Jack Messenger’s first collection of stories throws up an eclectic mix of characters and situations, binding the tales together with themes of love and loss, struggle and ambition. The possibilities of starting again feature in the first two stories: ‘Wichega’ finds a classic automobile prodding a child into imagining what might be happening to her family when they move to a new town. The search for stolen loot and possibility of a fresh start, carry ex-con Earle and his patient girlfriend Nadine across the dessert, in ‘A Hundred Ways to Live’. In ‘Ballbusters on Parade’, we focus on the sex industry when a man discovers he has a particular asset that could change his life – but will it enable him to hang on to his girlfriend? In the final story, ‘Uncle Mort’, Helen inherits property, but her relationship with her husband opens up the rift between them as they strive to work out what to do with the run-down house.
Featuring mainly strong female characters who face challenges that could change their lives, this is a fascinating collection that demonstrates a talent for language and character. The ‘voices’ in each story are very different, which often signifies a highly talented writer. In this case, the author shows he can write intelligently and inventively in a variety of styles while still keeping his audience engrossed.
It’s always nice to jump on the literary train at the start, and I’ll be looking forward to Jack Messenger’s next book with relish.