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Success Stories

by Michael Acton & Tony McNamara

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ISBN 0 9543699 0 4
Marwell Publishing, 2002
108pp, paperback
Retail price 3,99

This is a small book of short stories. It alternates strictly between stories by Acton and stories by McNamara. There a quite a few "twist" stories and also ones where you are deceived as to what the protagonist is, e.g. you think she’s human but she turns out to be a cat. Actually, cats are not used, but I didn’t want to give the game away.

Personally I have to own up to not particularly liking either type of story. Twists I find generally irritating and quite often too clever for their own good, or else I guess them quickly and then what’s the point? The other type are just dreadful really, why do you want to fool your audience? Shouldn’t they be with you in the story? To illustrate this, there are two stories by Tony McNamara using the same characters. In the first, Magic and the Pieman, he plays this deception trick. In the second, Off-Piste, he doesn’t. Off-Piste is a much more satisfying story. McNamara obviously likes these characters, with, I think, good reason. He will probably use them again. I would recommend him returning to the first story and taking out the reader deception.

The longest story in this book is by Michael Acton and is called Island Masquerade. It is fifteen pages long and is divided into five chapters. Michael Acton has one characteristic in his writing which rather draws me out of it; his over-use of adjectives. For example: Black angry night clouds stood on the horizon in mute defiance before melting away in the unrelenting glare of the magnificent day star. I know Mr. Acton is looking to create atmosphere here, but for me, he rather over-did it and this is not an isolated example.

I am conscious that I am being rather critical here. I am full of admiration for these two men putting their resources together and producing this work and then sending it into the world for anyone to criticise. I have picked on "twist" stories as being a personal dislike while being perfectly aware that there is a market for them and that these gentlemen might well utilise it. My problem was that, by the end of reading this book, I found that it had had very little impact on me either positively or negatively. It just sort of went past. I feel that I owe them something, but am struggling to find much to say.

I wish the two gentlemen the best of luck with their writing; I trust it will continue to give them the pleasure that I’m afraid it didn’t give me.

Open Book

Review by Chris Williams