Saturday 7 May 2011

[Book Review] From Dark Places

It seems like many months ago indeed that I stumbled across a blog by an English writer, whose work impressed me enough to find her on Twitter and begin an acquaintance. Since then, we've become (I hope!) friends, and Emma Newman has become one of my very favourite writers. Emma was really one of the first writers I interacted with on Twitter, so if it wasn't for her, there are a lot of writers I know now who I might otherwise never have met! She writes flash fiction as part of the #FridayFlash community, and she's currently promoting the e-book release of her first novel, 20 Years Later. However, it's her current release that interests me here, since I spent this afternoon at its London launch.

The short story is a splendid thing indeed, a snapshot into a time and place that we can visit with the writer as our guide. More fulfilling on a lunchbreak or while waiting for the bus than the gossip columns of a glossy magazine, the short story has become a bit of an artform. So much so that I've been looking forward to the official launch of Emma's anthology, From Dark Places, for a while.

Now, I already own the original e-book release that Emma did some time ago, and I've read many of the stories as a member of her Short Story Club (more on that later). However, the anthology was picked up, expanded, and polished by Jodi Cleghorn of eMergent Publishing, the Anglo-Australian independent publishing company behind the Chinese Whisperings and Literary Mixtapes projects, as well as 100 Stories for Queensland.

From Dark Places comprises twenty five stories of varying lengths, exploring a myriad of themes and ideas, yet always centred upon the very real dilemmas and problems faced by the characters. As the blurb says, "Abby finds a creative solution to her father’s problems. Ben makes a pact with the Devil for a new Mum. Katie is pursued by unrelenting voices. John just found his colleague’s hand in a strange girl’s lap. Jarvis is falling apart on his wedding day. Rosalind comes face-to-face with her number one fan. And that is just the beginning." They're dark and chilling, yet altogether human. Stories might deal with zombie invasions, angels and demons, or simply the fallout from a relationship gone awry, and yet it is the people at the centre of the stories that binds them together.

Emma also does audio work, so it was a real pleasure to hear her read aloud four of the stories - The Victim, The Letter, The Straw and In the Bag. The latter in particular is an impressive tale that encompasses the quest for eternal youth, celebrity stalkers and zombies. You can't say that of many stories. My own personal favourites in the volume are probably The Art of Desire, in which a little girl discovers a special artistic talent, Shedding, which is a wonderful little story of the true depths of understanding, Idolised, a powerful story about the dangerous reaches of belief, and the title story, From Dark Places. I award the anthology five blunt pencils out of five!

You can order a signed copy here, or you can buy the e-book for £2.99. You can read the first two stories here. If you like, you can follow Emma on Twitter @EmApocalyptic and you can "like" the book on Facebook.

Many of the stories in the anthology started life as stories sent to Emma's Short Story Club - members send prompts every month, and Emma chooses her favourite and writes the story. The winner gets to see it first, before it's sent to the rest of the members. If you want to get to read brand new and exclusive dark fiction, you can sign up for free here. In fact, my own prompt went on to inspire The Victim, included in From Dark Places, so I highly recommend signing up!


Genevieve Jack said...

Great review. I have this one on my TBR pile.

Mari said...

I haven't read your post so I won't be biased when I write my own review, but I just wanted to drop by and say "yay for writing friends!". Very cool that you're spreading the word about Emma's work. :D

Larry Kollar said...

What Mari said! I'm trying to whittle down my reading pile before throwing more books on there — there's this "Checkmate" thing for example — but I'll get to it!

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