Crimewave 12: HURTS

TTA Press

Stories by Melanie Tem, Simon Avery, Stephen Volk, Antony Mann, Janice Law, Joel Lane, Stephen Bacon, Tim Lees, James Cooper, Christopher Priest, Danny Rhodes, Steven J. Dines, Ray Cluley and Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

Paperback: 240 pages. Received as part of my subscription.

Books I’m led to by other books, strings of books, excitation nodes.” – Melanie Tem

My previous TTA Press reviews: HERE.


8 thoughts on “Crimewave 12: HURTS

  1. Singularity by Melanie Tem
    “I say what I say to her a lot. ‘Don’t know yet.'”
    As I read this extremely engaging story – of an ostensibly close Platonic relationship that starts between a man of around 32 and a girl of 16 – I surely felt I was reading a classic American story of, say, the Fifties, or Carver, Cheever, Updike or even O Henry, but this one is now: and I sensed its rules, the secrets, the Cartesian sense of mind and body, the frailties of life as well as of the people who live it, and, accreting, towards the end, I sensed that crimes are never culpable when they fit an enormous poignant Plan but paradoxically also accidental, a precarious singularity, and I learn something important, too, almost as an aside, about this story’s main relationship at the end, almost an afterthought, and for no reason one nods and one is happy, although still saddened by life’s Plan and its Hurts.
    And it even had something extra to say about my approach to books: “Books I’m led to by other books, strings of books, excitation nodes.”

    The Only Broken Blonde by Simon Avery
    “I think my dreams were always too big. So big that when the little ones happened to come true, I didn’t see them happening…”
    A man who travelled light all his seedy life with his flaky Dad talks to us of his later mixing in with the rich set as chauffeur that leads — in this substantive fiction that compellingly spreads page-turning page after page — toward, not a romantic comedy that could only afford a leading lady with a defining bodily scar, but a gritty psychosexual drama with a leading lady who entices into being such a class-riven, flesh-riven Plan of Hurts that only gritty readers will be able to stomach. But it’s worth it.
    A work of Art, like Damien Hirst’s, often has a crack in it, a dividing scar. Or an unmade bed by Tracy Emin doused in arterial squirts. Art as hard Currency. And so does this story have its dividing scar, one that you will fall either side of, for you to make the best of the bad, or the worst of the good, depending which side of the blanket you were born on, with the ever-grinding knowledge that life is never quenchable.

  2. Bless by Stephen Volk
    “I think the touch of me, the sight of me, hurt him so much, in the end.”
    There is modern way of saying ‘Bless’ that I first noticed a few years ago: the vowel elongated in this single discrete pronunciation of the word, and with no object – like ‘him’ or ‘her’ – for this otherwise transitive verb, often giving a tone of rough love, even disdain for the invisible ‘whom’ that the saying of this unqualified ‘Bless’ objectifies. Meanwhile, this is clever, powerful, impelling ‘conviction fiction’ where, in this case, the female narrator is convinced of the truth of what she tells us about the loss and then rediscovery of her small daughter, whereby we are equally convinced otherwise. It reminds me, in some strange way, of Volk’s ‘Easter’, where the home is. East Ending. And God’s Plan unfolds beyond its ending… Human beings die in one direction, Angels die the other way, and sometimes we meet up. Bless.
    “…feeling the little twitching of dream-sleep in her palm…”

  3. The Simpson Frames by Antony Mann
    “This was a modern brewery pub, a joyless barn filled with sports screens and fruit machines, serving inedible burgers with fat-drenched soulless chips and garnishes of failed lettuce.”
    An ingenious, well-characterised, pubtalk short short that builds up a ‘confiction’ of character, till Tem’s earlier singularity is reached by motley accretion of costume. Unsure if there were accomplices in the pub or if it was a straight specsavers sting.

  4. Cheap Rent by Janice Law
    “‘What’s different? Life’s just the way it is.’ / Nick knew that conviction was despair,…”
    I doubt it’s significant that life’s running scar follows a rent, cheap or otherwise. It’s all the same. Kept going, convinced all is following a Plan, but one that turns out always to be an audit trail or String of Hurts. This rings to me like another great American fiction story, like the first story in this book. It reads like that. I shall remember it like that when I, too, open up the personally toxic tank I forgot was there under the floor all my life, even if, unlike Nick, I moved from one abode to another. A different floor, but the same tank under it. A tank where I buried all my thoughts, my hopes, the books I read, the books I tried to write, the book reviews that often missed the point of the book it reviewed or that went on free-wheeling themes-and-variations that the books themselves set in motion (like this great story has done), and eventually a dead-end body stowed away there, with a face I fail to recognise, my own forgotten face. A crime of slow passion.

  5. By Night He Could Not See by Joel Lane
    “Jason had bitten through his lip thinking about it, still had the scar.”
    If Joel were still alive, I’d be able to ask him, inter alia, what Jason’s story means, a story about nonsense, or a nonsense story in itself? A dong with a luminous nose, and jumblies, and limericks, and dead bodies covered in paint. Like Nick in the previous story’s abode, why had Jason stayed in that house, it seems, forever? Of urban gangs within Joel’s Birmingham metaphor, and a mystery that will ever stay a mystery. Mysteries or memories explicitly locked away without a key … like Nick’s tank under the floor? A story written to match the leitmotifs of this book’s gestalt before it even existed as a book? A book itself covered in pain.
    “The hurting had got out of hand. It always did.”

  6. What Grief Can Do by Stephen Bacon
    “She clenched her teeth in an effort to prevent the rawness from spilling out.”
    A powerful short short that deals with bereavement, misbegotten love and whatever else spills out, bursting through the dam of denial. A “funeral” that eventually becomes “feral” with animalistic sobs of shame as well as of grief, this way or that to exorcise life’s vile baggage. With the sky’s first light spilling out of this New Year’s Day, it makes me wonder if the world itself has a giant skeleton in its giant cupboard, a whole world’s reality with its own version of Nick’s tank under its floor?

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