Today’s book review of a single short story 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.
Samantha by Kevin Morris
Synopsis: Samantha tells the story of a young girl forced into prostitution in the city of Liverpool. Can Sam’s love for Peter, a man she meets in a nightclub, save her? Or will Sam end her life in the murky waters of Liverpool’s Albert Dock?
This story is available via Amazon UK (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Samantha-K-Morris-ebook/dp/B00BL3CNHI) and Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Samantha-K-Morris-ebook/dp/B00BL3CNHI), and Kevin’s website is www.newauthoronline.com.
Review (of the eBook)
The story starts in Peter’s point of view where he’s at a club with his friends, Mark and Lisa, but he goes off with Sam when she invites him to leave and Mark and Lisa have apparently disappeared.
Although Peter and Sam know each briefly, the attraction between is obvious, if not a little gushy at places.
Barry, Sam’s pimp, is horrible and well-written so we can’t like him. Some antagonists have redeeming features but Barry has none and his description felt realistic.
I enjoyed the narrator saying that Peter hated the Wetherspoon’s pub chain (‘They signified all that was wrong with modern society’) because it’s my partner’s favourite.
Although we don’t see much of him, Billy is probably my favourite because there’s a ‘reveal’ around halfway through the story, which I won’t spoil for you.
I didn’t like Lisa at her first meeting with (grilling of) Sam as it was initially confusing but then it becomes clearer why Lisa’s doing what she does, although it felt that Lisa was armed with information about Sam which didn’t ring true as they’d never met before. I did warm to Lisa later though.
Point of view wavers throughout the story; we start with Peter then Barry then Sam then Barry (when he gets his comeuppance) and Sam again. It would have been better to start with Sam so we know she’s the main character (although the story is named after her). The copy I received was a non-formatted pdf so there were no paragraph breaks and therefore unclear whether there were section breaks when switching from one point of view to another. If the narration goes into a character’s head they should be the main character in that section e.g. we go into Peter’s thoughts when Sam explains what she does.
I was confused when we’re introduced to a horrible woman and her abused son, but it becomes clear who they are and I liked the twist.
A little later we’re taken back to how Sam met Barry and it took me a while to realise that we had gone back to this time (I thought it was present time and she’d met another Barry) so it would have been better if we’d had this much earlier, ideally after we meet Sam in present time then her meeting Peter would have shown us that she needed saving.
Sam is described as being small (a little under five feet) and unless he’s a strongman, I couldn’t imagine how he could ‘swing Samantha high above his head’ and in the last section of the book, where Barry mistakes someone else for Sam didn’t ring true. Sam telling Peter about father felt like an exposition, the information for the reader’s sake rather than the character’s.
There are some clichés (‘avoided… like the plague’, ‘frightened rabbit caught in the headlights’, ‘followed hard on her heels’, ‘her skin crawling’, ‘ready for the off’, ‘to cut a long story short’, ‘lay dead ahead’, ‘on the spur of the moment’, ‘packed to the gunnels’, ‘laughing blue eyes and golden hair swam before his eyes’, ‘Sam’s eyes pricked’ (and later her then client’s eyes are ‘like pin pricks’, this mentioned twice in quick succession), ‘gazing admiringly’, ‘the reality hitting home’, ‘stuck in his throat like a chicken bone’) and some phrases that jarred with me included ‘confusion registering on his expressive face’, ‘Sam’s mouth felt like sandpaper’, ‘the money was correct’ (unnecessary given the context), ‘the sound was like an electric shock’, and ‘biting his lower lip and trying desperately not to give vent to his emotions’.
Both Sam and her client had hazel eyes so this could have been changed, and an editor should have picked up on this (and the clichés).
For such a short story (*29 Kindle pages / 18 pdf pages), there’s a lot going on and could have almost been a novel synopsis.
There are quite a few characters but they’re well defined and we can warm to, and dislike, them, which is important. There’s a good mixture of description and dialogue so this keeps the pace going. The names are simple and easy to distinguish other than Barry and Billy. I’d always recommend having different initial letters and certainly distinctive on the page (these are both five-lettered ‘B/y’s).
This isn’t a story for the faint-hearted and some of the writing feels a little stilted, especially the dialogue (which just reading it out loud felt too fully-formed in many places).
Kevin has also produced some short story collections (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sting-tail-other-stories-Morris-ebook/dp/B00DFK6R54) which are around the same price ($2.99 / c. £2.30) and similar lengths (c.30 pages according to Amazon), more than many authors charge for their novels. For any authors self-publishing their eBooks, I would recommend at least one (perhaps the individual short stories) is priced at $0.99 so that readers can try out their writing and then pay more for the collections if they enjoy the individual pieces. Kevin has one collection (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dalliance-collection-poetry-prose-Morris-ebook/dp/B00QQVJC7E) at $0.99 (and 52 pages) so readers can try his poetry and prose, which is a wise decision, but I do feel that Samantha should be priced at this too. That said, the other readers of this story on Amazon.co.uk all gave it 4/5 so clearly felt it was value for money. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite so keen so it receives…
Rating: 2 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.