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.
Purge by Nathan O’Hagan
Synopsis: A collection of 6 gritty short stories tackling issues of violence, paranoia, eating disorders, alienation and pornography, Purge delves into the contemporary experience, from the perspective of those on the margins of society.
This collection is available via http://www.amazon.co.uk/Purge-Nathan-OHagan-ebook/dp/B00DC2O50E, http://www.amazon.com/Purge-Nathan-OHagan-ebook/dp/B00DC2O50E etc.
Review (via Mrs Kindle’s text-to-speech function)
The six stories in this collection are…
- Keep Calm and Carry On: A first person apocalyptic – and therefore grim – piece that reminded me of ‘I Am Legend’ and ‘The Road’. A very well-written story that perfectly fits the title.
- The Fat Man and the Suit: another dark and interesting tale. Two third-person perspectives of a journey to work, that packs a punch, as the cliché goes.
- ‘Spencer’ goes back to first person point of view, before switching to 3rd person. It is a sad story of circumstances, we could all find ourselves in, and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Michael.
- Jimbo and Logsy: intriguing title and the story doesn’t disappoint. It’s the longest story of the collection and we have some great ingredients including a dead body (a curious enticement at the beginning of the story), jealousy and humour (especially the reference to Hannibal Lecter)… and a lot of strong language, but it has already been established that this isn’t a collection for the faint-hearted. ‘Jimbo and Logsy’ reminded me of my teenage years (I won’t tell you which character best represents me!).
- Purge: Another title that represents the story and a graphic group of characters, narrated by the only male in the cast. This is one I would have liked more of, although I did like the way it ended.
- Starlet: A short but very powerful story, with vivid imagery. We can really feel for her.
And now for writers…
– When writing in past tense, the day before the story takes place would be ‘the previous day’s Financial Times rather than yesterday’s. Ditto the week before rather than last week. There was also a tense slip (into present tense) in ‘The Fat Man and the Suit’ with ‘this may be his last opportunity’ (rather than could have been).
– In sections where there are two people of the same genre, it is important to clarify who ‘he’ or ‘she’ refers to. In ‘The Fat Man in the Suit’, there is mention of the ticket inspector, then the next ‘he’ refers to the man in the suit, but the reader could think that ‘he’ refers to the ticket inspector. The same happens with Spencer when talking about the son and father, and later where Michael confronts an old man.
– Regular readers of my reviews will know that I pick up on ‘started to’ and ‘began to’ and in ‘the fat man’ story, we have, ‘As the train began to pull away, the fat man began to chase it…’ which probably leapt out more than it normally would have done because I was listening to it rather than reading it.
– In ‘The Fat Man and the Suit’, there are sections from two points of view. Where the point of view changes, there is (correctly) a section break, that being a blank line and then starting a new paragraph. This would normally not be indented but as it is on a Kindle, it is automatically indented.
– Repetition should be used only for emphasis, and here there is ‘forced to take the train, and forced to stand’ in subsequent sentences and two ‘turn’s in the same sentence (turn eighteen / turned to face).
– There are very few adverbs. One I would have changed was ‘muttered quietly’. We don’t need to quietly because to mutter is quiet. It would also avoid the repetition of quietly in the same sentence where the character ‘scoops the coins back into the jar as quietly as he could’. And I only heard a couple of clichés – and these could be disputed – the narrator’s ‘and truth be told’ and ‘out of the corner of his eyes’.
– When editing your stories, you may have used body parts that could come out e.g. with ‘nodded her head’, ‘her head’ could come out because we don’t nod with any other part of our body (ditto ‘shrugged her shoulders’).
A very well-written collection. Very, very dark but enjoyable which, with some minor editing, would certainly achieve five out of five. It would have been useful to have an index at the beginning. I love titles and knowing them in advance, I could pick and choose which stories to read in which order, although I usually go from start to finish, as the author intended.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, 2015 Head Judge for the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition, Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition, RONE 2015 Judge, and creative writing tutor for her local county council. Her courses also appear online at https://www.udemy.com/u/morgenbailey.
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) and has 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 nine 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.