In my post yesterday, I mentioned having read a third book last week but not having the time to write a proper review. Black Crow Speaks is a book I have been patiently waiting —okay, not so patiently—to release. The author shies away from promotion so I wanted to make certain I gave it the attention it deserves. I know I will be reading many of the stories in this collection over again.
First some background . . .
I started following Frederick Anderson’s blog a few years ago and was immediately enthralled by his gift of storytelling. I’ve been hoping (I even did some pestering) that he would cobble a collection of short stories together for a book. When I realized he had released Black Crow Speaks, I was ecstatic. This intelligent, literary, diverse, often bizarre, but always riveting collection of tales is not to be missed!
Let me explain the crow of the title—Black Crow shows up at various times throughout the book to discuss everything from neighbors (blackbirds), immigrants (seagulls), family matters, homelife, kids, the wife, temptation, getting old, and social matters. Given Fred is British, I can get away with the expression “bloody brilliant.” Crow has a unique take on life.
Here’s a sample from Corvid Values, my favorite crow story. Crow speaks first, followed by Fred.
He fidgets uneasily, preening a troublesome mite from his breast feathers. “S’pose. Yes and no. There’s the immigrants, see?”
He hasn’t lost his capacity to surprise: “Immigrants?”
“Yeah. You must have noticed – fousands of ‘em. Same every winter, innit? They comes flockin’ in just because they reckon there’s free food and everyfin’. They takes all the best bits and we don’t get a look in. Bleedin’ gulls!”
“Oh, the seagulls! The bad weather drives them in from the coast. The westerlys don’t trouble them so much, then? They can fly into the wind, can they?”
“Well, they work harder, don’t they? They work all the bleedin’ time, them!” He fluffs furious feathers. “They don’t even go to roost, most nights. And…and!” He squawks his emphasis; “They eat almost anyfin’. Jus’ anyfin’!”
“Surely there’s enough for all? I haven’t noticed you losing weight over the winter before.”
“Ah. Ah! But I don’t demean meself, me! You won’t catch me turnin’ over house rubbish like a – like a bleedin’ fox, for fox sake!”
“Oh, really? I seem to recall…”
“Never mind what you ‘seems to recall.’ Never mate, never! I’ve got my pride”
I treat him to one of my penetrating inquisitorial looks. “They’ve been raiding the bins at the back of the Pizzeria, haven’t they? That’s one of your favorite haunts, isn’t it?”
The crow hunches his wings and dips his head. I cannot remember seeing him so annoyed. “That place is a place for crows, gettit? Crows! Respec’able birds, mate. I got a right to that place!”
First, let me point out that no one—no one—does accents like Frederick. The ones he spins in this book are spot on. Second, the message of this story hits with a thunderclap at the end. The first time I read it, it stayed with me for days.
But the crow only makes up a few stories in this collection. As the preface says you will meet “a crow with wisdom we call could learn from, an airline pilot who qualified by correspondence course, an enthusiastic accordion player with a portal to the universe under his dining table, tales of fairies and goblins and ghosts within the machine.”
There are plenty of humans too—some who face heartbreak, others who find their lives altered in unexpected ways. Twists and surprise endings abound. Scene setting is off the charts with descriptions that are sometimes lyrical, other times gritty and raw. Every story brings something unique, but I must make special mention of Birdie, A Visitation from Mary, Goblins, Gloves, Reincarnate, Siobhan, and The Newquay Train. Wow. Just…WOW!
If you like smart, witty, and riveting fiction, don’t pass this collection by. I can’t recommend it highly enough. The great thing about short stories is you can read a few at a time or many at once. However, you read them, do read them. 5 Walloping, glittery, gargantuan stars!
You can find Frederick’s blog HERE if you’d like to give a looksee as to what else he gets up to. I’m presently enjoying a novel he has been serializing, but he’s hinted there is short fiction around the bend and Crow will return. You have no idea how happy that makes me!
Thanks for checking out this special review today. Given I’ve been badgering Frederick to publish this book, I am more than happy to help promote such a fabulous collection.