All Change by M.M. Purkess. Book review

All Change by M.M. Purkess, Matador, 330 pp, £8.99.

Reviewed by Steve Dean

So, here we go again, yet another vanity published book by what seems like an ever-increasing number of tree murderers. Please people, go ebook, we can still review your work and the planet can breathe a little easier.

Now, James, a young aspiring writer, is sitting in his rented flat and dreaming of creating an epic when the building is raided by the police. It seems they’re after him, but he doesn’t know why. So he does the sensible thing and runs away. With the aid of his landlady, James slips out of the back door and escapes, but is instead grabbed by three large men in dark suits and bundled into a car. As it turns out they aren’t men, or even human, but strange beings from a world beneath our own. And at this point I seriously start to question my life choices.

What follows is a long and dull plot following James and the huge list of other characters. Not a story though, just a plot, written out like an outline but in long form. The entire novel is described with very little characterisation, pace, gravitas or humour, especially humour as it’s supposed to be funny, the author says so himself in his blurb. The dialogue is scant and stilted, the whole thing unoriginal and annoying.

Anyone who’s ever been to creative writing classes or even just asked a writer for advice, will at some point have heard the phrase “show, don’t tell”. For me, this is something of a bronze rule, not gold, or even silver, but definitely in the top three. The author of this book takes that rule and tears it to shreds, burns the little pieces, grinds up the ashes and throws them out of the window.

Like singing, I believe story-telling can’t be taught. You can learn what a gerund is and how to split a digraph, you can improve as a writer, but if you can’t spin a yarn there’s no point writing stories in the first place. On the evidence of this book, that’s the point we’re at with this author.

I’d like to give this writer, and all budding authors some advice. Don’t base your editorial and publishing decisions on the opinions of your family and friends. Of course they’re going to ‘love’ it, of course it’s the best thing they’ve ever read, but it’s probably the only thing they’ve ever read. Ask yourself, what do an estate agent, a supermarket manager and an accounts clerk who haven’t read a book in years know about writing?

In conclusion, this is more of a plot outline than an actual story, and not a very good one at that.