The Art of Ventriloquism – A.J. Kirby

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THE ART OF VENTRILOQUISM – A Crime Fiction Collection
Solstice Publishing 2012

I purchased this book via Amazon.

I have long been intending to apply my GRTR techniques to a book by A.J. Kirby since publishing the following short stories by him:
‘How To Kill An Hour’ (Cone Zero 2008)
‘The Ozymandias Site’ (Cern Zoo 2009)
‘Common Myths And Misconceptions Regarding Rita Kendall’ (The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies 2011)

And at last here it is BELOW IN THE COMMENT STREAM of this post as and when I read each story in ‘The Art of Ventriloquism’. There is no guarantee how long any of my GRTRs will take, including this one.

12 thoughts on “The Art of Ventriloquism – A.J. Kirby

  1. Jodie Foster and the Art of Ventriloquism
    “Most people would kill for looks like mine, but I’ve come to think of them as an obstacle to overcome.”
    I am confident that these stories will be well written from the point of view of language as based on my earlier experience of AJ Kirby’s work, but I harbour a fear of the subtitle ‘Crime Fiction’, although I have satisfyingly (for me) reviewed a number of so-called Crime Fiction books before. I suspect that Kirby is not an archetypal Crime Fiction writer but one that takes such fiction into new directions, and judging by this story, I find myself thinking that it is certainly centred on ‘crime’ being mainly based in a prison, but it is also one that makes my heart sink at the end (in a positive and memorable way from the point of view of what literature can do and what it can convey). I was right about the language, and am only still debating with myself about the subject matter (so far). It tells of Janet, a good looking academic with both a chip on her shoulder and an inferiority complex as she visits a prison to start what turns out to be a sparsely attended discussion group. The discussions are about the nature of crime and prison but you possibly learn more about that subject from this story than any academic study of it. I will not divulge anything more about the plot other than to suggest that some of it might be in code with a message just for a certain reader. If the message is for you, you will surely know. So, I guess the message wasn’t for me …. unless it was subliminal? And why did my heart sink so much when thinking through which hands the message may have been passed to get to me, if it had been me for whom the message was intended? Being in a sort of story ‘panopticon’ one must turn in all directions to see whence the voice is coming.
    A very intriguing start to the book.

  2. The Dancing Queen’s Last Dance
    “…as though to indicate some secret, shared knowledge had passed between them.”
    This is a poignant, often grotesquely humorous story of an archetypal locked bungalow whodunnit involving old people and a policeman himself approaching retirement. It presents this ostensibly archetypal crime in ‘crime fiction’ but there is something deeply non-archetypal about the ‘moral compass’ embedded here alongside ‘guilt’ — and, with the parallel need to have a 360 degree or ‘panopticon’ vision as a detective, this becomes a highly memorable reading experience. Here the detective’s circular vision is more like the warped wheel of the gurney….
    I also had a frisson or flavour of Aickman, especially with the character who always arrived on the front step with an irritating tap dance. And all the characterisation is pungently vivid and sometimes very off-putting (in a good literary way). And, as I’ve noticed before, Kirby’s style itself is artfully pungent or tentacular as well as lean or crisp. And that is no mean feat.

  3. Moore’s Law of Relationships
    “You could almost read my mind.”
    Two pages that act as a provocative coda to the marital relationship in the previous story. (And Ventriloquism as thought-reading?) If I say any more, it’d spoil it.

  4. In The Mean Time
    “He can see everything before it will happen, and it excites him.”
    I don’t know about ‘crime fiction’ (which it strictly is, I suppose), this story, for me, is a genuine, previously unpublished horror classic, in a perfect-toned visceral and suspenseful style. The phrase ‘In The Mean Time’ — during this plot of an unsuccessful male singer a bit like Janet in the first story but only inasmuch as he carries, like her, a chip on his shoulder and no doubt an inferiority complex — is quite brilliantly conceptualised in an accretive fashion by the author and is unsettling from the mouth of this singer. He ‘revisits’ a woman singer from his past who has been successful. Mention of the opera Tosca and the balcony scene in conjunction with his own self harm and obsessions and delusions is telling. I almost sympathised with him in face of a powerful woman. All of it is absolutely chilling. At the optimum time of her 28th year when women’s voices are on a fulcrum of development, unlike men’s voices….genetic imprints.
    A war between the sexes as a conundrum, dancing and plagiarism earlier in two stories, and singing now in the mean time … Warriors of Love?

  5. The Gavel
    “…mainly to please his wife.”
    She is not overtly a significant force in this story, but I sense she is pervasive as she waits in her nightie for this financially powerful man with her metaphorical rolling-pin, so as to face him with home truths. In the mean time, this story again exemplifies the wonderful conceits and turns of phrase in Kirby fiction. I am not exaggerating when I say that I am agog at Kirby’s cascade of characterisation and of plot and place by such turns of phrase, concerning, for example, just in this story, speed traps and navigation systems and silence like an airbag and half-sheep and names like ‘Call me Ronnie’ and ‘Luke or Danny’ – and I’m only scratching the surface here. You have to read ‘The Gavel’ to fully appreciate what I mean in context.
    This is a morality tale rather than crime fiction – except financial greed is a crime when you infect other people with it even if they infect you with their own greed thus to encourage you to infect them in the first place. A concertina of crime. And free gifts like a ball-peen hammer to become a symbol of rough justice is yet one more conceit or miraculous turn of phrase with which Kirby fiction is literally teeming.

  6. Pingback: Small Man Syndrome – A.J. Kirby | THE DREAMCATCHER OF BOOKS: Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  7. Pingback: ” I don’t often say Wow! In my reviews, but the start of this novel surely deserves it”: A Real-Time Review of ‘Small Man Syndrome’ | paintthistownred

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