2011 Redlitzer Anthology: Book Review

Last week, I posted the first half of my Redlitzer Anthology review.  Here are my thoughts on the final five stories.

The Swallows of Wellington Point by JA HENRY
Some writers use gritty reality as their base (Christos Tsiolkas comes to mind).  Conversely, JA Henry employs a style here that would best be described as gritty unreality. Nick-names and bogus games; car chases and law breakers; birds and bats.  What a delightfully unusual story.  The characters’ names are wickedly derivative in a modern-day Dickensian kind of way (Canon the human copier, Dreamon and Mangrove) and descriptions are evocative, yet precise: a bird in ‘mating plumage [that] could have stepped off the back of a silk kimono’ and ‘the sea is old silver, dead calm’.

Marathon Woman by MAREE REEDMAN
Maree Reedman is the only one of the writers known to me (we once attended a Queensland Writers Workshop together) and she is the reason I sought out this anthology.

Marathon Woman is I think best described as a ‘Memoir Fragment’, in which Reedman’s unique voice rings true.

The scariest movie for me was not Terminator or Alien or even Nightmare on Elm Street.  Please!  Freddy Kruger with his bad manicure and Clinque-free skin didn’t even come close to cutting it. 

Marathon Woman reflects on fear; on the horror that can be created by dental equipment in the wrong hands.

Reedman is one of those writers who can capture a voice perfectly – yes, even her own.  As an adult she has not forgotten the dog-year-length of the years in a child’s life.  As a tween ‘before the word tweens had been invented’ her ‘gob problems’ continued with the advent of one Miss Swan with her ‘steel coloured scouring pad hair’ and her ‘bench of horrors’.

Miss Swan is followed by Doctor Chin, another voice captured perfectly and, finally – mercifully – the kindly Brian who understands the power of touch.  The author’s relief is evident in discovering ‘what Santa did for the rest of the year.’

Marathon Woman is both  funny and frightening a-la Stephen King.  It’s a well-crafted story and Reedman is clearly a writer to look out for.

In what is perhaps the shortest story in the book, Shanahan takes us on a train journey; at the same time unfurling one of life’s big (and arduous) journeys.  The narrator has survived the loss of his wife.  Thankfully, the loss of his daughter’s presence is not permanent.  Sad without being morbid and, ultimately, hopeful.

A tricky tale, this one and I wouldn’t want to spoil it by revealing too much.  Suffice to say that some readers will sympathise with the narrator and may form hasty judgements about her partner.  As in life though, there are usually two sides to a story. 

 Dead End by LINDA UPTON
A murder mystery set in a museum on a fund-raiser evening, the tone is set by the curator/narrator who has the hard-boiled edge of a film noir detective.  ‘Like plaster ducks flying across a wall, we were going nowhere with donations this evening.’

Suspense is difficult to pull off in just eight pages or so, but Linda Upton manages to do it with this little ‘who dunnit’ and she resists the urge to present the proverbial ‘knight in shining armour’ at the denouement.  Nice work.

I look forward to next year’s anthology.

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