Today’s book review of a short story collection is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey. If you’d like your book reviewed or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.
Gutshots: Ten Blows to the Abdomen by Graham Smith
Synopsis: Gutshots: Ten Blows to the Abdomen is a collection of hardboiled short stories of revenge, retribution and renegades. Humorous, shocking and touching by turn, the ten short stories will leave you begging for more.
And there is more! Five stories previously shown online or in other publications have been included as bonus material. Each tale comes with a short introduction detailing the story behind the story.
Graham Smith is married with a young son. A time-served joiner, he has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. For the last eleven years he has been Manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland. An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer for the well-respected review site Crimesquad.com for over two years. As well as reviewing Graham has also interviewed such stellar names as David Baldacci, Jeffrey Deaver, Dennis Lehane, Lee Child, Matt Hilton, CWA Chair Peter James, Mark Billingham and many others.
When not working, his time is spent reading, writing and playing games with his son. He enjoys socialising and spending time with friends and family. Graham also runs the Crime and Publishment site and yearly weekend workshops.
This collection is available via http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gutshots-Blows-Abdomen-Graham-Smith-ebook/dp/B0089YIOJS and http://www.amazon.com/Gutshots-Blows-Abdomen-Graham-Smith-ebook/dp/B0089YIOJS.
Review (compiled while listening to the Kindle version’s text-to-speech facility)
After acknowledgements, the first story, A Girl I Once Met, is an entertaining (and Graham assures us not completely autobiographical) tale about a one night stand who reappears to haunt (not literally) the main character, Kirk. We’re supposed to like our main characters but I loved to read about him squirm.
The second story, Country Goes to Town, was inspired by a newspaper article about fox-hunting protests and this piece is about retribution. I felt sorry for Sir Quentin but not his methods. A poignant story.
Next up was ‘Author Meets Reviewer’ which was a warning to anyone giving writers less than favourable reviews. <Morgen goes to Amazon to see if she can pull her review for 11 The Hardest Way> Did I mention this was the best story I’ve ever read? 🙂
The fourth story, Following Full of Fear, is based on a frightening event Graham experienced and is certainly every parent’s nightmare.
Hannah’s Last Hurrah is based on another parents’ nightmare but this starts with the nightmare having come true. At the helm of this story are DI Sheila Henry and her green (in more ways than one) DC, Kingsley.
My Job is Murder, as Graham explains in the introduction, is a “tale of a most unusual assassin”. Characters with nothing to lose are always fun to write and Kenny was certainly fun to read.
Halfway through the collection (52% through the ebook), the sixth story is ‘Not to be Sneezed at’, inspired by a “half-heard radio topic (which) rekindled an old biology lesson”. Written in first person past tense, the story features George and Chelsie and how young love doesn’t run smoothly.
‘A Day of Deception’ is based on a mixture of Graham’s day job (running a wedding venue) and his love of crime fiction.
‘Accounting for Dummies’ is a short sharp piece. Plays on words often make a story and the final word is… no, I’ll let you read it.
‘Suburban Combat’ has the two main characters (a newly-married couple) defending their decisions not to keep up with the Jones with a flavour of the Stepford Wives thrown in.
Then there were five bonus stories:
‘Pursuit’, an expanded micro fiction, was one with a twist. I suspected there would be but not the one I was expecting.
‘Downloading Disaster’ had, from the title, me thinking two ways: that a download goes wrong or that someone actually downloads a disaster. Apart from ‘took to her heels’ and ‘bolt from the blue’ interrupting the take, I was keen to find out what happened to a woman who just wanted her life back. The final paragraph felt far too rushed which, after such detail leading up to that, spoiled the otherwise superb ending.
‘The Mourning After’ is a second-person point of view story, always a winner with me. As soon as Mrs Kindle started reading it to me, I recognised it but I’d forgotten the final paragraph, the fab twist.
‘Star Struck Shooter’ was another I’d read before but I have such a terrible memory that I couldn’t remember anything other than the mention of the mime artist. Sadly there were more clichés: ‘hot on my heels’ and ‘on cloud nine’ but (I presume) these were earlier-written stories so Graham wouldn’t use them now. 🙂 The ending was disappointing as it was a serious no-no twist with no clue earlier in the story leading in that direction. This was my least favourite piece in the collection.
The final story, Mad Dog and Evers’ Bird, is a dialogue-only story (another winning angle with me and one I encourage my students to try) where Mad Dog is grilled by Inspector Threkeld with occasional interruptions by Mad Dog’s solicitor. A funny story.
With the exception of some (three that I spotted) typos and the aforementioned clichés, it’s an excellent collection that could be read over and over… especially when you have as bad a memory as me.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local county council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page). She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog.
Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.
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If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.