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The Unbelievable Death of Joseph Goldberg and Other Stories

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A unique collection of death, voodoo-magic and strange things.

Joseph Goldberg is the wrinkled old man you see wrapped up in a fraying scarf and dusty trilby hat, hobbling along the seafront promenade in the dead of winter. He’s grizzled, cynical, bitter, and swears like a trooper. In his defence, he didn’t lead the life he wanted, and his closet is full of skeletons. Then, one cold day, something amazing happens. Something so mind blowing, Joseph hardly knows what to do with himself. Don’t judge him too harshly - what would you do if you found yourself transformed into a flock of starlings?

Purchase this collection now to read ‘The Unbelievable Death of Joseph Goldberg’, plus three other dark, comic and often fantastical short stories from debut author Oliver Franks.

Reader praise:

“Fantastic visualizations, rock solid descriptions, and even better characterization.”

“A great journey of a story. I really enjoyed the old man’s adventures.”

“I enjoyed it very much and was quickly drawn into Joe’s story. His character was excellent, and your story was beautiful.”

106 pages, Kindle Edition

Published March 3, 2018

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About the author

Oliver Franks

5 books5 followers
I write a unique blend of science fiction, magic realism, dark comedy and fantastical tales – what might be called ‘speculative mis-adventure’. Embracing the magic of the strange, the dangerous and the vaguely possible, my mission is to enthrall and challenge readers with darkly comic entertainment whilst telling stories with a point, even if that point isn't always immediately obvious. Otherwise, indeed, what is the point?

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Displaying 1 - 15 of 15 reviews
Profile Image for Ronald Keeler.
846 reviews32 followers
June 13, 2018
The Unbelievable Death of Joseph Goldberg by Oliver Franks is the lead story of four short stories presented in 106 pages. The author mentions in a message to the reader that he is starting out as a writer and has several projects planned for 2018. What follows is a sampler.

The Unbelievable Death of Joseph Goldberg Joseph had an unremarkable life except for a couple of incidents in his youth. The two incidents caused others to think him crazy. First, he had left the church and spent all his time contemplating starlings on a pier. This lasted until he went to Burma as part of the Air Force, crashed and nearly died in the jungle, and was nursed back to health by a village shaman. The shaman’s medicine was quite powerful and initiated many hallucinations. His final hallucination, when he became a beetle, was the most disquieting but he was able to kill his opponent, a larger beetle.

It affected the rest of is life. Returning to “civilization,” he spent the rest of his life in a downward spiral accomplishing nothing. Joseph had the companionship of an equally uninspired wife who accomplished nothing more than preceding Joseph in death. He found himself back on the beach and pier of his childhood where he did not die. He morphed into starlings, not one starling but an entire flock. As a flock of starlings, he returned to exact small measures of revenge on those groups which had offended him in the past.

But this morphed form was not immortal. Read the story to see if you can appreciate the justice or logic of the unbelievable death of Joseph Goldberg.

The Chair When the woman summoned Gerald to meditation he knew he was in for a night of chanting and meditation to prepare for the next day’s painting. He would chant all night and wait for the attendants to take him to breakfast the next morning. Then there were pills. Finally, he was left alone near a bridge. He would paint trees and nature while staring at an empty bench until she appeared. Never in solid form, usually translucent, Gerald was at peace as he painted

But the form was not a ghost, was instead a female military officer research scientist many thousand miles away researching a way to remotely control human behavior from great distances. She did this with the intent of helping people like Gerald, patients in mental health care facilities.

General McDonnell had a different vision. He wanted to weaponize the technology and he wanted it done now. There would be no further delays. Dr. Lucy O’Connor knew more about the capabilities of the technology than the General did. She knew it was already capable of some of the things the General wanted. She had to stop what she thought of as madness. What could she do and how could she do it? How could she protect Gerald? Read this short story to find out.

The Dark Matter of Dreams The Hero of this story has no name, for convenience, I will refer to him as Hero. He stares around his bedroom as he lies next to his sleeping wife and is sure that there is more to the universe than the reality of his room. He thinks that reality might only manifest itself to those who are unconscious. What follows is a mystical, heroic journey with things to win and lose. He may even live through it. This is a story that mixes Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and a few other heroic myths for good measure. Which world is the reality? Read the story to find out.

Without the Simple Science Land was uninhabitable, the last spaceships had taken off in an escape attempt to other worlds, the only possible hope for survival was to live under the sea. But they had taken a vow, no use of any scientific devices as thousands gathered for a final picnic by seacoasts all over the world. With no communication among mankind, how could they coordinate any survival program?

Read the story.

