“A joy!” – December Stories 1 by Ian Sansom

For those of us who follow such things, it’s effectively been almost two years since a new Ian Sansom book (Essex Poison, the fourth in the County Guides series). We know we have two to look forward to in the year ahead (Flaming Sussex, the fifth book in the County Guides series, coming in May, and nonfiction in the shape of September 1, 1939, due in August), combined to make almost six hundred pages of new Sansom. Thanks Santa.

But by way of a starter to all of that excitement, like a bolt out of the blue (because we had no conception it was coming), there’s December Stories 1, a collection of “short stories, vignettes, axioms, the odd recipe, art criticism, meditations and literary curiosities relating to all things festive.” What this amounts to is 31 pieces (there’s something for every day of December, which means you could read this like an advent calendar), some as brief as a paragraph, some running up to six or seven pages. Some feel like reflections or recollections (but may still be fiction) and some are more obviously stories (because the narrative voice is that of, say, a woman, or a customs operative in an airport). There are a couple of sortof recipes (one is a literary joke, one is part of a story about a hapless woman dealing with Christmas Day using women’s magazines as a guide), art criticism (in the form of a comparison between Italian and Flemish versions of the Madonna and Child), and illustrations, courtesy of Rory Jeffers. It’s a wonderful melange, 90+ pages of stories that will make you smile and maybe appreciate what you have and gaze wistfully out of the window and, possibly, make you want to play The Clash really loud.

But do you know the best thing about December Stories 1? It’s the presence of that 1. Because, knowing that Sansom enjoys series (before the County Guides we had the wonderful Mobile Library series, you’ll remember), it may mean we get a 2 and a 3 and a 4 and so on (but, as the – to this day – heartbreaking demise of the Mobile Library series indicates, we only get these things if people buy them in numbers – so just like Santa’s sleigh needs belief to power it, if you believe Elf, which of course you must, being a right thinking person and all, then December Stories 2, 3, 4 and 5 require you to shell out. So that’s what you need to do. Consider it your gift to Bookmunch!)

Any Cop?: Like a hug for your brain, December Stories 1 is a joy, the kind of joy that gets you singing and dancing in the street at midnight on Christmas Eve annoying all your neighbours.


You can see Ian Sansom reading these stories over at No Alibis Press (and you can also buy the book there too)


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