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The Curse of the Spear and Other Stories


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Success Stories

by Eugen M Bacon

spear.jpg

ISBN  1 55395 275 8
Published by Trafford, 2002
130pp, paperback
Retail price $11.95 (Can$18.95)

Open Book

Review by Deborah Fisher

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Those who believe in themselves to the extent that they are prepared to spend time and money on self-publishing deserve encouragement, regardless of whether someone like me happens to favour their particular style of writing. In the case of Eugen M Bacon, she has gone down a sensible path in employing Trafford to bring her work to public attention. They have produced a good-quality paperback with a friendly typeface and an attractive, colourful cover.

Some of the author's other tactics, I feel, have not been quite as sensible. This collection of short stories suffers from many of a beginner's failings. Ms Bacon is enthusiastic; she really cares about her writing, and wants to see it in print. This has led to a lack of discrimination in her choice of material. Certainly, she has grasped the essentials of the genre, with the stories kept to a commendably short length, and a number of plot twists that took me totally by surprise. She chooses varied subjects that have the potential for dramatic treatment, and she doesn't waste any time getting to the point.

The quality of her writing, however, is extremely patchy. Characterisation lacks depth and dialogue is often stilted. The mixed metaphors were a feature I found particularly irritating: "Sandy's cocoon of rage had hovered in the air like bottled hurricane". In fact, the whole plot of The Second Violin is farcical. Angel breaks every rule in the counsellor's book, for no apparent reason. As for the ending, one twist in the tail would have been quite sufficient. The sudden revelation that Sandy is a child, coupled with the extra-marital activities of Angel's husband, make the earlier events and dialogue even more unlikely.

Just to prove that the author is not without emotional understanding, she concludes the collection with a story that is clearly based on personal experience, and one which will elicit a sympathetic response from many female readers. Sonny, the Decibel Dumper may be an idiosyncratic title, but the reaction of both father and mother to the prospect of their new baby, and their mixed feelings as it grows and develops, strike a familiar note. This is skilful observation of human nature, even if dialogue like, "Oh, Oscar, I have a surprise: we have a bun in the oven," comes close to spoiling the effect. There is no need for any exposť of concealed facts or unexpected turnout of events here: the mutual discovery of the family unit is a good enough note on which to end - both the story and the book.

What I remained at a loss to understand was why this very slender volume is divided into two sections. There is no obvious difference in subject matter, mood or setting between Parts 1 and 2. The choice of title for the collection is also a little misleading. Ms Bacon evidently knows Africa - I assume she has lived there - and can write convincingly about it; however, in most of the stories, she decides not to do so, and the reader who picks up the book expecting warfare, black magic and descriptions of exotic locations is in for a major disappointment.

The cause isn't hopeless. I'm speaking from personal experience when I say that all newly-published writers, particularly those who publish their own work, are liable to look back on their early productions without pride. It's an easy thing to rush into. The key to success is to learn from one's mistakes. Eugen M Bacon has talent and enthusiasm; for the future, I would urge her to try throwing away some of her early drafts rather than giving way to the temptation to put everything into print. It will be very interesting to see what she achieves with her future work.