Beautiful Trees by Nik Perring

Roast Books have just published another of Nik Perring’s intriguing fictions.

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It’s the second in a trilogy of stories following the lives of Alexander, Lucy and Lily. Just like the first, Beautiful Words, it resembles a children’s book. (The third will be Beautiful Shapes.)

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Nik is a flash fiction magician conjuring whole lives with small, careful details. He goes back and forth in Alexander, Lucy and Lily’s timelines and whilst describing various trees gently relates moments to it. For a book so brief it’s surprisingly moving, but that’s because Perring is extraordinarily good at this. A written review can’t quite explain how this all works. Suffice to say it is all very uniquely Perring. His words are accompanied and enhanced by illustrations by Miranda Sofroniou, and you should probably buy a copy for yourself and one for your favourite person too.

Dogsbodies and Scumsters – stories by Alan McCormick and illustrations by Jonny Voss – review

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.


Review of Nik Perring’s Not So Perfect

I “know” Nik Perring from the online bloggy world, but I don’t “know” him at all. We aren’t friends, tho’ he seems like a nice guy from his twitter feed and his blog. We have mutual writing pals but we’ve never emailed or met or spoken or gone beyond commenting on each others tweets/blogs. I wasn’t offered a review copy of his flash fiction collection “Not So Perfect” (humph) but as I run a dedicated Flash Fiction section at work I ordered a few copies in as I like to mix classic books with fresh, contemporary work. 
From what I have seen so far, Roast Books create gorgeous publications; books that stand out because of how they look, books that demand to be picked up and held, explored, read. Nik’s is no exception. It’s a small book – the size of a CD, so immediately looks different. Here’s the cover:
Delicious, eh? I had a wee flick through and liked it enough to buy it.
I read it in my lunch break and on the train ride home. To be honest I was so immersed in it that I didn’t notice I was at my home stop until the last moment and that never happens. What Nik Perring seems able to do is breathe life into characters. It’s a vital, difficult skill, made all the more impressive by the brevity of these fictions. With just a few pertinent details he makes characters feel real. He makes the reader care. His stories are brief but full. I was surprised by how romantic many of them are; beautiful, aching examples of love and heartbreak.

A grumpy man surprises his wife with a message in flowers, a woman heard sobbing through a wall may bring hope, a spurned lover can’t recall the last time anyone said his name, a man finds a lump on his dates breast…slices of lives reveal human nature.

It’s a cute book containing 22 wee stories (each complete with accompanying quirky line illustration.) It costs £7.99 and is available to buy from Waterstones online, Waterstone’s Brighton, or y’know, one of those other places. 

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