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’31’ by Calum Kerr: a review

May 4, 2013

31 is a collection of thirty-one flash fiction stories written in January 2011 – one for each day of the month – by Calum Kerr.

With photographs, overhearings, film images and so on garnered for use as prompts, planning as little as possible in advance, he’d write each story at a single sitting.

Calum Kerr is a writer, academic, freelance editor and the Managing Editor of Gumbo Press.  I had the pleasure of hearing him read from 31 two years ago, at a BLAZE meeting organised by poet Angela Topping at Hartford Hall, Northwich.  Calum kindly inscribed a copy for me.

There’s a direct, no-nonsense quality to Calum’s storytelling style: a certain verve.  He writes with wit, sometimes indulging in wordplay and mental gymnastics.  I like the terms “Narratocracy” and “Kakistocracy”! 

His stories vary in length from eighty-odd words to over a thousand, with most in the 300 – 700 range.  Approximately half are in the 1st person, half in the 3rd person.  Some are atmospheric , such as a gothic tale set in a ruined abbey and a pulp noir story set on a bitter shore.  Many are comic, but not all.  There is harsh reality too, as in a story set in war-torn Beirut in 2006.

Calum’s characters come over as real people with flaws and foibles, trying to cope with life.  Often there is a note of poignancy.  Some are people we feel for quite strongly.  Not those with homicidal leanings, though…

31 is a diverse, genre-hopping collection, ranging from sci-fi, fantasy and the bizarre to love and relationships, with several pieces that push the boundaries of flash fiction, such as a witty, anatomically focussed love poem in prose.  My especial favourites are ‘Time Rolls On’ (about seeking new love), ‘Alone’ (an apocalyptic piece) and ‘Reaching Out’ (about holding hands).

This is an unmissable collection for anyone who enjoys quality fiction in the short-short form.  I look forward to reading more of Calum’s flash.

 

© Copyright Paul Beech 2013

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