Kzine Issue 25: Kindle Edition (emag review).

‘Kzine’, edited by Graeme Hurry, is one of the many small press magazines that foster new talent and keep the flame of the short story burning bright. This is the latest issue.

First up is ‘Maxwell’ by Rhonda Parrish which is told in epistolatory format. The first letter, dated March 3, 194-, is from fourteen year-old Katherine to her cousin Betty and tells how she found a stray cat and named him Maxwell. The cat’s fur is ‘a patchwork of colors and textures, as detailed and pretty as any quilt you ever did see’. As the story develops and strange events occur it becomes clear to the reader, if no one else, that Maxwell is no ordinary moggy. Cleverly done and Parrish captures the spirit of the 1940s with Katherine’s brother at war in France and hard times back home.

As a political person, I particularly enjoyed ‘Corporate Interests’ by George Lockett. Mayor Ana has a VIRGIL implant which uses her eyes and with facial recognition technology gives her pop-up notes to read telling her about the person she’s meeting. ‘VIRGIL was in her eyes and ears the whole time, prompting and priming her on every person she met – old and new – and steering her towards a few people who merited special attention’. Ana is a great success as a politician but those corporations, you can’t trust them.

‘The Wreck’ by DJ Tyrer is about a small group of drivers who get in trouble in a storm. It turns into one of those new weird stories where strange thingies are encountered but it was well-written with a likeable lead character and worked. The atmosphere is more important than the plot with this kind of tale and Tyrer gets the mood right.

Next up is ‘Burning Red’ by Ken McGrath. On the run from the police in Dublin’s fair city, Mick O’Shea, Colm Brown and Fintan Connolly duck into a strange factory full of creatures in huge glass and metal vats fed by a network of tubes and pipes. There are six red stones glowing in a worktop and Mick takes one before they escape. When he gets home, dawn is ‘a hint of orange visible on the low horizon, a knife slice gash of the new day peering through.’ It’s not long since the famine and times are hard at home where Da hits Ma and his little sister is half-starved. McGrath mixes pulp plot elements such as a mad scientist with real historical detail and fine writing to create a dramatic tale.

Hermester Barrington contributes ‘Sleepwalkers At The Falling Wall’ in which locals down the centuries are obliged to keep repairing a long wall that runs through the territory. It was started by the Indians and may serve to keep demons away. This was a disjointed, impressionistic sort of story with the narrator remembering things and the flashbacks gradually building up a complete picture. It captured the backwoods American lifestyle and added…something strange. Odd, but I liked it.

More straightforward is ‘Lineage’ by Kevin Roller. Grandad Roth is sure Grandson Elijah will make a mess of his first contract in the Morana family business of assassination, so he goes along to supervise. Here’s a bit of dark fiction nicely put together.

‘Code Gray’ by Luke Foster is great fun. Doctor Rebecca Braxton is on a night shift at the hospital when Ryan Doyle is brought in with what seems to be a ruptured appendix. ‘No surgery,’ he pleads. ‘Can’t be here. Not tonight.’ I guessed he was a werewolf and I was right! The author pumps up the tension and pumps out the blood as Rebecca struggles to keep her staff and patients safe. Such a pure example of pulp fiction, so perfect for a B-movie adaptation that you just have to love it. Well done and with a clever conclusion to boot.

If Damon Runyon of ‘Guys And Dolls’ fame had written steampunk, he might have come up with something like ‘Too Many Hearts’ by Claire Simpson. Jimmy Two-Trees runs a floating poker game, literally because it is in an airship. One memorable night, the game is attended by high rollers Elephant Joe, Sally the Sinner, Ermine Trudeau, Needle-Browed Nelly, Dar Evens and Brass-Legged Harriet. No guns are allowed on the airship but sometimes tough gals play by their own rules, do they not? Well-crafted and very entertaining.

Eight stories and not a duffer among them. ‘Kzine’ is available in paperback or eBook format from the world’s biggest on-line bookstore. It’s worth mentioning that the contents page links work well, not always the case with e-books and there are useful contributor notes at the back. If you enjoy short stories and want to support the small press, ‘Kzine’ is worth your time and a small sum of money. If you’re a writer check the submission guidelines on-line.

Eamonn Murphy

October 2019

(pub: Kimota Publishing, 2019, 96 page e-mag. 3564kb. Price: £ 2.15 (UK), $ 2.77 (US). ASIN: B07YCKMP31. Paperback Price: £ 4.25 (UK), $ 5.30 (US))

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