There are several reasons for giving Daughter of the Drackan a five-star rating. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, it introduces a main characterThere are several reasons for giving Daughter of the Drackan a five-star rating. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, it introduces a main character who is female and strong, vulnerable but fierce, lost yet ever-determined to discover the meaning in and of her existence. This is important. Kathrin Hutson's creation Keelin is a healthy role model of independent womanhood. Literature needs more of this. For too long, too many stories have portrayed women as weak creatures, incapable of overcoming their own adversity without a man (often a variation of the hackneyed ‘knight in shining armour’) to help them along. Hutson goes some way to overturning this unrealistic stereotype.
A feral child, Keelin was born of human but raised by drackans. She is no damsel in distress. She’s a wild thing in charge of her own destiny - a healthy feminine archetype. (I recently wrote a piece about the damaging messages contained in many religions and fairytales. I explained the harm they’ve done – especially to females – and suggested ways of righting those wrongs. Keelin is the literary embodiment of my argument that women are not damsels in distress, but strong individuals capable of carving their own path and knowing what's best for them.)
I’ve long been fascinated by the phenomenon of feral children, having read many accounts of their existence in the wild. Most of these were short reports that dealt in known facts with little or no exposition, but in The Dogs of Winter – one of my favourite books – Bobbie Pyron tackles the true-life tale of a Russian boy adopted by wild dogs, fleshing out the unknowns beautifully from her own imagination. So Daughter of the Drackan struck a chord in me straight away, with its similar tone, albeit in a fictitious context with drackans in place of dogs. In terms of subject matter, I was hooked from the start.
There’s not much else I can say about the story without giving away spoilers. The main character/narrator Keelin is a sublime mix of fragility and ferocity. In her dealings with humans, she refuses to accept their illogical behaviour. This endears her to me all the more. Keelin doesn’t pander to human stupidity or weakness. That’s another healthy aspect of her nature.
As far as the story goes, it’s a metaphor for life: Keelin has an innate drive to find out about her ancestry, her identity and her purpose. In that sense the crux of her story parallels many others (one that springs to mind is Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – another of my favourite books – in which a supercomputer is built to determine the ultimate answer to the question of Life, the Universe and Everything). But Hutson's tale is so original, and narrated from such a different perspective, that it’s in a world of its own. It has joined the ranks of my favourite books. Deservedly so.
Crucial storytelling. Iconic main character. Highly recommended. Roll on the sequel....more
A lecturer in English literature loses his wife and six-year-old daughter in an aeroplane explosion over Scotland. A man stands accused of orchestratiA lecturer in English literature loses his wife and six-year-old daughter in an aeroplane explosion over Scotland. A man stands accused of orchestrating the act of terrorism, yet all evidence against him seems to have been fabricated to make the crime fit the person, rather than collated and judiciously applied - like jigsaw pieces - to prove beyond doubt that he is the missing piece of the puzzle. The sole witness for the prosecution: a taxi driver who claims to recognise the accused but only after several unsuccessful attempts, and only on the promise of an immense sum of money in exchange for his testimony. Twenty-one years later, a retired CIA operative, dying of cancer, has truths to spill before leaving this world. A Vietnamese woman - exiled from her homeland during war only to face worse horrors - is the only hope the lecturer, now a professor, has of ever finding out the truth about who killed his wife and child, and why.
The main character, Alan Tealing, has strong parallels to Robertson's wonderful creation Gideon Mack. This time, rather than being a minister without faith, the protagonist is a professor of English literature who secretly believes that all fiction is futile. Once again, faith - both lost and found - plays a key role in the plot. Also like The Testament of Gideon Mack, this novel is an example of focused storytelling, unlike 'And the Land Lay Still', which - sandwiched between two shorter, more coherent books - sprawled to an unnecessary length due to often-irrelevant and frequently dull tangents. The Professor of Truth is distilled storytelling at its finest. Robertson never gives away too much, sticking to the axiom that good writing should begin in the writer's imagination and finish in the reader's.
