Good reading

In my last blog, I mentioned the collection of 666-word horror stories compiled by Fantastic Books Publishing (FBP) from their competition entries. My hard copy of the book arrived yesterday and I’ve been reading with more avidity and more pleasure than is my norm for this genre. The best entries in the volume are of genuinely high literary quality and so far (I’ve read half of the 32 stories in the anthology) I haven’t found a weak piece. Ten percent of the proceeds from sales of the book are to be donated to the charity Freedom From Torture, which is dedicated to helping rehabilitate people who have suffered real horror in their lives. FBP is notable for its support of worthwhile charities.

One of the high-quality contributors, Linda Acaster, has produced a banner to advertise the book. Here it is, complete with the address of the website via which you can purchase either the hard copy or the electronic version:

666 billboard-1

In contrast, I’ve just read an award-winning first novel that richly deserves the award. It’s Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, published by Viking in 2014 and by Penguin in 2015. The first-person narrator is an 82-year-old woman, Maud, who has advanced dementia and is fixated on both the apparent recent disappearance of her long-term friend Elizabeth, and the mysterious vanishing (and possibly the suspicious death) of her elder sister seventy years earlier. The author, who isn’t yet 30 years old, handles Maud’s life, mental disintegration and obsessions with flawless consistency, compassion and humour, and the mysteries at the heart of the story hold the reader’s attention throughout the book. The story is convincing and gripping. The characters are engaging: Maud’s caring daughter Helen, whose love for her mother is tempered by chronic frustration; granddaughter Kate, a typical but delightful teenager…

Away from reading to storytelling, I had the immense pleasure last night of attending Debs Newbolt’s latest performance. She held an audience of sixty people riveted for an hour and a half, weaving a tale about the situation surrounding the family of a former artist who’s been in a persistent vegetative state after suffering an accident fifteen years earlier. It sounds morbid but it isn’t, and nor is it sentimental. If you’re around in Lincoln or Ormskirk, where Debs is performing the set next, do yourself a favour and go. She’s always a first-class performer, but this time she’s excelled herself.

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