Reviewed by: Keith Nixon
Approximate word count: 45-50,000 words
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Ryan Bracha started out in film, writing and directing his first feature. He wrote the follow up whilst living in Paris. More recently the author turned to novels and novellas. His debut, Strangers Are Just Friends You Haven’t Killed Yet, was three years in the making. He lives in Yorkshire with his wife and a cat.
A collection of eleven stories of varying length, some previously published but now deleted and reissued in this single volume.
Ryan Bracha is like Marmite (a yeast based foodstuff that provokes widely spread reactions of the taste buds) you’ll either love or hate his work. This collection of stories aptly portrays the wide range of Bracha’s subject matter and a writing style that is best termed ambitious and challenging.
Personally I place myself in the former Marmite camp (both liking Bracha and the yeast based foodstuff). I’ve previously reviewed Strangers… and Tomorrow’s Chip Paper. Both proved unusual and challenging reads. Bogies, as you can probably tell from the title, is no different. All of the stories are provocative, most are funny.
The book opens with Baron Catastrophe and the King of the Jackals. It comprises two story arcs that subsequently combine - a first person character who has a powerful OCD tendency and his sandwich man neighbor, a hard working member of society who makes a simple spelling mistake on his sign that sets off the whole episode.
The third installment is The Bad Day. This is an interesting diversion from the ‘norm’. The author’s stories typically have a hard Northern seam running through them, but are balanced with a heavy lacing of humour. Not this one, it's grim from beginning to end. That being said it is well written and the multiple plot strands are cleverly built and concluded in such a short space.
Call Me Doctor F*ck Knuckles is previously unpublished. The main character is meeting his girlfriend’s parents for the first time. He’s working class, they’re all wealthy, and with a very strange set of behaviours. The title is the name the prospective father in law insists he be called throughout dinner. It’s a funny (as in haha) read accompanied with a quite a bit of wincing.
Written in the first person Tha Dunt... tracks a short episode in Fintan's bored life. He had a terrible upbringing, living constantly on a porn set (his mother the star) and he's now totally skewed by his experiences. He has no real friends and spends his time trying to entertain himself. He's a seriously damaged character. Then someone has an idea, pretend to be a secret millionaire. The trouble is Fintan hates people, has no regard for them at all, himself included, and he ends up putting the one person close to him in an embarrassing situation.
The final story is the longest of them all, The Banjo String Snapped… It’s a rude and lewd read, the story of a group of lads on a stag do in Leeds. Full of swearing, drugs, drinking and dodgy happenings, this is a blast, thoroughly enjoyable but with a lot more to it than just recounting a particularly dubious drinking session. Seen from multiple viewpoints it unfolds in an interesting fashion.
Overall the writing is free and highly engaging, but if you have any sensitivity at all to plenty of strong language and adult situations then this is not the book for you - and vice versa. The author deliberately challenges the reader in style, language and content. If you like a wild ride with the occasional hairpin corner then Bracha is an author you should seek out.
I think the best place to finish this review is with the author’s dedication to his wife which is right at the start of the book ‘For Rebecca, who just wishes I would write something normal for once.’
Plenty of swearing and adult situations.
Rating: ***** 5 Stars