Reviewed by Phil Sloman
There are times when you read a new author’s work and you simply sit back and admire. This is one of those times.
James Everington’s ‘Falling Over’ is a collection of weird tales pulled together from previous solo publications. You can clearly see the influences of Ramsey Campbell, Robert Aickman and Algernon Blackwood throughout, building suspense from the everyday, leaving you not fully sure of where you are heading until the subtle, powerful culmination.
‘Ever since Michelle has come back from the hospital, I’ve not been sure it’s really her.’ And so opens, Falling Over, our titular story, a tale of uncertainty and deception. Set in a halls of residence, we meet four students during the holidays. Paranoia pervades the pages of the story from the outset and is handled extremely well throughout. Relationships develop and fray, hints of ‘pod people’ come through and uncertainty reigns. A solid opening to the collection.
‘Fate, Destiny and a Fat Man from Arkansa’s is about trying to outrun fate when faced with an inevitable, inescapable destiny. Two thieves are driving away from last night’s robbery, ready to sell the stolen religious paraphernalia to any willing client. Both are disturbed by dreams of a fat man from Arkansas, a portent of a future which they need to escape. A neat little story, which works well.
‘New Boy’ plagues us with the impersonal drudge of the office, shown through the eyes of a ‘manager’. The overriding plot concerns the aftermath of an ‘incident’, the manager returning from enforced leave to deal with the fall out. The underlying current is one of identity and power, the slow deterioration of a man losing control. Excellent.
‘The Time of Their Lives’ is a story of trying to recapture your youth. Vince and Alice meet on holiday at a hotel with their respective grandparents.Around them everyone is old and getting more so, yet there is hope in the hotel if the owners will let you stay. But what happens in the evenings?
‘The Man who Dogs Hated’ is a clever little piece about societal cliques, the unwanted ‘man’ who moves into a Stepford-esque estate where money is status and status is everything. Shorter than the rest of the stories, this works well but concluded slightly earlier than I would have liked.
‘Sick Leave’ is a wonderfully dark story about children, their teacher and the plague;the song Ring a ring a roses used to its full gory interpretation. Emma, back from sick leave to her teaching role, finds the pupils bolder, more confident. But why are children going missing and what does this mean for her?
‘Drones’ delivers a remote soldier sending automated drones in to kill zones. Detached from the action, what happens when your victims come a calling? A stark view of the realities of modern warfare.
‘Public Interest Story’ is dark, taking us mob handed into a world of judgement and condemnation based on hysteria. Joel awakes to an angry gathering outside his house, mutterings of hatred and a newspaper headline he cannot quite make out. The world is out to get him and he doesn’t quite know why.
Aside from two pieces of flash fiction which didn’t need to be included (good in their own right but unnecessary), there isn’t a bad story among the collection. The writing style is excellent, sketching out the minutiae whilst making every word count and showing a maturity of writing you would expect from a more seasoned professional. Throughout, Everingtontakes the role of social commentator as well as raconteur, looking in the dark places of society and dragging forth what he finds with chilling accuracy. He is without a doubt an author to watch, a burgeoning talent we are likely to be talking about in years to come.