Although this is a work of fiction, its story parallels the Lockerbie disaster (which happened over Scotland in the late 1980s) and its aftermath. Like Arthur Miller with The Crucible, James Robertson uses fiction to make the reader question too-convenient 'truths' proposed to tidy up a situation that is anything but tidy. He does so with mastery of his craft. The plot is tight, realistic and pacy, its characters unique. No clichés or pointless tangents here. Even characters who play minor roles in the plot are imbued with idiosyncrasies that bring them and the story to life.
Don't be put off by the word 'politics' in the title. This guide deals with language - spoken or written - and how to express oneself clearly in wordsDon't be put off by the word 'politics' in the title. This guide deals with language - spoken or written - and how to express oneself clearly in words. Orwell's rules of writing are as relevant today as they were when he wrote them, perhaps even more so in this age of grammatical vandalism. Using examples of vacuous political writing, Orwell critically shreds them, driving home the importance of clarity and specificity in language. To make his points, Orwell critiques shambolic political prose, but he could equally have used examples from religion, philosophy, journalism, literature or myriad other disciplines. This pamphlet (to call it a book would be a wild exaggeration) is short yet indispensable. In some ways it reminds me of a condensed version of Strunk and White's 'The Elements of Style', thought by many to be the definitive no-nonsense guide to clear, concise writing. Unlike that book, however, Orwell's guide is subjective: he is fearless in expressing his views on not just language, but also politics, war and society. 'Politics and the English Language' is all the better for it, as Orwell's personality shines through on every page: his sticklerism, his humour (the fierce criticism of woolly political rhetoric is hilarious), his fears, his hope, and his prophetic vision of the future.
If you want to communicate more clearly, buy this pamphlet, read it often, soak up its messages and apply them to your own language, written and spoken.
I'd sum up 'Politics and the English Language' thus: the purpose of language is to communicate, not to obfuscate.
Everyone should read this little piece of mastery....more
Authentic dialogue should always be phonetically accurate, but Wiley Cash goes one further by making his prose phonetic, too. Initially, this grated oAuthentic dialogue should always be phonetically accurate, but Wiley Cash goes one further by making his prose phonetic, too. Initially, this grated on me, Cash's felonies against good grammar like pinpricks to my stickler's soul. After a few chapters, however, I began to hear the story unfold in a southern-American accent. I presume that Wiley Cash knows correct English but broke the rules deliberately, in order to tell his tale with a quintessentially American voice. This presumption allowed me to overlook the book's grammatical vandalism and enjoy its story, which has multi-faceted appeal.
When a young autistic boy suffers a horrific fate at the hands of a minister with a dark past, the event has long-rippling consequences. Each chapter is narrated by a different character. In this way Cash paints a complete picture of the book's microcosm, detailing pertinent events surrounding the autistic child's death. Cash's writing style is minimalist, never flashy; this suits the story. Antagonists are myriad: faith versus knowledge; forgiveness versus stubborn grudge-holding; adult delusion versus innate wisdom of children; family versus church; control by external entities versus self-control and personal autonomy. 'A Land More Kind than Home' showcases accomplished storytelling and masterful tension-building. It is a slow-burning echo chamber of fear, faith and fortitude.
A Blended Bouquet contains poetry and prose from thirteen of Scotland's most innovative writers. From the beat poetry of James Pettigrew to the ScotsA Blended Bouquet contains poetry and prose from thirteen of Scotland's most innovative writers. From the beat poetry of James Pettigrew to the Scots stylings of Robert Hume, it is clear that the spirit of Robert Burns is alive, well and infusing members of Writers Inc with inspiration. Originally published in paperback form in Homecoming year, a quarter-millennium after the birth of Burns, this anthology carries on the bard's legacy of writing from the heart. The diverse contents explore the whole spectrum of human experience: loss, love, longing, family, friendship, hope, prophecy, despair, dreams and much more. Some pieces are fierce and fearless, others poignant and profound. All the writing in A Blended Bouquet has one thing in common: it'd make the bard Burns smile, safe in the knowledge that his job is done....more
Sarah's Dirty Secret is the fourth erotic short story I've read, the first three being the excellent Summer's Journey series by Summer Daniels. WhereaSarah's Dirty Secret is the fourth erotic short story I've read, the first three being the excellent Summer's Journey series by Summer Daniels. Whereas Summer's first story set the scene for things to come (no pun intended), leaving the reader wonderfully teased but far from smoking a literary post-coital cigarette, Charity Parkerson's story delivers the goods: lock, stock and friction-burned barrel. Charity is an appropriate name for this author, as she gives effortlessly with the confidence of one who knows her craft and subject matter.
