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Monterey Shorts

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Success Stories

edited by Walter Gourlay, Chris Kemp and Frances Rossi


ISBN 0 9676848 4 6
Published by Thunderbird Press in association with FWOMP, 2002
241pp, paperback
Retail price $12.95

Open Book

Review by Deborah Fisher

There are a lot of things to love about this collection of short stories. The very concept ties in well with what Tregolwyn Book Reviews is trying to achieve: it's a genuinely cooperative effort on the part of a group of like-minded aspiring writers. I have no doubt that one or two of them will ultimately make a name for themselves.

FWOMP is an acronym. "Fiction Writers of the Monterey Peninsula" is a group of ten authors from the area just south of San Francisco, but the name is carefully chosen, "fwomp" being (allegedly) the sound made by a manuscript landing on a publisher's slush pile. As Brian Herbert, author of the foreword (who also happens to be the uncle of one contributor) rightly says, none of these people belongs on a slush pile. Yet that's where they might have ended up if they hadn't had the initiative to go ahead and publish their own work.

The production is glossy and professional, the cover not particularly eye-catching yet inventive and charming in its way, an original design by the talented Dan Koffman. Best of all, unlike most of the anthologies we've reviewed previously, each story is by a different author. If you don't like the first one you read, there's no reason not to try another. My appetite was whetted by the witty little snippets from each story, as shown on the contents page. For example, Resurrected by Chris Kemp: "All that, and I was resurrected, too." You couldn't fail to be intrigued.

Having lavished such praise on Monterey Shorts before even coming to the content, I must comment that I thought the choice of opening story an unwise one. (I think I might have gone for The Lizard Catcher, Lele Dahle's unusual tale of a traumatic childhood experience.) One of the characteristics of a successful short story is supposed to be the twist in the tail; but there were no surprises here, unless you count the redhead's strange decision to wear a scarlet dress and pink nail varnish. (Where were the fashion police?) Taken out of context, Reunion was pedestrian and predictable; in context, it's clearly a vehicle for the author's imagination as he contemplates the fate of one of Monterey's most historic buildings.

The same is true of the second story, Mortuary Beach, a cautionary tale about scuba diving. The Monterey peninsula is the cement - more of a loosely-tied rope, really - that binds the stories together. It's not just Monterey in the twenty-first century, or in the past, either. The stories extend into the future, with Byron Merritt's entertaining science-fiction whodunnit, Monte-Ray Gunn. There's even something for your kids: Dot's Dad visits Dinosaur Town, a story Mike Tyrrel originally made up for his own young family. And If the Tubs Could Talk, by Pat Hanson, is a very special take on the hot springs which can be found on the California coast. Sheer variety precludes my picking out a favourite story.

It all made me want to go there. In fact, I've already passed through there, but my mind must have been somewhere else, because I missed all this, and now I want to go again. The Monterey Tourist Board, if there is such an organisation, should certainly be making a generous contribution towards the publication of a book like this. It's an idea for other writers' groups, worldwide, to consider seriously. Monterey Shorts proves that, when it comes down to it, there is nothing more inspirational than your everyday surroundings.

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