“it might need a bit of a refresh in the future” – Long Grey Beard and Glittering Eye (The Fiction Desk Book number 9) edited by Mark Newman and Louis Rakovich

lgbageThe Fiction Desk is now on its ninth short story anthology. For a collective that began with nothing more than a few pieces of fiction and an ambition to shine a light on the wealth of talent still working in the short story realm, that is one hell of an accomplishment. Just one more edition and they’ll be in to double figures. For that alone, they deserve congratulating.

Other than a couple of ventures into the supernatural, The Fiction Desk have kept their collections largely un-themed, asking only that their stories have something slightly surprising about them, something surreal, or a straight story that offers a differing perspective. And that is once again the case in volume 9. We have stories here that range from a new found and life altering love of David Bowie, to a search for a missing and presumed murdered girl, via ghostly tales of gangs that turn out to be all too true, and not forgetting the punk father meeting his gay son for the first time in two decades. There are some strong and entertaining stories here; that’s not to be debated.

What might be up for debate, though, is whether or not the construction of The Fiction Desk is getting a little tired. It’s not like they don’t produce better than average anthologies time after time, and there is nothing wrong with their tried and tested formula of lining un-themed stories up in a row. But it might now be time to question whether the presence of several returning authors every time is really the way to go. Four of the nine stories here are from authors that have featured in The Fiction Desk before. And most of these have appeared more than once. In fact, before a copy even lands on your doormat you can probably guess at least three of the names that will appear in it. Is that necessarily a bad thing? That is probably a matter of opinion. But it feels like, if the Fiction Desk is going to continue to thrive for another nine editions, it might be time to go back to the original mission and give some new writers a voice.

Any Cop?: Look. For me, there were two absolute belters in here. One was by Matthew Licht, the other by Mark Newman. One a returning author and one a newbie. And there are two or three other very decent stories, too. So yes, it is at least some cop. But it does feel like it might need a bit of a refresh in the future.


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