MYSTERIA by David Hayes and guest writers. Book review

MYSTERIA by David Hayes and guest writers, Bronwyn Editions p/b £8.59 (UK) 314 pages, ISBN: 9781521790915,

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

Writing a very short, short story is a skill few writers possess. Frederick Brown was the master and to follow in his footsteps is a hard task. The problem with so many very short stories is that they lack substance. There is no room to develop characters, build atmosphere or create tension. The end result may be a pleasing anecdote, possibly with a twist at the end but it leaves the reader hungry. More likely, the feeling is of frustration.

In his introduction, David Hayes declares that he wants to emulate the ‘Take-a Break’ stories of some of the women’s magazines, only for the horror and supernatural reader, stories that take no longer to read than it does to drink a cup of tea. In that, he succeeds. However, they leave that sense of frustration. Almost every story would benefit from a longer treatment. They are the outlines for something bigger and better.

There are interesting ideas within the stories but their brevity leaves most of them unmemorable.

There is another, serious problem, with the book. It is almost impossible to go back and find any story that catches the attention. There is no contents list pointing to the place in the book. Because of this, I have no idea how many stories there are – or how many cups of tea I’m expected to drink. Hidden within the pages are stories by some of Hayes friends. Finding them is like looking for a needle in a haystack. It would have been welcome, even if only for these authors, to be able to turn instantly to something that ought to exhibit a different approach. Readers like variation.

The stories in this volume are not bad, just incomplete. Hayes has a vivid imagination. I would love to see him take some of the ideas here and write them to the length they deserve.