The Rainbow Man is a clever, and rather moving, device used to unify this diverse collection of stories.
His is the first, simple story of a tramp wandering streets while talking to himself and children joining in his conversations
and then making up their own. He then starts most of the following stories in the book with an apt quip which he might have
made to a character in that story.
The stories themselves are a joy. They are very much that very thing, short stories, which now tend to be
disappearing in a welter of "Art". Now I have nothing against art and I would not wish it thought that I favoured story-telling
over experimental writing. I don’t, but neither do I favour experimental writing over story-telling. As with poetry,
where there is room for rhyme and whatever its opposite might be, there is room in short stories for the experimental and
for stories themselves. This book contains the latter.
This book contains twenty-three very good examples of the latter. Gardiner has the talent to depict character
successfully in few words and work that character logically in his given setting. This setting often has something religious
about it. Ireland and Catholicism are featured in a number of the stories. It is always handled well and with a light but
sure touch. The Lies of Sleeping Dogs begins with a priest in Donegal performing a "muffled blessing" at a funeral.
Immaculata deals with visions of Angels and virgin birth (this was the only story that didn’t work for me as
it had a twist ending that I saw a mile off [I hate twist endings]). Personal Services features a man having his feet
anointed by a prostitute he insists on calling "Mary Magdalene". Celia’s Shrine refers back to a certain birth
in Bethlehem. The Hand of God says it all in the title.
It is a much wider collection than religion and Ireland might suggest however. Gardiner deals with, amongst
other things: the Trenches, Boxing, Madness, the Holocaust, Marital Abuse, Prostitution, Drugs and First Sex. He deals with
them all in a well-crafted and considered way. There are ghost stories, fantasy, urban stories, humour and retribution. There
are not always happy endings but there are nearly always appropriate endings. He creates scenes and characters which work
and which make you think. And the Boho Press (lovely name) do an excellent job of publishing Mr Gardiner’s collection;
nary a typo in sight, now there’s a thing!