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Book review: There Was Once a Place edited by Rob Redman

June 20, 2014

There Was Once a PlaceThis is the seventh anthology from The Fiction Desk. Whilst I may be considered biased as they’ve featured a story of mine in two of these collections (including my flash fiction ‘Badass’ in this one) I can say quite honestly that every one of these anthologies has been a pleasure to read. This one is no exception. The Fiction Desk is refreshing. It’s reliably good quality, literary fiction that is however never pretentious or predictable. There’s the expected quota of adultery and difficult childhoods, sure, but the stories in these anthologies always deal with the typical lit fic subjects that I have to confess lacking fondness for with a flair of capable writing that makes any subject enjoyable.

I have a few personal favourites in this volume. ‘Dan and the Dead Boy’, is a wonderful, vivid character piece which is moving, humorous, sad and has the perfect punchline. ‘Little Bird Story’ is a flash fiction piece that ticks all my reading boxes: sad, hopeful and beautifully written. ‘Colouring In’ is another sweet, hopeful tale – it’s nice to read some happy stories. ‘The Stamp Works’ is a pretty traditional ghost story, rendered absolutely chilling by its impeccable detail, characterisation and pacing.
The anthology is rounded off nicely with two brilliant flash fictions – ‘Loss Angina’ and ‘Bing Bong’. I particularly enjoyed reading the flash fiction in this volume, and each story is prefaced with Rob Redman’s customary introduction which is always a lovely touch. Even the cover is nice – vivid blues and golds for a summer holiday read – is it contour lines on a map? Hills? A peninsula? Whatever it is, it’s not to be used for navigation!

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