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by Simon Wood
Blue Cubicle Press, May 2006
240 pages
ISBN: 0974590045

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I'm not a big fan of short stories; most of the time, I find them unsatisfying because the plot and characters aren't sufficiently developed and the resolution is often flat. However, the collection of short stories in WORKING STIFFS turned my preconceived notions about this part of the genre on their ear. Wood excels at building a complete narrative in a condensed format. He is especially talented at creating an unexpected, yet satisfying, twist as the stories play out.

WORKING STIFFS consists of six short stories and a novella. The uniting theme is that each is set in the workplace. However, that workplace varies greatly from story to story. One is set in the corporate world, another in a small business; one set in a police department and another in an organized crime group. The choice of these settings gives Wood a wide degree of latitude in the conflicts that are created in each, as well as the types of characters. Some are achingly warm; others are cold, cruel and calculating. And some are a bit of both.

It's difficult to say which was my favorite, as all of the stories were very well done, with only one not quite measuring up for me because it was a bit predictable. I particularly enjoyed My Father's Secret. This story won the 2007 Anthony for Best Short Story. It takes a father passing along his career to his son to new lengths. The father/son relationship is also treated in a completely different and chilling way in another of the stories, Parental Control.

Although the novella The Fall Guy was well written, I didn't find it as compelling as the other entries in the book, which is an interesting reaction given that it is the longest piece in the book. There were too many things happening, and I found there were too many threads to follow that didn't necessarily connect smoothly.

Each of the stories in the collection is tightly crafted. Wood hasn't let the constraints of the form confine him. I've rarely seen works of this length which feature fully developed characters and cohesive, even complex, plots. Wood delivers the goods! He's got an inventive imagination, and that's what makes the stories unique and special.

I really enjoyed Wood's writing style and the unique directions he followed for the stories. Anyone that can turn my prejudice against short stories around has to be doing something right!

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, September 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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