After a hard day on the knives, blinkers on, I lob my steel caps at the door and something catches my eye. A package has arrived on my doorstep. Lovely surprise and buzz, especially when you are not expecting anything. All surprise packages receive a ceremonial opening. They require gentle cuts and a beverage to toast its welcome. So after showers and rituals, the pleasure begins. Nothing on the front is giving anything away. The back however with its little hand drawn demon bat on the back screams ‘ZINE’ to me. Hand Job Zine in fact, Issue Nine. Very chuffed. Short stories, artwork, photography & poetry from some great underground writers from the UK. As I have said before, you’ll find quality in these pages, and inside an hour I know my mind will be switched on. Genuine anticipation, I always take it slow. Of course it wins me over as soon a I open the cover. I’m a sucker for urban decay and the beauty here is a slick welcome on the concrete wall. First We Had A Black Cat. Weird, but just from that title I know that Dean Lilleyman is kicking off this issue. A story told in one breath that knocks the wind out of you. Dean has a perfect knack of sharing grief and mishap. It can get quite uncomfortable, that is why I adore his writing so much. He doesn’t gild it, just gets down to the pretty gritty. His next novel Johnny Bender should have all the squirming realism that Billy And The Devil had but with an even better kick-arse soundtrack through the pages. Really looking forward to it and check here for pre-orders and all things Lilleymen. Dizz Tate is a fresh face for me, first line in had me smirking, relaxing and enjoying a shared performance. If you don’t turn your tongue into a tunnel in about a minute of reading well then you ain’t getting into it enough. The warmth of her imagination hits in an instant, spilling the beans on marketing and all it’s manipulative madness, a synchronistic moment of hope. What’s this then? A hidden folded sheet of A4. It’s from the NHS. An Evaluation Of Care Delivered. Hand written, it is titled My Lack Of Faith. I pick it up, like you do. I’m pretty sure Hand Job wins oldest zine contributor now with 97 year old Marie Rowley. Pretty sure she doesn’t have a website, but such a sweet poem and the circumstances surrounding its submission makes this sit so well and will leave you verklempt. Thrills! Martin Appleby of Paper & Ink Zine infamy punches over two pages, a left, a right and a nice old upper cut with his personal sparing piece celebrating the good and the bad times on the bottle. Lewis Charles Bailey has a striking double spreader, a story behind the flaking paint, each curtain twitching. Morph sets a filmic scene. Delving into bravery, bravado and timing. Stunning lines stamp throughout the banter between Daz, Clark & Morph with an unexpected end to their year. Excellent stuff from Luke Humphries. Jim Gibson and Sophie Pitchford have compiled and laid out a superb mood. Sophie does such a smooth reveal. Her down to earth love of the stories, photography and literature shows in her layout. Their choice of writers keeps it edgy, the zine philosophy not drenched in bullshit. Jim throws in a poem himself about a past relationship that has him in flashbacks, something is lost and realisation is kicking in. I turn into some brilliant interiors next. Hidden Hunger grabs my attention. Beth Kane’s photography is political and sets the ‘sense of isolation the service visitors are likely to feel currently within society‘ and a government’s lack of assistance in tackling the problem of food poverty in Britain. Many misadventures are sprawled in this issue and none as unfortunate and messy as Paul Heatley’s wake up after a big night out. His story Sexy is a little misleading and as short as the skirt he wakes up in. I adore Thomas McColl‘s Smile, his contribution as sweet as his dial. There’s a great spread of vertical negatives that at first glimpse look like buildings. This series angled in a way they become abstract. Oddballs is a familiar story told with respect. No incrimination just a slice of sadness. Azeem Ali’s print reflecting Ian Cusack‘s characters’ minds well. Eyes wide, I see the googly peepers of The Coventry Conch mascot. Never Seen The Sea sends shivers of warmth. I could read Holly‘s stories all day. It’s an endless sigh and tickle. I see his name on the inside back and I know Joseph Ridgwell will deliver. Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man is a heaving, filthy, debauched night out that only a guest on Jerry Springer could tell better. This one so feral the pages smell. I loved it. Mathew Williams illustrations of the walking smoking man and the mobile coffee drinking man inside a soothing white space is a great respite to get Joe’s story out of my head. Alice Short steals my thoughts with New Beauty, ‘We are the burning world’. This issue ends with The False Prophet. Terence Corless, familiar with his pen, has another blinder of a story, layered and complex. Time concentrates, longer moments squeeze and we are all left balancing on a pinhead. Hand Job never tires, it just get better and better. Look out for issue ten soon. You can follow the guys on twitter or check out their blog of contributing posts here.