Short stories are always fun because … they are short. Readers don’t have time to get bored as authors fast-track their tales to get us the maximum information in the minimum number of pages. This was a fun read to which I assigned four Amazon stars and I will look for more by this author.


Profile Image for Desley (Cat fosterer).
157 reviews53 followers
June 5, 2018
I found this an enjoyable mix of short stories, although as is typical with short story collections, I wasn’t keen on the 4th one, I think it had potential but was too short.
52 reviews1 follower
June 6, 2018
Very strange stories, but well told. Not my usual genre, but I think this would be enjoyed by those who do have an appreciation for this type of story.
Profile Image for Claire Davis.
224 reviews19 followers
May 6, 2018
I have received The Unbelievable Death of Joseph Goldberg: And Other Short Stories by Oliver Franks in exchange for an honest review. I have given this collection of short stories four out of five stars overall ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
As this is a collection of four short stories, I'm going to break them off into four sections and review them individually via headers. So, let's get started:
The Unbelievable Death of Joseph Goldberg
This first story as you can tell by the title is about the death of an old man called Joseph Goldberg. As per the book description above, he transforms into a flock of starlings when he dies. I really liked the author's writing and thought it was a very clever. From what I understand from the descriptions, by Joseph being a flock of starlings he was reliving his war days of flying and bombing. His thoughts that pop up in italics in the short story such as "Come on you little bastards, I've got you!" lead me to believe this was about his past life.
The Chair
The second short story, The Chair, is about a military experiment used on a man called Gerard who is a patient in a psychiatric facility miles and miles away from the military base. I thought this short story was very clever as well and I loved Franks' use of words in this short story. Very well descriptive and I loved how the author really made me think about this story afterwards and would have loved to have read on to read more about this chair and Dr Lucy O'Connor.
The Dark Matter of Dreams
Just as the title say of this short story, it is about a man's dream of dark matter. I felt quite confused reading this one as it's very trippy and unique, however I could imagine in my mind how the scenes would look and how they transform into one another, because once again Franks' descriptive writing is on point!
Without the Simple Science
This short story is about a group of friends saying goodbye to one another in a dystopian world. This very very short story packs a punch of information which really helps to set the scene and what has happened in their world. This story left me feeling sad and wanting to know what happens during/after the storm surge.
I really enjoyed reading over the collection of short stories by Oliver Franks and would definitely recommend them to everyone. I look forward to reading more from this author in the near future.
Profile Image for Reonie.
57 reviews24 followers
April 22, 2018
The Unbelievable Death of Joseph
The first story is about an old man who dies alone on a pier and gets turned into a folk of starlings. The story is about reminiscing about a life with regrets and getting revenge in a small and unconventional way. The author captures what its like to be a flock of bird is a beautiful and surprising way.

Although there is some funny imagery, the story has a melancholic tone. And the colloquial use of language might be accurate, but it did feel like it clashed with the magical feel.

The Chair
The second story is about a military experiment that has foreseen and unforeseened consequences.

This was a well-rounded story, although the ending felt fast for someone who is used to reading longer pieces. The thing that makes a short story good is how much it makes you think afterwards. And this one certainly made me think. There are a lot of questions left open and I would have loved to know more.

The Dark Matter of Dreams
Story number three is a bit metaphysical for my taste. A dream journey. I’m not fond of extreme surrealism stories, so I can’t comment much other than to say that the narrator issues with women are a bit weird.

Without the Simple Science
The fourth story is the shortest, but also the best in my opinion. A deep and punchy tale about friends meeting for one last time. It manages so much layers, history and concepts in very few words. Defiantly my favourite of the four.

Overall a well written and intriguing collection and I will keep an eye out for more of this author’s work.
Profile Image for Caitlin Farley.
Author 2 books17 followers
April 23, 2018
The Unbelievable Death of Joseph Goldberg is a collection of short stories from debut author, Oliver Franks.

In the title story, The Unbelievable Death of Joseph Goldberg, Joseph Goldberg dies and becomes a flock of starlings. Portrayed as the quintessential grumpy old man, Joseph proceeds to cause havoc in his new form while processing his incredible transformation.

The Chair introduces us to Gerald, a patient at a mental hospital who paints the beautiful woman he hears and sees without realising that he’s participating in an experiment. The exact nature of the experiment is elusive although the dangers it poses for the subject soon become clear. Surprise twists lead the reader to a satisfying conclusion.

The Dark Matter of Dreams takes the reader into the odd dreams that arise when a man falls asleep contemplating dark matter. It’s a trippy story but Franks fluidly interweaves the eclectic dream scenes.

Without the Simple Science provides a dystopian snapshot of a gathering of friends. Franks portrays a dying world that is possibly all the more haunting because of the lack of exposition.

