The Late Season by Stephen Hines

The Late Season

There is a magical process when a writer connects with you. The typeface fades into a picture and their words transport you quickly through their wormhole. Stephen Hines does this with incredible clarity. Each line attunes into itself. Those minute details fill one’s imagination, connecting all the senses, from the gas smell on hands, to the crunch and movement of snow.

This short story collection released from London publisher, Tangerine Press, has the cadence of a Badalamenti composition, meditative in its voyeurism, filled with many secrets. Eyeing the lines from the title story The Late Season, I was in danger of hyperventilating. It is mesmeric and you almost forget to breathe. Words are a sensation in this story, revealing another sense. Occasionally, hints of the dramas underbelly pops up. Why was Lily being so strange? Well there is a disturbance in these bricks and mortar. Carpet salesman Mr Halliday has overstayed his welcome. Lost and looking for answers, his presence shifts the fabric of family, his own sadness a slow drowning.

A 1946 DeSoto S11 Custom Convertible on the first day of spring has depth in its prose that is rich and sensitive. It is an ordinary working day for Jerry. Winter is melting and there is gas to pump. There is lots of painful thinking going on when you have a ‘kicked by a moose‘ hangover. With time on his hands, Jerry’s day is interrupted by truancy specialist Brian. A kid who asks too many questions, unknowingly connected to a past which sends us into a montage of scenes, past and present. Their connection realised, both one and the same, lost hearts in need of closure.

Onto The Roads This Time Of Year. Experience prepares the mind with almost psychic abilities, wisdom can be overwrought with mollycoddle. A stream of warnings can’t stop fate and the love for the child, adds another passing over the next worry bead. A similar mood in Honeymoon when mother and child don’t return from a boat outing, the terror of a grief striken imagination takes over. A hundred questions are asked, we go through the motions, we grieve and plan futures without knowing if one needs to. Defense mechanisms get into gear and whether it is tears or laughter, it is not until routine returns, will true feelings be revealed.

Every one of the stories ahead and the lives these short stories reveal are an easy dimension to switch into. Stephen Hines words are smooth on the eyes, generous with internal thoughts, captivating visuals, and perfectly natural banter. The way the voices echo, scenarios not very far removed from all of us. Overactive minds, the guilt felt by a discarded apple. These touches of asides stand out in the prose. Gentle life plays. It’s when he hits the centre, the fable, its truth, this is what really rumbles one’s emotions.

His characters minds become rooms, mysterious and intimate. You think you know outcomes early, but this is merely a false sense of predictability he so cleverly uses. Stephen will help you twist into a backflip. You question your ability to judge. He fits into all the personas he writes about with convincing characters, descriptions and motives that are tantalising and tactile. Voices choke with grief and reading through again never gets easier. His nihilism enters the room with you, putting the reader into the difficult position of uncomfortable observer, a beautiful masochistic realism.

The stories in the collection have a unique ambience, an exotic sparse ordinariness. The mood is a steady heartbeat even when the characters are anguished. One note plays like a backbone, linking all these stories together – they are all so exquisitely lonely. When you feel that, you will not be able to let go. Long after reading, the lives inside these stories will often resurface and you’ll think to yourself, what a freakingreat writer Stephen Hines is.

You can connect with Stephen via Twitter and see some more links to work via his blog. You can purchase The Late Season through Tangerine Press in varying levels of beauty.

Book Review Stephen Hines Tangerine Press

Heroin Haikus

American writer William Wantling only hit my radar a few years ago. His poem Poetry was an absolute soul opener for me. Amazed how the violence of a dying man could be reported as a poem, a piece of art, without diminishing the sadness or respect for this loss of life. Told myself this is someone you need to get into. Wantling died of heart failure at 40 back in the 70’s and never really received the exposure and respect that the likes of his peers got back in the 60’s. He did have a real presence with more independent underground publishers and those in their cliques. It is still the case today with independent publishers Tangerine Press. They popped works by Wantling a few years back which are still available via their website.

heroinThis compact piece of poetic history, Heroin Haikus, was released in October. It sits on my desk and has been picked up many times, by many hands, starting the ‘never heard of him’ conversations. Not really traditional Haikus, they have an air of close enough, his poems are loose and direct, that is standout here. Ten succinct pauses, seventeen syllables, maybe a word game to relieve the boredom and diminish the pain of being trapped, coping with life inside. These haikus of broken rules say so much.

I love its emptiness and the original drawings by Ben Tibbs, the inked cockroach, a fish eye view of busting cops, holding a gun like a limp dick in his hand, Wantling’s mind detached. This realism is repeated in his larger pieces and there are collections that you will find on Tangerine Press’s website if you want to explore more. Heroin Haiku’s is printed on good quality cream stock in piercing black ink. It can take you a minute or an hour to read, depending on how much you want to see into it. It is a fine addition to my poetry shelf.




Poetry Reviews Tangerine Press

The Glue Ponys by Chris Wilson

Chris Wilson strikes me as an observer, someone you can sit with in a room and hardly know he’s there. There is a comfort that some individuals just have. A story sponge that find themselves right in the thick of life. Excess, this and that, booze blood and needles but still have the faculties to recall and the imagination to retell the stories on their road. Looks like Chris’ path was a hard one at times, but I also get a feeling it is one that he would never change. How could you when you have a collection of tales like this under your belt. The Glue Ponys travels various timezones and hangs out with the wasted, troubled lifers, loners and drug dealers that join him in the bliss of being somewhere else but here. Amalgams and just plain scary real, these dangerous journeys can take their toll. Early death is a usual outcome, but to give it all away for a more serene existence is freaking hard. One where you ain’t stealing or becoming a living, breathing mind waster. Where personal drama is the only thing you have to make you feel alive cause you are so dead inside. For Chris Wilson, long prison stints broke the habit. Inside he found philosophy and a myriad of stories. It’s the combination of this that makes this collection of short stories so tantalising. gle-ponyA real understanding of the characters motivations. The Glue Ponys sums up addiction, the seedy side. There is a desperation and defiance with many of his characters, a kind of I’ve had enough, save me scenario. Not in a finding god way, just peace away from the inner torture. A different direction is a brave move. Chris found better ways to waste his time that has benefits for us all. The sheer beauty and raw style that is his voice inside these pages. Chris has an extraordinary talent to be the voice of those he writes about. Part ‘it was told to me and this is what they saw’ and part ‘I was there and this is what I saw’. Characters like The Lieutenant who makes himself a god in his own lil kingdom of depravity and abuse, a Kurtz-like druglord on a bed of his own apocalypse. The Pugilist, when a spades partner doesn’t want to play the life game anymore, the carrion swarm in quick. Trying to disassociate yourself from your actions, where a timespan of events leads to freaky scenes and tragic outcomes is a constant in these short stories. Searching for “holes in the links”, thinking about his own great escape. The prose moves easy, stark and in it’s own way very poetic. Sex and age is no barrier to pain, these are stories of the lost and desperate. This book, like his art, are figures that transform into a blurry mash of ghosts that intrigue in their solitude, disturbed auras and beauty. This artist has captured me this month. I look forward to exploring more. You can purchase The Glue Ponys here and can contact Chris via Tangerine Press’ website or via twitter.







Book Review Chris Wilson Tangerine Press