Book Review: Black Crow Speaks @FrederickAnder2 #shortstories

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.

book cover for Black Crow Speaks by Frederick Anderson shows a large black crow with book title beneathHere’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!

PURCHASE FROM:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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.

A Bump in the Night by Penny Lane

I have a new guest I’d like to introduce you to today. Penny is a blogger I met through Jess Bakkers. She is a free-lance writer with quite an interesting background. You can meet her and learn about her background on her blog, Penny Lane’s Thoughts.

In reaching out and making new friends, Penny is offering to do guest posts. It’s always nice to have someone new drop by my blog to meet my friends and readers. Hopefully, a few of Penny’s followers will meander over here as well. It’s how bloggers connect and expand their inner circles. I told her my regular readers were used to seeing content related to folklore, myth, or creatures (among writing topics), so she put together a short story to share.

I hope you enjoy, and will welcome Penny with your thoughts in the comments.

~ooOOoo~

BUMP IN THE NIGHT
By Penny Lane

clouds with sun behind over ocean

I looked down just as my hand was falling away from the doorbell button.  I could still hear the echo of the chime behind the door.  The door I was standing in front of was rust-red, with the number 8 at eye level.

I looked around me.  What was I doing here?  I was in an apartment complex.

Just then the door opened.  Standing there was my mother, who had been dead for more than 30 years.

Her face opened into a wide smile.  “Baby!  So good to see you!”

She stepped forward, wrapped her arms around me and gave me a big hug.  I stood board straight, my head reeling.

“Come in, come in!” she said as she placed her hand on the small of my back and pulled me into the apartment.

I took a few faltering steps forward.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.

My mother looked as young and as beautiful as I ever remembered seeing her.   Her hair, a coal black, fell in waves just past the top of her shoulders.  Her eyes, blue, sparkled and danced as her smile lit up her face.  Her face looked like it did when she was in her 30’s.  She was a beauty.

“Mom…what?  I don’t understand…”

“I know, I know honey.  Questions, questions.  Plenty of time for that later.  Right now, let’s sit and talk.  Would you like some coffee?”   She rambled as she saw me to a chair and gently pushed me down into it.  It didn’t take much; my legs were like rubber under me.

Mom scooted off into the little kitchen that was separated from the living room by a breakfast bar.  She busied herself preparing the coffee for the 2 of us as I looked around the apartment.  She was humming a little under her breath as she did so.

I was sitting in the tiny living room of the apartment my mother had occupied in Hermiston, Oregon.  How long ago was that?  30, 35 years ago?

There were a few differences to the apartment than what I remembered.  Her bedroom, instead of just a bed in the corner of a studio apartment, was now a separate room.  But for the most part, everything was the same.

Mom came back into the living room with 2 cups of coffee.  She is dressed in a pair of pink “petal pushers” and a floral top.  She has flip flops on her feet.  It’s an outfit I had seen her wear a thousand times.  I am dressed in a long sleeved sweater, jeans and boots.

Mom sets the 2 cups of coffee down on the coffee table between us and takes a seat in her favorite rocker across from me.

Mom reached forward to pick up her cup saying “drink your coffee sweetheart”.  I reached out to lift the cup, but after getting the cup only a couple of inches off the table, I was shaking too much to hold it.

I sat back in my chair and looked down at my hands.  They were shaking.

“Don’t be frightened Penny.  There is nothing to be afraid of.”  She said soothingly.

“But Mom!  You’re… you’re… dead.”  I said in a whisper.

“I know honey, I know.  But it will all make sense soon.  I promise.”  At this she reached across the coffee table to take one of my hands.  At her touch, I flinched and pulled away.

“It will all be alright Penny.  Please believe me.”  She said pleadingly.

“What’s the last thing you remember before seeing me?”  She asked.

I sat there and looking down at my cup, I blinked a couple of times, trying to remember.  At first, nothing came.  Then I remembered.

“I was driving home.  It was late and I was in a rush.”

“The roads were icy, right?”  Mom said.

“Yes” I whispered.  It was coming back to me.   In my mind’s eye, I saw the van approaching the corner.  I knew I was going too fast.  I wasn’t going to make it.  The van flipped.

At that moment the doorbell rang again.  Mom jumped up to answer it.  She pulled the door open and before I saw anything, the smell hit me.  Sulphur.

Stepping across the threshold was a man like none I’d ever seen before.  He was bare-chested and his long dark hair flowed past his shoulders.  He was so handsome, he didn’t look real.  He was the type of man women would give themselves to without question.

My mother planted her hand in the middle of his chest.  “Stop right there!  She’s not yours!”  She said.

He huffed and puffed out his chest.  “I will have the wench!”  He bellowed!

More than hearing it, I could feel the sound of his voice in my chest.   It was like a bass drum inside me and it made my whole being shake.

“You will NOT!”  Mom roared back at him.

At that point my mother’s body started to morph.   She grew taller.  The being in the doorway was a good six feet tall, but she towered over him.

Her pedal pushers and flip flops were gone.  She was surrounded by clouds of billowy fabric of a muted color I could not describe.  Sprouting from her back were wings that reached almost to the ceiling.  Her whole being shone with a light that took my breath away.

The beast cowered and backed away just as she slammed the door.

Turning to look down on me, I could no longer see my mother’s face.  I couldn’t tell what or who I did see.

This beautiful being reached out her hand.

Just as I took it, I heard my name being called.

“Penny, Penny, can you hear me?”

As my vision cleared, I looked up into the face of a female EMT that was smiling down at me.

“There you are!  It’s good to see you back with us Miss Wilson!  You had us all pretty worried there for just a minute.”

She helped me sit up.  We were on the side of the road and she had me wrapped in a blanket.  I could see my crumpled van laying on its side a couple of hundred feet away.

I had been dreaming, but about what?  I couldn’t remember.

I looked into the EMT’s face again and said “You look a lot like my mom.”   She smiled, looking back at me and helped me to stand.  “Let’s get you to the hospital Miss Wilson so we can get that bump on your head check out.”

~ooOOOoo~

About Penny:
I am a free-lance writer.  I’ve been writing for my entire life and blogging for more than 5 years.  I write poetry, short stories, fiction and true stories.  You will also see posts about my day to day life at times.

I am working on 2 novels that I hope to have finished in the near future.

My life has been quite diverse, to say the least.  My very early days were spent in the woods of the Pacific Northwest.  My father was a timber-faller.  We lived in a shack with no electricity or running water.  Later on, my mother married a migrant worker. We lived in Picker’s Cabins, tents or the back of the station wagon. We did whatever it took to follow the fruit and the all mighty dollar.

Some of what you will see on my blog is based on these life experiences.   Other posts come from other inspiration.

I currently live in Fort Worth, Texas, work full time, write, blog and enjoy spending time with my best friend, my little dog, Rocket.

You can connect with Penny at the following haunts:
Blog 
Twitter