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Out of His Mind

por Stephen Gallagher

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1611,288,895 (4)1
For the first time in paperback... twenty-two stories and novella-length works, mixing imagination with suspense in the kind of tale that can slide into the back of your mind and then stay there for the rest of your life. Well-known as a novelist and screenwriter, the author of Valley of Lights and Oktober has assembled a signature collection from over two decades' worth of his lesser-known short fiction. A telephone chat line where not all of the respondents can be found amongst the living... the terrified flight of a hit-and-run driver whose fate was sealed at the moment of his deed... the seduction and harrowing education of a young artist in nineteenth-century France... the unholy alliance of an honest psychic and a skeptical conjurer... All brought together in one volume with an introduction by TV scriptwriter/producer Brian Clemens and an afterword filled with background insights and dashes of autobiography.… (mais)
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I've lost more sleep to Steve Gallagher's thrillers than I care to think about, but I think this may be the first time I've read any of his short stories; it's apparently his only collection, and he says at the back that most of the stories he writes are in response to specific invitations from editors, so I guess this explains it. It was on my mind that we shared an anthology ToC, but when I finally ran it down I discovered it was the Gaiman/Jones verse compilation Now We Are Sick (1991).

Whatever.

This is a big (just over 400pp), meaty collection -- 21 stories in all, plus a short nonfiction piece and a generous section of endnotes about the stories. Not everything worked for me, but I still enjoyed the actual reading of the ones that left me dissatisfied. A couple were remarkable all the way until the last paragraph, when it seemed Gallagher couldn't think of how to end them: the comic piece "Oh, Virginia" was one of these, and the other, "The Jigsaw Girl", was so wonderful, and so movingly told, that it'd certainly have been my favourite piece in the book had it not sported an absolute copout of a denouement.

Mind you, it'd have had some stern competition. Gallagher's particularly good when writing about children and childhood -- it's that element of "The Jigsaw Girl" which makes it an almost-winner -- and several of the stories here take the form of reminiscences. "The Drain" is an inordinately scary tale of three trespassing kids trying to escape The Man through a tunnel that's really too small for them and may contain live debris left over from WWII. "Magpie", which opens the book, is another in the recollected-childhood-adventure mode, but is more Dahlesque: a bullying school sporting hero gets his comeuppance. Also Dahlesque, with perhaps a dash of Saki, is "Modus Operandi"; it has a twist ending that's easy to predict but so nicely executed that this doesn't matter. "In Gethsemane" is an interesting historical piece about Spiritualiam; I suspect it'll keep popping up in my mind for some while to come. "Life Line" is an ingenious ghost story that's very moving -- as are a number of the other pieces here, most especially "The Sluice", which for my money is the collection's absolute standout: it's set around the time of Thatcher's obscene "Care in the Community" programme, whereby, to fund tax cuts, thousands of mental patients were turfed out of hospitals and residential facilities to live, almost always, as best they could on the streets. The narrator's a nurse at a facility that's being shut down in stages, and the tale is of a patient whose life is being likewise.

All in all, then, there's a lot to recommend here. Unfortunately, it was published as a limited edition (700 copies), and appears not to have been reprinted; to judge by a quick check of Amazon UK & US, copies are nowadays not cheap. ( )
  JohnGrant1 | Aug 11, 2013 |
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For the first time in paperback... twenty-two stories and novella-length works, mixing imagination with suspense in the kind of tale that can slide into the back of your mind and then stay there for the rest of your life. Well-known as a novelist and screenwriter, the author of Valley of Lights and Oktober has assembled a signature collection from over two decades' worth of his lesser-known short fiction. A telephone chat line where not all of the respondents can be found amongst the living... the terrified flight of a hit-and-run driver whose fate was sealed at the moment of his deed... the seduction and harrowing education of a young artist in nineteenth-century France... the unholy alliance of an honest psychic and a skeptical conjurer... All brought together in one volume with an introduction by TV scriptwriter/producer Brian Clemens and an afterword filled with background insights and dashes of autobiography.

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