The one thing all these stories have in common is a seamless blend between reality and fantasy. Franks’ prose is evocative and successfully suspends the reader in the ethereal space of magic realism. Things are rarely as they seem, a fact that is particularly noticeable in The Chair. The Unbelievable Death of Joseph Goldberg and other stories is a quick but striking read, its stories lingering in the imagination until long after the last page has been turned.
Profile Image for Lori.
401 reviews10 followers
May 11, 2018
I grew up in a time when it was popular to sit in front of the television and watch Rod Serling's 'The Twilight Zone'. So, I smiled when I was approached to read this darkly comic collection of 4 short stories because the author sent them to me knowing that I enjoy reading a mix of paranormal, fantasy, and science fiction.

Yes, often everything is not always as it seems, especially when reading those authors who write the mix listed above.

The Unbelievable Death of Joseph Goldberg I felt was about a life that had come full circle. With his flight at the end, gone was his feeling of uselessness.

In the other 3 reads, we have the quintessential villainous roles. We read about voice and message echoing and we see persons consumed with pushing boundaries. All reads involve a moral and philosophical choice with an unexpected twist.

Yes! I absolutely enjoyed this fast-paced well-written collection of stories I received from Oliver Franks.
Profile Image for Valia.
153 reviews
August 20, 2022
A little less than month аго, I received this e-book and it sounded interesting, plus the phrase ‘a unique collection of death, voodoo magic and strange things’ catched my attention.

The book is short. Only 66 pages and I thought I could read it fast. A few days, maybe.

I was wrong.

It took me three weeks to finish it (at least it’s less than month). Of course, a part of it was thanks to school, bad mood, family issues. You know, the typical things. But the other part was because of the book itself.

It’s good. I can say that I liked the idea of the stories. All three different and strange in a good way. They catched my attention with plot, but they were too long for my taste.

When I read short stories, I like them… how to say it… short. 10 pages or less. I accept more, but the author’s style has to be really good to keep my attention.

Here the first two stories were something like 30 pages and the last one was 6 or 7. I wanted to keep reading, but got distracted, bored and at some point, I lost the main topic of the story.

So that’s the only problem with the book. The too long stories. I like everything else. The cover is so bright! You won’t expect something dark from inside, but the motive suits the book.
113 reviews
April 11, 2018
Anne Kinslow.
I enjoyed reading this book of four short stories and found each story very different and all of them interesting. A great mix of humour, strange things and magic. I recommend this book it really is very entertaining.
Profile Image for K L .
670 reviews11 followers
March 12, 2019
This is a collection of four short stories to test the waters for this new author.

These stories were weird and wonderful. The title story spoke to me the most as the setting was familiar to me. I have seen the flocks of starlings over the Old Pier at Brighton, so I had no trouble visualising that one at all.

All four of these stories are slightly odd, but strangely interesting. Although I felt the writing was a bit rough around the edges I ended up enjoying them quite a bit. Better, they left me wanting to read more. Especially the final story called Without The Simple Science I feel could be a fragment from a dystopian novel that I would like to read.

I am not sure I would recommend reading this short story collection especially, but I will be checking out one of this author’s full length novels.
Profile Image for Laura.
440 reviews25 followers
June 24, 2018
I do have to admit I am a little confused. The stories flowed from one to the other, it didn’t really feel they were separated enough. I would be reading one, then suddenly in another and I was a little confused, took me awhile to catch up that it was a completely different story.

yourself transformed into a flock of starlings? – Poop on a lot of people it seems. Not going to lie I was giggling away like 5 year old at these scenes.

It would be really great to see some of these short stories fleshed out a bit, they were good. You could feel that they could really go somewhere else with more pages. Overall this collection was great, it showed inside the Author’s mind and showed his writing ability.
Profile Image for Marcus.
753 reviews3 followers
January 16, 2019
This is a book containing several stories about death. They consists of one concerning the military, one concerning a dying earth and it's effects on the remaining population, one where you get to partake of an individual's nightly dreams of nightmares. The stories are really well thought out and are at the least very thought provoking. The characters are diverse and we'll developed and instead of constant in your face action, it's more of a subtle boil I gotcha situation.
556 reviews1 follower
February 10, 2019
How can you leave a review for a short collection of short stories? Well, there's good writing here, good ideas, humour and a little sadness at times too. If you haven't read much by this author as I hadn't then I think this is a good little 'taster' that hopefully will leave you wanting to read more. It did me anyway.
Over all a nice short collection of short stories, give them a go.
11.2k reviews45 followers
July 3, 2018
This has a few stories in it which you will enjoy. One is about an old man snooze life is boring until something happens and makes his life more enjoyable. Call in love with this beautifully written stories

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.
Displaying 1 - 15 of 15 reviews

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