Monday 24 June 2013

The Unspoken.

Cancer plays a big part in my life given that I work in a pathology laboratory where the principal work is in the diagnosis of this horrible disease. I must have read mountains of literature about it, and spend most of my day looking down a microscope trying to identify it so was intrigued to see this new collection of short stories edited by William Meikle which is subtitled An Anthology for Cancer Relief. It contains seventeen stories and all profits will be going to the Beatson Cancer Research Institute, a laudable aim, and - given the quality of the writing on display here - will hopefully be hugely successful.
Many of the stories within The Unspoken use the theme of cancer as their basis, either overtly or indirectly whilst others have no link to it at all (or are so tenuous that I missed them completely). Notable amongst these is Harbinger by Stephen Laws, an enigmatic, ambiguous tale that I loved precisely for those reasons. It was great to see something new from Stephen (although I'm not sure when the story was written) who was - is - a bit of a hero of mine, having written some brilliant novels set in his - and my -home region, and who probably didn't get the recognition he really deserved.
The theme of the desperation of being diagnosed with cancer leading to Faustian deals is explored in ascending order of success by Stephen James Price's Pages of Promises, Anna Taborska's Underbelly and, in my opinion the best of the three Stevens Savile and Lockley's The Last Gift.
There are contributions too from the editor- The Unfinished Basement - which I'd encountered previously in his wonderful Dark Melodies and the publisher, Johnny Mains with another story I'd read before in his collection Frightfully Cosy and Mild Stories for Nervous Types, with The Cure - a truly disturbing story that was the highlight of that collection for me and which still has the power to shock even on second reading.
David A Riley provides a blood-soaked slice of fantasy in A Girl, A Toad and a Flask whilst John Shirley gives us the board meeting from Hell (aren't they all..?) in Where the Market's Hottest.
The two stand-out stories for me were ones where the theme of cancer was used most tangentially, Gary McMahon's Bitter Soup highlights the decay and necrosis associated with the disease in a harrowing tale full of disturbing imagery and Simon Kurt Unsworth's Photograph's of Boden, a psychological horror that plays on the theme of the inexorable spread of a life-changing, life-threatening process.
The Unspoken is an excellent collection of stories covering a wide range of styles. Given that cancer is derived from the Greek word for crab, it's only fitting that Guy N Smith has a story in here too. You can buy it here and here and I thoroughly recommend that you do.


  1. Thanks, Anthony.

    And Stephen Laws' story is a new one, written earlier this year for the anthology. He's a lovely man. :-)

  2. No problem! - it's a great collection. And excellent news that Stephen's still writing, I met him a couple of times at book signings and yes, he's a great bloke.

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