Steve Duffy S Work Has Been Described As Exquisite And Heartbreaking Mark Flowers, Scool Library Journal , Compelling Charles Tan, Bibliophile Stalker , And Exceptional Full Of Menace, Thrills, And Growing Terror Mario Guslandi, The Short Review TRAGIC LIFE STORIES Demonstrates All These Qualities, Bringing The Classic Ghost Story Up To Date In A Way That Is As Unsettling As It Is Terrifying In These Nine Stories, Nothing Is What It Seems, No One Is Safe, And There Is Absolutely Nowhere To Hide


10 thoughts on “Tragic Life Stories

  1. says:

    Steve Duffy is another of these fringe horror writers, who publish endless reams of from what I ve read of his oeuvre superb novellas and short stories Tragic Life Stories is a collection of his ferociously English tales that amazingly, for a short story collection all hit, just with varying success.Two things in particular I think it s pretty important to talk about with this work in mind are 1 These are stories about ghosts monsters that are not stories about ghosts monsters and Jaws is not a film about a shark.2 All but one of these stories are not horror in the conventional scary monster or spooky ghost sort of way.Tragic Life Stories the eponymous short is a look at the morality involved in enjoying a book about child abuse when written from the perspective of the child And conversely the morality regarding doing a Proper Job of writing an abused child It became obvious early on that he was focussed on creepy off camera stuff, rather than vile be tentacled monstrosities And when the pay off came and the true horror of the story was revealed to be crushing loneliness and social rejection and it worked, I was delighted.All of the stories are like this moving through a semi conventional horror narrative in a professional, engaging way until you realise that it s actually a story about the fear of being lost in a new city, of oblivion, of having to make an impossible choice or of teenage sexual awkwardness.I would not call any of the vignettes outright failures however Nightmare Farm, Tantara and Someone Across The Way suffered to various extents from problems with pacing, theme or pay off And when you put them next to delights like Numbers, TLS or The First Time those comparative flaws were glaring.I loved his short The Oram County Whoosit I loved Tragic Life Stories The two were nothing at all alike.I will be reading a lot of his stuff.


  2. says:

    In her introduction Barbara Roden notes a shift that occurred when author Steve Duffy decided to move from his early ghost stories, which resided in the world of M.R James antiquarian books and fireside chats among gentlemen of letters, to tales of terror set in a world recognizable to today s reader This choice, combined with an astonishing ear for common speech and a fascination with what makes people do what they do, is a defining characteristic of Duffy s recent writing The eeriness of his prose is often achieved by introducing something weird but entirely plausible into a situation that is mundane and familiar.We have been to these places, lived in these shabby yet comfortable apartments and houses, observed the odd behavior of a neighbor or a stranger and said, Hm I wonder what that s all about Finding out what that s all about is central to Duffy s fiction Both the question and the answer will stay with you.The title story begins with a writer, Dan, perusing the shelves of a local bookstore Emotionally stunned following the loss of a significant relationship and the cancellation of a book contract, Dan is engaging in that most human and despicable habit of the unhappy writer He is trashing the published work of other authors As he moves from a spiteful summation of the popular titles in his genre, fantasy, to the non fiction section, his angry wit sharpens Most of the non fiction takes the form of what Dan calls tragic life stories These are the drug and rehab and dysfunctional family memoirs that have proliferated over the past two decades and have won a multitude of readers who like to wallow in another person s sorrow.While grinding his teeth Dan meets a woman of apparently boundless compassion, who shows great interest in him and his writing She also loves tragic life stories Given the popularity of such memoirs, his current state of mind, and his attraction to this new, possibly romantic interest, it seems natural enough that Dan goes home and promptly begins writing such a memoir from the point of view of a horribly misused boy From this point on, Dan is living a lie But the power of his imagination may be greater than he thinks.In Tantara we see a couple taking a day trip Isobel is indulging in a favorite pastime, studying an old church in a country village Pete is indulging Isobel and fighting both his boredom and his hatred for anyone they encounter who appears to be much affluent than they are Following a strange incident on the road, Pete and Isobel stop for a bite to eat and Pete s enmity is aroused by a celebration of locals, but he soon makes a discovery that turns his hostility to terror Certain Death for a Known Person is a slightly traditional supernatural story A young man is visited by a being who demands a bargain to save the life of someone the young man knows and cares for As horror fans know, such a bargain always comes with a catch The beauty of Certain Death is in the cleverness of that catch.Donna is a new employee trying to begin her job and establish a routine, but her desk and work area have been commandeered by a team of repairmen on an apparently endless assignment to correct The Fabric of Things in the crumbling building In this surreal story Donna makes it her mission to create and define her role as an employee despite the strange machinations of the ubiquitous repairmen.The protagonists of Nightmare Farm and Someone Across the Way are men who sense that something unnatural is occurring, the foundations of their carefully established lives have begun to shift Yet they are powerless to fight the effects, let alone discover the cause, until it is too late They have become who they are through inertia and when radical change comes to threaten that identity, they have no skills with which to meet it.These stories might be, at heart, unbearably sad if not for the razor sharp wit Duffy employs in each characterization He knows these men, knows their yearnings and dirty secrets, and he draws them so expertly that we laugh at their self delusion while we fear for their safety They don t even have the ability to engage in camaraderie with other men In Nightmare Farm Jamie takes his partner s recurring, scream inducing dreams in stride, but he is terrified by the prospect of having to kill time with Garth, an alarmingly bearded man with no detectable capacity for banter Only Passing Through Here is a spooky tale of a burglary gone wrong as wrong as it can get And Numbers charts the tangled myths that attempt to explain inexplicable illness and death in the days before AIDS research provided also unsatisfactory for the human soul answers.The crowning achievement of the collection is the superb story The First Time Here memory and middle age reflect upon a breathtaking moment of youthful passion The boy on the verge of being a man has grown up to be something other than he imagined He is now haunted by a single act for which he can never atone, and which has altered the course of his life Despite its supernatural elements The First Time is a genre breaking tale of regret and remembered desire that will linger with the reader for a long time.Steve Duffy is much loved and widely published Look for his work in anthologies like the annual Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, and Blood and Other Cravings.


  3. says:

    I enjoyed and strongly recommend this collection of stories Steve Duffy, again and again, creates vivid worlds that seem just like our own and then they don t Wonderfully crafted and creepy.


  4. says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed this collection of very varied short stories Very easy going style with unexpected twists and turns , the author has exposed with uncomfortable familiarity some of our innermost fears Just wished each tale was not so short Looking forward to of the same.