Dogsbodies and Scumsters is a new short story collection from Roastbooks – a publisher that designs interesting and gorgeous books (Nik Perring’s ‘Not So Perfect’ for example.)
If I understand correctly, the Dogsbodies part refers to the longer stories, written by Alan McCormick, and the Scumsters are illustrations by Jonny Voss which McCormick has responded to.
McCormick has an easy way with language. His characters sound believable even when they are doing unbelievable things, and they feel like the people we glimpse as we go about our lives. Maybe we warily keep an eye on the angry looking bloke in the pub, or cross the road to avoid that nice enough woman who seems a bit odd. Here McCormick gives them a voice.
“Real Mummy” was, in my opinion, the most potent story here, and the narrator’s innocent voice recalling how her daughter was taken away from her is very powerful. I was glad to revisit the character in “Granny ♥ Terry Wogan” where her relationship with a taxi driver –
Mister Haji – rings true.
“…when you’re sixty all the streets look the same: dirty and full of ugly people with unwashed hair, clutching carrier bags and babies.”
“Howl” describes its main character, Eddie, a terrifying alcoholic bully, in such a simple, effective way that he remained in my head long after the story was finished. In “Deal or No Deal” Brenda’s kindest exchanges every day are not with her family but with the polite Mr Patel in the corner shop. It’s the plausibility that makes some stories so damn sad.
I didn’t get much out of the Scumsters parts. I like the illustrations, they are a fun way of letting some air into the book, but the accompanying prose seems a little throwaway in comparison with the Dogsbodies. They reminded me of writing exercises, but fans of the absurd will enjoy how McCormick has interpreted Voss’s drawings.