The Lucky Penny & Other Stories by Tim Jeffreys
Synopsis: Alfie is given a shot at fame and fortune, but finds that luck comes at a cost. Martha dreams about bringing her dead son back to life. Jez and Stig watch the sex robots being shepherded into the rich man’s hotel, and talk about stealing one. Christopher finds a key that opens every lock, and cannot help himself. Will wakes up after a drunken night out and finds himself a stranger in a strange land. Twenty-seven stories, twenty-seven scenarios that will almost certainly come to an unexpected end. Within these pages are haunting tales of ghosts, accidental deaths that are anything but, cursed objects, magic, mayhem and apocalyptic events. Once read, they will be difficult to forget.
This collection is available via http://www.amazon.com/The-Lucky-Penny-Other-Stories/dp/1291351698 and http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Lucky-Penny-Other-Stories/dp/1291351698 and other outlets.
Review (of the eBook, using the Kindle’s text-to-speech function)
A fortnight ago, I reviewed the first half of this collection. Today, I review the second half…
- The Secret Season: It’s a shame that I left this one as the first of the second half because it’s strange. And not in a good way. I didn’t ‘get it’ the first time so I listened to it again and still didn’t get it. With some stories it takes a while to get into them and I hoped I would with this one as I struggled but it didn’t last long enough to do that. It’s about spring… I think… or possibly autumn. And a couple… old, I think. Perhaps full of metaphors that went over my head. Some stories are clear to the author but sadly not to the reader (which is why we should all hire an editor or at least have an honest beta reader) but I’m hoping I’m the exception.
- A Summer Affair: I had no problem getting into this story but then got a bit lost. It continues the previous ‘winters’ stories but it had been a fortnight since I’d listened to those so was hazy on the details which spoiled this one for me. It feels like a novel extract rather than a complete short story (these linked stories are some of the longest of the collection) and the author does say at the beginning that they should be read in order but I think the collection would have benefited greatly from having them together at the end so there are no distractions on the way.
- The Mermaid: is an interesting story of a man called Ray who takes women (whose names began with C) to his favourite holiday destination. The mermaid was hinted with the first date when he’d not gone in the water, and we soon learn why he doesn’t want to.
- The Morning After: Is a surreal but realistic story and another of my favourites; top three for sure. A solo ‘Hangover’ taken to the extreme, and a great ending. The only thing that jarred with me was the mention of LSD which made me think the story was 1960s/70s rather than contemporary but the rest feels up-to-date.
- Jeanie’s Story: tells is of the relationship between Jeanie and the equally high-living Bobby, and one ‘trip’ that goes too far. A gripping story with a sad ending.
- The Final Fall: This is another of the ‘Three Winters’ collection and having not enjoyed the previous ones as much as the independent stories, I decided to skip it. I probably shouldn’t have done as this is a review but such is a reader’s prerogative.
- Rain Songs: Set in a café, this story tells us of an unfamiliar couple, Neil and Charlotte. It’s a sad tale (that I’d read before (see my review of Tim’s collection ‘Dark Lane’ – https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/book-review-56-morgen-bailey-reviews-dark-lane-by-tim-jeffreys) but only recalled it just before the ending. As it’s just as enjoyable the second time.
- Gift Box: is an unusual story about a normal family who receive a curious box with sinister consequences. Another favourite vying for a top three place.
- Pandy: A similar story to Gift Box, it’s a dark tale and although I preferred Gift Box, the twist at the end of ‘Pandy’ was superb.
- Falling: like Rain Songs is sad but a shorter post-Christmas story with a superb did-she-didn’t-she ending.
- Rosemary: This follows on nicely from ‘Falling’ as it’s a post-relationship story, told from the boyfriend’s (first person) point of view, and could almost be written about the main character from the previous story, Edith. Another super story.
- At Lookout Point: is a very clever and spooky (without any mention of a ghost) tale. My top three has now become a top five.
- Mr Herwig’s Secret: reminded me of Harold Crick from my favourite film (that few people have heard of), ‘Stranger than Fiction’ until I got to the end. A very short but ‘ooh’ story.
- The Countdown: is an intriguing story that, had this been a physical book, been a real page turner. It features a man sitting with a clock and generator next to him. Gradually, a crowd gathers and one person says he’s going to explode. All he says is ‘Change’ and others think of all the things they hadn’t done so I guessed the ending (apologies if this means you have too by this) and I thought it had ended when the man packs his things away but it continues. For me, the story would have worked better if it hadn’t.
And now for writers…
- There were few clichés in this part of the collection but the ones I spotted were ‘frightened out of her wits’, ‘froze me to the spot’ and ‘saw her eyes bulge’.
- In ‘A Summer Affair’ one of the characters ‘began taking the dishes off the drying rack’. I often come across ‘began to’ or ‘started to’ in the novels that I edit for my clients and suggest to them that they remove these verbs unless the character is interrupted because they do actually do what they are described, i.e. in this case the characters would have ‘took the dishes…’ because she does. It just makes it neater. For this editing tip and others, do take a look at my blog’s new sub-page: https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/writing-101/editing-tips. There was also a ‘began to pace about the room’, ‘began to run’, ‘began pulling out knives’ and ‘began to sob’ in ‘Jeanie’s Story’, ‘began to ring’ and ‘started to cry’ in ‘Pandy’, and ‘began to look concerned’ in ‘The Countdown’.
- ‘Me’ and ‘I’ can often be mixed up but if you’re referring to yourself (the main character as first-person viewpoint) and another character, e.g. him and me, or him and I, the easiest way to check is to remove the other character and see if the sentence still makes sense. In ‘Jeanie’s Story’ was have ‘and me and Sophie went sprawling on the carpet’. If you take out ‘and Sophie’, you’d be left with ‘me went sprawling’ which isn’t correct so on this occasion it should be ‘Sophie and I’.
- In the trimming (final editing) process, there are single words that can be removed. On the editing tips page, I’ve mentioned above are ‘excess words’ and in ‘Falling’ I would have chopped the ‘completely’ from ‘completely alone’.
- I don’t know whether you have ‘when’re’ (meaning ‘when are’) in your stories but there were at least a couple in this collection and they jarred with me. Or am I the only person who says “when are” rather than “when’re”?
- Names are important and other than Mark and Monica (both Ms) in ‘Gift Box’ and Edith and the briefly-mentioned Ed in ‘Falling’, the others chosen for this half of the collection, are distinctive and authentic.
Apart from the connected stories, which I felt should have been put to the back of the collection so they follow on from each other or reworked as a novella, this is an enjoyable collection. There are lots of great phrases, especially the ‘drip, drip’ and ‘Clump! Swish! Clump! Swish!’.
Rating: 4 out of 5 (would have been 5/5 but for the connected winter stories).
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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