Roxanne Riding Hood and Other Dubious Tales will be officially published a week today, on November 28th, though it is already available on a whole collection of sites, including Amazon, W.H. Smith, Waterstone’s etc.
It is already being noticed, too. Jonathan Taylor, an author in his own right and Professor of Creative Writing at Leicester University, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with in the past, has featured the book on his Creative Writing at Leicester blog; see
We also have an initial Net Galley review of the book, in which the anonymous reviewer identifies some individual stories which have given particular pleasure:
“Thank you very much NetGalley for this ARC which was simply a joy to read. It’s been a while since I’ve read a short story collection and this book has some gems. Roxanne Riding Hood (I just wish there was more to this particular story), Appetites, Beans Broccoli Boys and The Art of Hearing were some of my favourite stories in this collection. I will be checking out this author’s work more. Simply loved it.”
Tomorrow morning, I am due to be interviewed about the book on Voice FM, and I understand the interview will subsequently be available on the Voice FM site.
Getting this amount of reaction before the book has even come out is very satisfying, and I hope it will be followed by further interested comments when Roxanne Riding Hood becomes freely available.
My preview of the stories which make up the book has now covered nine of them, but we still have ten left to go, which I aim to cover over the next week leading up to publication day, so here goes with three more.
Cleaning Up introduces us to a lady who tells us her name is Doreen, though we probably need to take this with quite a considerable pinch of sale. ‘Why I chose that dreadful name, I can’t think’. Doreen is a cleaner in a big multi-storey office, or so she would like everyone to believe. When she finds herself with a perfect opportunity for a one-to-one with the company chairman Sir John Curzon, she seizes the chance with both hands. Sir John is so tired he is becoming dozy, and ‘Doreen’ positions herself conveniently at his table.
‘When his eyes open again and he sees me sitting at the table a few yards from him, he gives a little jump and the vague smile now comes with question mark eyebrows’.
Doreen has been collecting a few office movies of Sir John’s younger colleague David Hamlyn’s ‘recreational’ activities with some of the company’s female employees, which she believes Sir John will find useful in fending off Hamlyn’s attempts to take over from him. ‘It does help to have a few shots in your locker, doesn’t it?’
The arrangements the ‘cleaning lady’ and the company chairman come to might most accurately be described as in everyone’s interests, with the exception of Mr. Hamlyn.
Story number eight, A Working Boat, introduces us to Jed Lassiter, would-be master criminal, and his son Bryan, ‘a hard-working lad and a dogged battler with temperamental engines, but, like his mother, sometimes a sandwich or two short of the full picnic’. Jed and Bryan are captain and crew respectively of the ‘Majestic, a battered old boat her owner Jed loosely describes as a yacht’.
Jed’s jobs for the night include collecting a nude swimmer, Hedley Forbes now calling himself John Danvers, who is faking his suicide in order the escape the tax man and planning to start again in the Canary Islands, and helping a more affluent smuggler, Mr. Alexander, take some dubious bags ashore in the dead of night. Unfortunately for Mr. Forbes alias Danvers, Mr. Alexander wants Jed with him earlier than anticipated, and Jed goes off to the second job while leaving the first high and not so dry. But the second job doesn’t go too well either, leaving Jed frustrated and Bryan confused. ‘Oh, right. Are we picking up the nude swimmer on the way then? Or is he the one landing the bags on the shore at three o’clock now?’
Finally in today’s batch is Eighty Today, in which Jane Walton, a widow and resident of Greenhaven Retirement Village, enjoys her big day while dealing with various events including letters from her loved ones and visits from the super-talkative cleaner Melanie. ‘I once tried to read a ‘quality’ newspaper while Melanie was cleaning the apartment, before realising I had either to stop attempting to make sense of the paper or spend my remaining days sewing mailbags in Holloway, having decapitated my cleaner with a breadknife’.
Jane also feels she has to employ the resident cook for her celebration tea, even though she has her reservations. ‘Joan is good at ‘dos’; she has her weak points, of course, a lack of imagination in the vol-au-vents area and a certain iffiness concerning pastries, though her Scotch eggs really do not look like what Sam Hall said they looked like’.
How the rest of her day goes is contained in the story, which signifies that, with seven stories still left to cover, we have successfully included both the old and the young, the male and the female, in our coverage of the book so far.