Ten Stories About Smoking
by Stuart Evers
This debut collection from Stuart Evers is a beautifully packaged and carefully measured set of short stories that, in the lighting of a cigarette, watch as characters fall in and out of love, cause pain, heartache and misery, and become obsessed. This isn't a depressing collection - far from it. For all its influences from masters like Raymond Carver and Richard Yates, there is still a lightness of touch, a sense of humour, however gallows, that gives it life.
The seedy, funny, sullen 'What's In Swindon?' tells of a reunited love affair for old time's sake that hinges on nicotine breath; as a stag-do converges on a house of ill-repute in Las Vegas, one of their party strays, and has a wild and wonderful night; 'Eclipses' imagines or doesn't, a love affair, a wife obsesses over her absent husband and what he is doing. There is a lot in what is and isn't said, and Evers is careful to be sparing but not too obtuse with his language. 'Underground' is a startling tale about regret and patterns of abuse and self-inflicted mental torture. Characters in these stories, have small perfectly formed dreams and Evers delights in slowly and almost teasingly moving them like chess pieces away from their goals, so we can watch their frustrations spill into bittersweet, sad smoke-filled furies at the world.
A strong collection from a seasoned live performer, and with packaging that should include a health warning, is one of the strongest collections of short stories to emerge from these shores in years, and when Wells Tower says they're good, they must be 'smoking.'