So as a relative newcomer (once again, no pun intended) to the erotica genre, what criteria should I use for rating a story of that ilk? One purpose of erotic fiction is to tease, titillate and ultimately satisfy the reader, so that consideration had to be taken into account over and above those that apply to all fiction, regardless of genre. I came up with the following list of five criteria, which I used to decide on a star rating for Sarah's Dirty Secret.
1. Does the story have a distinct beginning, middle and end?
Yes, very much so. The beginning sets the scene and introduces us to the characters Charlie and our dirty heroine Sarah. The middle deals with the complex set of emotions stirred up when these two people, who have strong reasons (Sarah is married, Charlie is her boss) not to embark upon a sexual relationship, feel themselves magnetically pulled towards each other's naughty bits. The end describes what happens when our two protagonists, finally abandoning all care of how society/family might view their actions, stop fighting against their mutual attraction and give in to it instead.
2. Are the characters believable?
Completely. Sarah, especially, has impulses that will resonate with most readers, as almost everyone has experienced the sensation of being torn between loyalty to an existing lover and surrender to someone new. I liked that the characters didn't just dive into bed with each other. The middle section, where Sarah and Charlie are trying to fight against their overpowering impulses by doing the 'right' thing, humanises them. They become real, not stereotypes or 2D cutouts, but authentic characters who are implicitly aware that their attraction to one another is taboo on more than one level. Also, this conflict between inner desire and outer behaviour builds tension beautifully.
3. Does the plot keep the reader's interest engaged?
Yes, at every point. It's true that short stories have an advantage in this respect, as there's less chance for readers to lose focus. In this tale, however, there's no danger of being distracted from the page.
4. Is the climax satisfying? (pun intended this time)
In order to avoid spoilers, I won't get specific. I'll say this, though: yes...big time.
5. Does the story cause readers to interfere with themselves?
I'm never more than a few heartbeats away from tampering with my man parts anyway, so in my case the pertinent question is whether Sarah's Dirty Secret hastened that event. The answer is a resounding Hell Yeah.
On the surface, Sarah's Dirty Secret is a tale of two people pulled towards an inexorable consummation of their mutual lust, but there's more to it than that. The spectrum of emotions Sarah goes through - as she feels the loyalty-to-one/lust-for-another scales tip towards her primal needs - showcases Charity's insightful understanding of human behaviour and rationalisation. As erotic short stories go, this one checks all the boxes.
Of course I'm giving it 5 stars. I wrote the darned thing. And I never publish anything until I consider it polished and ready to rock. The prophet TaOf course I'm giving it 5 stars. I wrote the darned thing. And I never publish anything until I consider it polished and ready to rock. The prophet Tam the Bammus came to me out of the ether one night, fully formed and spouting whisky-scented predictions. Such characters usually take serious effort to create, but Tam just fell out of the air, a gift from the literary gods. At times like that, a writer's job is just to channel the events that unfold...so that's exactly what I did.
The cover, on the other hand, did not fall out of the air. Anything but. It took three weeks of fiddling with 3D modelling software and Photoshop, but the result was more than worth the effort. Just as the story itself has tips o' the hat to some of my literary heroes, the cover was very much inspired by the Iron Maiden album covers I grew up with and still cherish.
If you fancy 7,000 words of escapism into a world of Scottish seers and otherworldly ideas, give this a go.