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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sharp enough to bite your fingers off!, 22 Dec 2011
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This review is from: Off The Record 1 - A Charity Anthology (38 Short Stories Based On Classic Song Titles) (Kindle Edition)
Where to begin? From well known authors to virtual unknowns, the depth of talent on display in this anthology is staggering. It almost feels unfair singling out particular stories as they're all strong enough to merit attention. Honestly I could bang on for pages about all the brilliant little gems served up here, but you'd probably have nodded off by the time I was done, so I'm just going to highlight a few of my favourites.

The anthology kicks off with Neil White's 'Stairway To Heaven', a moody tale of guilt and remorse that sets the tone nicely for what's to follow. AJ Hayes's 'Light My Fire' is another standout. A man tries to make sense of his partner's senseless murder by confronting her killer, an artist whose obssession with his muse has driven him over the edge. There's an unsettling, almost surreal quality to this story. I had to read it twice before I fully grasped what'd happened. In Paul D Brazill's grimly witty 'Life On Mars?' a man wakes up to a blinding hangover and a past he'd rather forget. It's a cautionary reminder that the past is never dead, only dormant. Nigel Bird's 'Super Trouper' is a departure from most of the stories in this collection, in that it doesn't deal directly with a crime. Bird takes us into the mind of a soldier traumatised by his tour of Afghanistan. He writes with a machine-gun rythmn, firing off sentences like bullets, brilliantly evoking the sense of disorientation felt by a soldier struggling to readjust to normal life. This story packs a real emotional punch. Eric Beetner's 'California Dreamin' is a brilliantly brutal and tense tale of revenge, and a dark commentary on shallow LA people. The anthology finishes on a very high note with Ray Banks's 'God Only Knows', a story straight from Britain's gutter. Banks sketches the grimy little world of a petty criminal eeking out a living in the NE of England, mining a vein of dark wit that will be familiar to anyone who's ever read Viz. This story is peppered with great lines, but my favourite has to be 'The nicest thing they said about Shona was that she could suck the froth out of a drip tray from the other side of the pub'. I'm smiling even as I write that one. In amongst the grime there are some beautifully poignant moments. In fact, the same could be said of most of the stories in 'Off The Record'. Love, hate, murder, madness, it's all here. If there's been a better crime fiction anthology published this year, I don't know about it.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Off The Record, 1 Dec 2011
This review is from: Off The Record 1 - A Charity Anthology (38 Short Stories Based On Classic Song Titles) (Kindle Edition)
Luca Veste has gathered an impressive mix of US and UK talent for this collection - so impressive that you wonder what dirt he's got on them. Off The Record features some big names from commercial crime fiction alongside a clutch of top flight cult authors, who you may not have heard of but will certainly enjoy.
With thirty-eight stories you would expect a few fillers but like the playlist the titles are taken from, it's all good stuff. Neil White - yes that Neil White - kicks off with Stairway to Heaven, a tight piece of psychological fiction from within a prison cell, and things get progressively darker and meaner as the collection goes on.
Want to know the difference between a headshot with a .22 and a .38? It's in here, courtesy of bona fide ex-con turned author Les Edgerton, who's story Small Change also has a cameo from everyones favourite gravel-throated singer.
Wife cheating on you? Thomas R Brown's Dock of the Bay has a readymade revenge scheme, guaranteed to work if you've got the balls to see it through. For the ladies, Charlie Wade's excellent Take a Bow Sheila has a more demure solution. Involving pruning shears.
Noir fans are very well catered for in Off The Record, with Brit Pack stalwarts Paul D. Brazill and Col Bury lining up with literary outlaws from the other side, Steve Weddle, Matthew C Funk and Tommy Pluck - all working to their usual high standards. Pluck's Free Bird is a beautifully constructed story about the strength it takes not to act; may bring a tear to your eye.
A couple of gems I have to mention - Eric Beetner's California Dreamin' is fabulous and you can hear the song as you're reading it, that sense of sun cracked nastiness under a pretty melody, full of suspense and with a killer ending. Shadowboxer by Chris Rhatigan was another standout, deceptively simple - a man trying to outrun just-seen pursuers - but the writing is tense as hell.
Need more?
Seriously? You're tough.
Heath Lowrance's I Wanna Be You Dog is the nastiest story here - which is a compliment in this company - and really does justice to the grimy, driving quality of the song. Helen Fitzgerald's Two Little Boys is probably the funniest, bringing out the homoerotic subtext you always suspected was there. Special mention to Ray Banks' God Only Knows for a having a woman with a backside that looked like `two Volkswagen Beetles crashed in her leggings.'
The editor's own contribution, Comfortably Numb, is typical Veste, a parable from the gutter told in a pitch perfect voice.
Off The Record is an incredibly strong collection, thirty-eight stories for pocket change and all proceeds going to childrens charities. You'd have to be a flint hearted piece of work not to buy it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Hit!, 5 Jan 2012
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Paul D Brazill (Bydgoszcz, Poland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Off The Record 1 - A Charity Anthology (38 Short Stories Based On Classic Song Titles) (Kindle Edition)
So, I teach English here in Poland. With one Saturday morning class, I used to get the students to bring a piece of music to each lesson and we would dissect the lyrics.

One student cleverly brought in Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue's 'Where The Wild Roses Grow' and most of the class were more than somewhat shocked to find out that this song that they had known so well was about murder. And not about gardening, I assume.

So, song titles can be deceptive. An innocent title can hide a darker story.

So, when Luca Veste asked a bunch of writers to come up with short, sharp stories inspired by song titles, well, it came as no surprise that quite a few of them came up with some pitch black tales.

I have a story in Off The Record (which is a charity anthology) and there are 37 other stories from a wide range of authors, including Simon Logan, Steve Mosby and Helen Fitzgerald.

And this really is a terrific collection. Off The Record is bookended by two heartbroken tales from Neil White and Ray Banks. And there are plenty other hard hitting stories here too.

Favourites include Heath Lowrence's 'I Wanna Be Your Dog,' Les Edgerton's 'Small Change,'Nick Quantrill's 'Death Or Glory,'Thomas Pluck's 'Free Bird,' Iain Rowan''Purple Haze' and Ron Earl Phillips 'American Pie.'

But there are lots more cracking tales in Off The Record, which is very highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great Mix, 21 Sep 2012
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This review is from: Off The Record 1 - A Charity Anthology (38 Short Stories Based On Classic Song Titles) (Kindle Edition)
What a fantastic mix of short stories by a varied range of Authors from both sides of the Atlantic. A great way to get a taste of no less than 38 different Authors in one engrossing tome. Luca Veste, as Editor, has pulled together a coherent Anthology which sets a good pace from start to finish and he should be applauded for doing so. Even better all these writers have given their stories for free in aid of two Children's Literacy Charities in the UK and US. A bargain read which is for an excellent cause. Very highly recommended.
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