an exciting and touching story.
I’ve known Jeff for years, and have enjoyed his writing over that time. He’s a wonderful craftsman of short fiction, and this collection is the result of years of stories Voices in the Field is a large work with eighteen stories that range from crime to horror to literary with splashes of comedy. It’s a recipe for an enjoyable read and introduction for most to his work.
The collection kicks off with the titular story, “Voices in the Field”. What begins as an interesting if inconvenient oddity becomes the setting for a disintegrating mind. Are the voices and events illusions? Are these the ramblings of a mad man? Or is he the victim of some unexplainable phenomenon?
“Toby and the Lake” is a tough story to get through. There’s generations of sadness piled into the tale. It weighs on you, but the writing pulls you along. There’s no relief from the problems, and it’s clear that some people don’t have the strength to survive.