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Hard Shoulder by Jackie Gay and Julia Bell - Book Review


Hard Shoulder
Jackie Gay and Julia Bell
Tindal Street Press

Fiction-Net Rating 4 Star Rated Book

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Cover Story

Two Asian teenagers invent their own secret postcode. A drug dealer boozes and loses his way in the dark. A lonely woman finds dead meat sexier than living. A Ford Capri is gutted - and so is its owner. Two barmaids put a bitter twist in the cocktail of friendship.

Here are sixteen stories from Birmingham's young writers. Stories of forbidden love, theft, racism, chaos and isolation. Stories of the fallout from sexual disaster, the death of the nuclear family, the rebirth of the spirit of rebellion.

We Say

By the way, for all of our friends Stateside, that's Birmingham, England and not Birmingham, Alabama. In fact, even the Brits might need pointing in the right direction on this one. The UK's second city has not previously been known for it's writing prowess. It is more usually associated with industrial trades and a daunting road system - hence the book title, Hard Shoulder.

An organisation determined to put this right is the Tindal Street Press, Birmingham's very own publishing house for fiction and they are certainly causing a stir. This anthology of short stories by young Birmingham writers has won a major publishing prize but how good is it? Easy - it's very good.

Sixteen amazingly confident voices and sixteen fantastic short stories. Each story has its own, independent appeal but put them together and they give an almost complete impression of city life and the characters within it, as well as those who have escaped from it. Also, a wide variety of life experience is here, from love affairs to racism, from working to robbery. Everyone will find something that they enjoy but of course, I have my favourites. These are probably two stories, which appear in the middle of the anthology. The first is 'Green' by editor Jackie Gay in which two friends spend a summer working on the coast and second is 'Ringers' by Rob Smith, which involves a young man's conflict and conscience when he sees cars being stolen in his road.

The advantage of reading an anthology of short stories is that you get so many different perspectives crammed into one book. Reading Hard Shoulder is like having a really good box of chocolates - you'll read a story and find yourself saying "just one more" until you're absolutely stuffed full and satisfied.

Review by: Rachel Taylor

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