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Radio 11: Further Tales of Light and Shade

by Daniel Abrahams

Rating: ****

Radio 11: Further Tales of Light and Shade is another compilation of shorts, verses and two longer stories from Daniel Abrahams, whose first collection of short fiction (books, bits & bobs) I read and reviewed last year*.

All writers’ work is indelibly stamped with their unique qualities like a fingerprint or a snowflake, but sometimes this singularity is diluted or evolves. Daniel Abrahams’ stories are so recognisable and conspicuously him, that they make me smile and yet, there is not one particular defining technical element.

It’s actually more of an attitude that radiates from the page; authentically reassuring with a laidback, slightly whimsical vibe which disguises that the author is probably not quite so relaxed as some of the stories belie. What demonstrates this is the thoughtfully written and naturally warm foreword. The reader is immediately taken into Daniel’s confidence in a gentle, unassuming way and it creates an instantaneous connection.

There is a real sense of consideration and concern that the reader is included, involved, engaged and the stories themselves are tailored to fit a reader’s skin. There are points of reference that we all know and have experienced, whether on an everyday level, or when we lose ourselves in a flight of fancy. In most of the writing, there will be a character familiar in some way without being a prototype.

The first section of Radio 11 is a collection of six new short stories. As the sub-title suggests, there is light and shade. Sky’s the Limit was poignant and I felt the aching nostalgia of My Heroic Father keenly, yet the subject matter felt nicely contemporary. Cross to Bear is a bit of fun, and As Time Goes By was the strongest; neatly balancing the black humour with genuine emotion.

Jesus Dilemma was, personally, the weakest. The better stories are the ones which have both the light and shade within them. Although the humour is very tongue in cheek in Jesus Dilemma, I felt the jocularity a touch forced.

The short verses are lovely, very well-structured, accessible and thought-provoking. All of them are capable of producing several different meanings and, consequently, they are relatable with some charming descriptive imagery and metaphor. You’ve Made Your Point, Unnamed and She were my favourites.

We then have two longer stories; the first, Skylon, is amusing. It borders on frenetic farce and is deceptively detailed. This could certainly be in its own collection, there is the groundwork of a really intriguing character with his outlandish escapades and fantastic history.

I really liked the last, Secret Santa, there is a dark edge which is masked by playfulness. The narrative has real substance, it could certainly be worked into an even longer story. It also taps vicariously into that ghastly social awkwardness and feverish, forced fun that can inhabit workplaces at Christmas.

Radio 11: Further Tales of Light and Shade is a well-written, engaging collection that is rewarding and enjoyable to read. Highly recommended.

*You can find my review of ‘books, bits & bobs’, here

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