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Backlist - Storage Stories by Jim Bob

Storage Stories by Jim Bob
As I go, I'm attempting to catch up on those that have gone before, unfortunately in no particular order, but those for which I would feel bad if they were left out. Some, including Ismail Kadare, David Mitchell and Michel Houellebecq are already consigned to the mists of time, but I am confident I can still reach back and grab at a few key titles.

One such is this unusual offering from former Carter USM front man Jim Bob. Truth be told, it probably wouldn't have had the effect it did were it not for two things: 1) My mate Rob was a bit loony about Sheriff Fatman and whenever we went to the City Arms in Cardiff for a few whiskys, it invariably made its way on to the rather excellent jukebox in there. I guess Jim Bob simply inveigled his way into my brain thanks to alcohol and good company. 2) I read it whilst my wife was in labour and so had been awake for 72 hours by the time I finished it. This rather profound experience, coupled with the surreality of life in Jim Bob's mind meant that long after I'd finished Storage Stories I was fishing passages out of my memory obsessively, like food trapped between teeth and irritating the gums.

What we have here is a series of connected stories based around a storage facility in London, staffed by a strikingly Mr Jim Bob-esque character, and where we meet such soul-tenderising -people like Carl, bearded battery-licker and a man dangerously obsessed with performing surgery on himself. Carl's story and eventual resolution made me weep (inside of course...) but the pathos and humour with which it's told is startlingly adept, considering, and after reading it feels a bit like someone gave you the illusion of free will when in fact your reaction was pre-determined to begin with. In fact, even flipping through it now, ten months later, I find myself remembering, fondly, large cuddly understated parts which caused my tired brain to over-heat a little.

I guess that if you love Carter and all things Jim Bob, you'll not need my advice to go out and buy a copy (you can get signed copies from his website), but if before now you'd not given a tinker's cuss for this struggling artist, then you might be surprised to learn that this song-smith can also write prose, and write it well.

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Apochryphal Tales by Karel Čapek

Many (many) years ago, when I first read War With The Newts, after scouring the Waterstones' internal database (whimsically named Ibid, and from which one could print the details of books onto the till roll in light- and so it seems, time-sensitive purple ink which, on the inches thick ream of leaves I printed for future perusal, faded within a few months rendering my catalogued wish list so much locker mulch) for authors with a suitably Czech-sounding name, having put away an entrée of my first slim Hrabal, a palate-cleansing Kundera and in need of a meaty Moravian main course, I think I might have completely and totally missed just how funny it was, bloated as I was by the doughy and Victorian-sounding translation and the rather unlikely ideation of the future political terroir of mankind and their unusual amphibian slaves and, latterly, sappers, the newts.

How's that for a sentence David Foster Wallace? INTERROBANG.

Well, there's no chance that Čapek's typically Czech…

Free Fall In Crimson by John D. MacDonald

Trav is back, still grieving the loss of some chickadee or other whose death almost knocked him off his game, but not too shook up to set himself up with a few more lucky lovelies whilst tripping his way through another overly complicated and rather sordidly underwhelming plot. This time, some bikers are making dirty movies with minors on the set of a future classic hot-air-balloon movie. Travis falls into the action because a rich old geyser carks it in unusual circumstances and it affects the trust fund of a former marina-mate. And hirsute intellectual Meyer wets his pants towards the end. 

You may sense a fatigued, sardonic note in my precis. It's not that I don't still love John D., it's just that after embarking on the long game that is reading the entire Travis McGee oeuvre, I'm approaching the end and it feels long overdue. It's been fun, it's been enlightening, but it's also been a schlep. With the realisation I might now have fewer years left to me …

The Lost Time Accidents by John Wray

Fup by Jim Dodge

If there was a comfort-food version of a book for me, then this would be it. It's funny, touching, humanistic, and features so many quotable quotes that its trim 120 pages could be represented in its entirety on some such authors' quotations page.

We're introduced to Tiny on the occasion of his mother's death, lured into a treacherously fatal situation by, of all things, a duck, while her 4-year-old son sleeps in the car where he wakes to a terrifying solitude. Meanwhile, we're treated to a potted but entertaining history of Granddaddy Jake, Tiny's grandfather, into whose care by fair means or foul (no pun intended) he is finally placed. But the titular Fup duck comes along only once Tiny is fully grown (and how!). A lost and lonely duckling, much like Tiny, she's discovered shivering in a freshly dug post hole, which betrays the attention paid to it by Tiny's nemesis, a wild hog called Lockjaw, who enjoys tearing up Tiny's fences just as much as he …