Short Story Introductions 1
Lagan Press collection breathes new life into the Irish short story
Child murder, abortion, Nazi collaborators and parental ambivalence are just a few of the subjects cameoed in a gutsy new collection of short stories from three of Northern Ireland’s best new writers.
Short Story Introductions 1, published by Northern Ireland’s leading literary publisher, Lagan Press, illustrates that the Irish short story tradition is alive and well and kicking in NI.
The collection of 20 stories from Ballymena's Gary Allen, Lisburn's David W Lewis, and Belfast's Heather Richardson are intriguing contemporary snapshots from this generation of local writers who were raised on colour television, computers and all things modern.
Despite all three writers living in NI throughout the 30 years of ‘Troubles’, the stories are interestingly unencumbered with retellings of atrocities, with no stereotypical ‘them and us’ bigotry laid out bare. The writers all show a deep understanding of human nature and reveal characters which are often disconnected and isolated from the living and physical environment around them. Unabashed, they collectively reveal the not so attractive elements of human character and the dismal moments of domestic life.
For Richardson - former winner of the Brian Moore Short Story Award in 2000 - one of her stories,'Collector of Kisses', came out of her reaction to the Soham murders of schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, when she tried to make sense of the double murder by a normally trusted member of the community.
'For me, writing helps me make sense of things that disturb or unsettle me and certainly the awfulness of what happened to those two young girls was something that made my mind recoil and the shock has stayed with me for a long time.'
When Lewis opens one of his stories, 'Mallemuck', with 'Wim was the slick-fingered Casanova of the filing world', you’re hooked from the start. In classic short story style, it keeps the reader guessing to the final last few words as to the outcome for this middle-aged Dutchman who flirts with the seductive young clerk. It’s long after the Nazi years, but the consequences keep coming back to haunt those involved.
Lewis is no stranger to the written word. A former newspaper reporter, he is Director of CultureNorthernIreland.org, Northern Ireland’s leading arts and cultural website. He was also a winner of the Davy Byrnes Irish Writing Award in 2004.
Lewis says: 'The short story is making a comeback, with readers realising what an exciting medium it can be. A short story can be a slap in the face, a slow seductive kiss, a memorable elegy, a thrilling blood rush - but they are all moments of escape in our increasingly fractured and chaotic lives. I like to take my characters to the edges of human experience and see what they do.'
One of the more poignant stories from Allen, 'The Linen Queen', is so of Northern Ireland that it should be a feature in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. From the stern, unloving, inarticulate working man father, the desperate, devoted mother and the flippant daughter, this story is contradictorily both local and also universally ‘small town’ to make it a compelling if uncomfortable read.
Short Stories Introductions 1 will help to address the current gap in the Irish literary market for solid, contemporary short story writing, says Pat Ramsey, Director of Lagan Press.
'This collection is long overdue but it will show that the fine short story tradition is very strong in Northern Ireland with these writers who are bravely prepared to push their literary boundaries.'
Priced at £7.99, the book is available in all good book shops and available on line from the Lagan Press website.