As I tend to review books within either the Young Adult or Classics genre, today’s review is slightly out of the norm for me. I was contacted by self-published author David Gatewood to review a collection of short stories under the name ‘Tales of Tinfoil’, which actually falls under the Anthologies/Alternative Histories genre – something I never would have decided to read myself.
So the book is basically a collection of short stories based around real life conspiracy theories and the paranoia surrounding tragedies or controversial events that have happened in the past: things like the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Area 51, the Bermuda Triangle (which I find fascinating!) and trips to the moon. It was released this year so it’s fairly new and it combines the work of several different authors. Each story is followed by a little explanation or extra information on the background conspiracy theory that inspired the story and I thought that was a great touch, because as the collection deals with events that have actually happened in real life, it’s quite interesting to understand the author’s personal angle.
As a whole, I thought that the collection fit together really well. Each story was different enough from it’s predecessor to still remain interesting and every story in the collection was so well written that it wasn’t easy to get bored. I’m usually quite a tough critic when it comes to reviewing genres out of my comfort zone, but this collection actually left me with nothing negative to say. And in addition, it had a really great introduction that I actually read! Usually I skip introductions because I find them long and boring, but this book definitely broke that chain.
I had a few favourite stories in the collection and I’ll go in to some detail about them below:
1. Under the Grassy Knoll by Richard Gleaves
This is the first story in the collection and it follows a few hours in the life of Don Petterman – a man who sells JFK assassination DVDs on the streets of Dallas in the hope of earning enough money to make his daughter and granddaughter proud of him. At an age where he feels like he should have accomplished something in his life, but hasn’t really, he seems to be stuck in a state of stagnation. But what makes him a really interesting character, instead of just a boring old man selling DVDs on the street, is that he has a real interest in and an active knowledge of the JFK assassination. I got the sense that it wasn’t something he was just doing just for money, it was something that he actually had a real developing interest in and if he could only find a way to come up with his own theory on how the president was actually assassinated, then he would get that big break (in his world) that he’d been waiting for for practically his whole life.
I really enjoyed the way this story was written. The author had a real flare for setting the scene and developing characters really effortlessly. The fluency of the plot development was equally commendable, with an act as simple as Don’s iPad falling down a drain being enough to trigger a whole underground journey. The ending of this story was really cleverly put together, particularly in the way that it ended with a cliffhanger – does Don ever make it out of there? Does his daughter understand what to do with the email he sends her? Does Don actually get his big break or not? We never find out.
2. The Long Slow Burn by Ernie Lindsey
This story was more of a crime thriller and as I’ve been saying for absolutely ages that I want to start getting in to reading more of these, I think it was a great introduction for me. This one followed the story of an international criminal, frequently changing his identity and location from Moscow to London to New York. When he’s approached by a secret agent after getting off the plane, he thinks he’s about to be busted. But a plot twist leads him on a journey where he ends up working for them instead and trying to catch the infamous El Tigre – the thief of the everlasting lightbulb.
Again this story was incredibly well written, but I think it was more about how the author used language to craft really clear cut images in the reader’s mind that really made it one of my favourites. It was done with real sophistication and made the story come to life. I think that when writing thrillers or anything to do with crime, you really need to make it believable and have all the ends tie up so that everything makes sense. Well that was done incredibly well in this story and the brilliant plot twist at the end was really unexpected and so it had a good hard hitting effect.
3. Manufacturing Elvis by Jennifer Ellis
My third favourite was Manufacturing Elvis. I think my main attraction to it was the whole Bermuda Triangle theme, but once I started reading, I thought it was really great that the author tied in some humour to the story. There’s a conversation between Anna and Dolores during their plane journey where Dolores begins making references to her sex life with Anna’s grandfather and then there’s also the fact that Dolores is this elderly woman dressed in a bright pink tracksuit, which is just great.
Overall, I thought this was a really interesting and engaging collection. It was really well put together and it really held my interest throughout.