Sunday, 21 January 2018

The Desperadoes and Other Stories

Title: The Desperadoes and Other Stories

Author: Stan Barstow

Year of publication: 1961, Penguin edition 1965

Back cover blurb: 'A group of young tearaways on a night out that begins with horse-play and ends in tragedy; the loneliness of a drunken miner's wife; a war-shocked ex-sailor forced beyond endurance - these are some of the stories included in this collection.'

Reading reveals: Stan Barstow wrote A Kind of Loving, the great Kitchen Sink novel that isn't Room at the Top or the other one. In this collection of stories, generally impoverished people do quite banal things, like appear in amateur dramatics or redecorate a flat. They don't express themselves in particularly interesting ways, and not a lot really happens for much of it. Barstow's trick, however, which he pulls off with aplomb in pretty much every story, is to end on a devastating detail that exposes the innermost desires and fears of his characters. Very much the work of someone who knows what they're doing.

Random paragraph: 'She did not hold his look but sipped tea from her cup, looking past him through the lace-curtained window into the narrow street. He wished once again for the power to read her mind.'


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