Reviewed by: Keith Nixon
Genre: Short Story Collection/Crime Fiction
Approximate word count: 30-35,000 words
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Martin Stanley studied to be a graphic designer. A love of crime fiction at an early age led Martin to start writing. He has since released The Gamblers and The Hunters.
You can learn more about the author at his blog.
11 Brit Grit short stories with a hard edge.
I’ve previously reviewed the author’s output, The Hunters, so was keen to see how he handled short stories. I wasn’t disappointed. This is an interesting mix of work of varying length that’s well constructed. The mark of good writing is, for me, keeping it tight and maintaining a strong narrative. Stanley manages this admirably.
The first two shorts – Bus Rage and The Short Goodbye outline the shortcomings of people in general (a theme throughout). Then we move into The Beautiful Game, a Stanton Brothers short (the main characters in The Hunters). There are four Stanton tales within and these were, for me, the strongest and most enjoyable. They also tended to be the longest.
I really like the Stanton’s, they’re great characters. Written in the first person from the eldest brother’s perspective they’re intriguing for several reasons. One is they’re never named – the brother is simply that, for example. Two is they’re anti-heroes with a slight difference. Part Batman and Robin (they never kill anyone, just knee cap them) righting wrongs (for a price), part Robin Hood and Little John (robbing from the dodgy rich, but keeping it for themselves).
The Beautiful Game is about a group of teens who rob football (soccer) fans. The Stanton’s get involved to obtain the cash for themselves and stop a nasty criminal activity. But there’s an interesting twist at the end.
To The Grave is another tale of people’s failings, one best friend taking what he wants from another. Then we move to the second Stanton story that this book takes its title from. The brother’s try to rob a local bouncer and tough guy who’s also the subject of a TV show. However when the brother’s break in they get more than they bargained for and spot an opportunity for blackmail, but the tables are turned on them. For once they lose out to clever opposition.
Routine is about gambling addiction and how it affects the lives of others.
You’re Worth More Than You Think is the gruesome tale of a down on his luck drug addict who acts as a mule but gets (and loses) significantly more than he bargains for.
One Sixteenth is the third Stanton story. This time it’s written in the third person, which gives it an interesting angle. We see how the brother’s operate through another’s eyes. They rob a drug dealer, however they’ve also just hit another operation down the street and they’re out looking for the culprits.
The Carpenter’s Arms is a very sad story about a divorced man who can’t afford to pay the bills. He thinks of an extreme method of generating some cash, but not all goes to plan.
The Fight is the eleventh story and the last with the Stanton’s. The title says it all, but at it’s heart is bravado, ego and the North-South divide.
Well written, interesting stories with a hard edge that also add to the Stanton brothers.
Some scenes of violence and swearing.
None worth a mention.
Rating: **** Four Stars