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Book Review: Cut Corners Volume 3 by Ray Garton, Kealan Patrick Burke, and Bryan Smith

“If there is something that connects the three stories, however, it is the distinctly bleak disposition and the overwhelming sense of dread that each one bestows upon the reader.”

 

Cut Corners Volume 3 is a collection of three short stories: ‘Andromeda’ by Kealan Patrick Burke, ‘Barrel’ by Bryan Smith and ‘Afterparty’ by Ray Garton. While all being broadly within the horror genre, there is no theme as such to the collection. If there is something that connects the three stories, however, it is the distinctly bleak disposition and the overwhelming sense of dread that each one bestows upon the reader.

‘Andromeda’ by Kealan Patrick Burke is a story that opens with astute insights into modern youth and tech culture, introducing the reader to a protagonist who is a smart, pretty, yet deeply self-conscious teenage girl who plays out her life in the relative safety of social media. This depiction of youthful insecurities is developed subtly and without resorting to cliché, but initially lacks any horrific element. That is until strange messages start to appear on people’s smart phones, and things only get worse from there.

‘Barrel’ by Bryan Smith starts in a backwoods town in the USA with a protagonist who is not especially likeable. The reader immediately sees his life as one of sloth. His wife has left him, he begins his day hung over and in need of a dose of hair of the dog. Shortly after though, he discovers a black barrel in his garden, which hadn’t been there the night before. His dogs are deeply mistrusting of it, barking and growling in its direction. As the story unfolds, the true, sinister nature of the barrel unfurls.

‘Afterparty’ by Ray Garton is a longer piece, making up around fifty percent of the collection. It features a young man, who is something of a heart throb. A darling of the concert stage and the big screen. We find him in his room in a state of ruinous despair and then, via a flashback, we see the awful things which led him there. Featuring a cast of deplorable illuminati, interwoven with an authentic feeling account of the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, we follow his descent from hedonism into depravity and, finally, ruin.

Each of the stories is well executed, with the first two in particular leaving a satisfyingly open conclusion, allowing the reader to keep guessing at where the tales might go. The final story carries a more prescribed conclusion, but also features a rawness to its vivid descriptions which firmly places you in the glittering world of celebrity before showing you its darkest face. Another strength is the variety in the collection, each offering entirely different scenery, characters and themes, while maintaining a punchy pace that renders the collection a quick read, ideal to plough through on a commute.

KEV HARRISON

Publisher: Sinister Grin Press
Paperback (108 pp)
Release Date: 22 April 2017

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