The novelist Sir Angus Wilson, about whom I wrote a television documentary, once suggested how influences work on a writer. With a minor influence, he said, you might steal a scene or character here or there. But with a major influence, like that of Dickens on Dostoevsky (and on Wilson himself), they took over your whole outlook.
And so, with shades of Evelyn Waugh and from our biggest postbag ever, we lead with a sly take on a tale of kidnapping-by-aliens in David Barber’s Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover. A nice contrast here with the Raymond Chandler ambience pervading Sardina Ellifair Evans by Jeffery Scott Sims. Talking of influences, I wonder if others find echoes of Chekhov’s sense of life passing by on the other side in Things We Never Did by Angelo Attanasio.
365 by Pete Barnstrom combines elements of outer space sci-fi with the unusual topic of cannibalism, for which I can find no obvious precedent. We are back on more familiar ground with The Old Rocker by Manfred Gabriel, a work with shades of John Steinbeck perhaps, exploring the dynamics of a former rock guitarist and his two daughters.
Mission Completed by Helga Gruendler-Schierlo is a tongue-in-cheek reworking of the Bond spy genre. At extremes from the Generation X ethos of Breed by the hitherto unpublished Charlie Jones.
We finish with Marco Etheridge’s The Bones of Henry Thomas, a meditation on the battle of Antietam in the US Civil War, with for me more than a touch of the great Robert Lowell about it.