Nightingale Songs By Simon Strantzas

As I start this real time review of Simon Strantzas’s third collection of short stories,  I start to think about the whole E-Book revolution.  This book is currently only available as either a limited edition hard cover, or an ultra limited edition leather bound edition.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my e-books, without them U wouldn’t have discovered a lot of great authors.  Simon is one one of them, if he hadn’t sent me a PDF of this book, I probably wouldn’t have taken the plunge.

However just as sat down to gather my thoughts, the postman delivered a copy of Reggie Oliver’s Mrs Midnight, and Peter Atkins Rumours of The Marvellous.  Both of these books are a joy to behold, great covers, excellent top notch production values.  They just feel right in at home in the hand.  I know some folk argue that a story is just words and it doesn’t matter who you read them.  Yes they are partly right, so far I have read the first three stories in this collection, and they are wonderful stories, stories that are both powerful and subtle at the same time.  They deserve their place in print, in book whose production values matches that of the stories within.  This looks like it is going to be one of those books that you will treasure for a long long time.  It doesn’t deserve to be confined to the disposable medium of e-books.  I don’t want to hear “ah but yes but”, books are in danger of going the same way as music, you can’t tell me you feel the same way about the books stored on your Kindle as you do about that dog eared copy of your favourite novel.  That novel that has been read so many times it’s stuck together with sticky tape.  Over that last few days my feelings on E-books has changed dramatically.  I’ll still buy them, Christ I’m Scottish and I’ll never pass up on a bargain, however I think I’m going to have to get some new shelves installed.

So anyway back to the book in question.  Simon is described as a writer of weird fiction, and to be honest I’ve never been that sure as to what that means.  Based on the stories I have read so far, I’d like to change writer of weird fiction to that of a writer of mind blowing excellence.  I won’t lie you, I probably didn’t get all the subtle nuances  of these stories, but that is a criticism of me rather than the skill of Simon’s writing.

First up is Out Of Touch, this tale about two boys, one of whom is trapped indoors thanks to a nasty medical condition, and one whose household is permanently under a cloud of loss and unfinished business, thanks to his father departure from the family home.  There is an abandoned house on their street, a house that has am unusual amount of butterflies in its garden.  When one of the boys sees a young girl at one of the windows in the house, events start to transpire that can only end in tragedy.  Out Of Touch is one hell of a way to open a collection.  It is evocative, emotional, thought provoking and as I have said before subtle and powerful and the same time.

Her Fathers Daughter, also concerns people trapped in their homes by circumstance.  This time it is a pair of old spinsters, trapped in their house by the loss of their father.  Resigned to live in the past, their lives are interrupted when a young woman’s car brakes down.  She knocks on their door for help.  This is a very foreboding story, Simon has you at the edge of the seat, waiting for the big shock.  There is a real sense of dread, the fact that the big scare doesn’t come, and you are not left feeling disappointed is testament to the skill of Simon’s writing. 

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