Author Archives: Brian G Ross

Skeleton Crew #1 – The Mist…

13440Word count – 50,500

All right, let’s get this out of the way up front: The Mist is not a short story. In fact, it strays into novel length, albeit a thin one with a singular thread. But I have included it here because it is the first story in Skeleton Crew.

A dense and strange mist creeps towards a small town and strands a group of people in a supermarket, after which it soon becomes clear that there are creatures in the gloom waiting to strike. For a long time we don’t know why they are there, but towards the end of the story King does throw us a bone. It’s a satisfactory reason, even if it is not really required to enjoy what’s here.

The Mist is a wholly enjoyable tale, and a good ol’ proper horror story from King as well. It’s a very good start for this second collection of stories, and a high bar is set early.

Recommended ⇑

Concert For Two…

I bought The Fiancée© a couple of tickets to see Bryan Adams for her birthday in February. He was due to play here last night but the performance has been pushed back until next year because, well, you know…

Not to be disheartened we sat down to a private concert, courtesy of YouTube… which was pretty good, apart from all the buffering we had to endure. We clapped after each song and used the torch on our phones during the slow ones (in lieu of a lighter).

I’ll be honest, our sofa is much more comfortable than those flimsy chairs you often have to deal with at arenas, and we had refreshments brought to our seats as well. We didn’t have to strain to see past anyone standing in front of us, nor did we have to squeeze by people if we needed the toilet. Pause comes in handy there too.

Parking was simple, there was no overpriced merchandise to steal our money during the interval, and there was no traffic when we left the venue afterwards either.

We just pressed stop and went to bed.

Eagles, Chapter VII – Long Road Out of Eden (2007)

Members: Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Timothy B Schmit, Joe Walsh

Long Road Out Of Eden was released twenty-seven years after their last studio album, but even after such a long hiatus – when most bands would have lost any kind of musical relevance – this album shows the same four guys crowding the stage, sounding very much like the quartet that were seling out stadia in the seventies.

A little older, and a little wiser, Long Road Out of Eden is a double-helping of new (studio) material.

No More Walks in the Wood (Don Henley / Steuart Smith / John Hollander)
Lead – Frey & Henley & Schmit & Walsh
This haunting and sparse track is the only Eagles number where all band members share vocal duties. It’s also worth noting that the lyrics are lifted wholesale from a poem called An Old-Fashioned Song. 8
How Long (JD Souther)
Lead – Frey & Henley
This is a feelgood song from the early seventies that would have fit nicely into one of the Eagles first couple of albums. Frey and Henley are as good together here as they have ever been. 7
Busy Being Fabulous (Don Henley / Glenn Frey)
Lead – Henley
The first completely new track on the album sees Henley in a bit of a country mood, offering up a slice of thinly veiled bitterness. 7
What Do I Do With My Heart (Don Henley / Glenn Frey)
Lead – Frey
A fairly decent broken-heart tale with Frey at the helm. It plods along, then goes up a notch during the bridge when Henley sprinkles a little something into the mix. 6
Guilty of the Crime (Frankie Miller / Jerry Lynn Williams)
Lead – Walsh
Joe Walsh gets his first vocal on the album, and typically, it is the first time we really hear a guitar. Not his best work, but there is nobody else in the band who could have pulled this off. 7
I Don’t Want to Hear Anymore (Paul Carrack)
Lead – Schmit
Schmit has a voice like silk, and it’s all over this break-up ballad. It’s good, but – quality of the vocal aside – it’s just like a million other love songs out there.  7
Waiting in the Weeds (Don Henley / Steuart Smith)
Lead – Henley
This epic is the first really good track on the album. Henley has that anguished tone that helps to tell the story of loss and pain through a somewhat stuttering lyrical style. 8
No More Cloudy Days (Glenn Frey)
Lead – Frey
This one is an album highlight for Frey, proving again that sometimes the simplest collection of words makes for the better and more memorable songs. The saxophone outro is a nice touch. 7
Fast Company (Don Henley / Glenn Frey)
Lead – Henley
I’m not sure how comfortable I am with Henley’s fake falsetto throughout this track – it takes a little getting used to. Other than that, it feels like a throwback to what they did in the seventies. 7
Do Something (Don Henley / Timothy B Schmit / Steuart Smith)
Lead – Schmit
Schmit’s last lead on the album – like several others on here – has a lot of country sensibilities. It’s all right, but I can’t get too excited about it. Schmit deserves better than this. 6
You Are Not Alone (Glenn Frey)
Lead – Frey
Frey pulls out another ballad… not the Michael Jackson one. This is very simple and short, and not really one of his best either. 6
Long Road Out of Eden (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / Timothy B Schmit)
Lead – Henley
I get the feeling that Henley relishes these long, sweeping commentaries. This is like a modern retelling of The Last Resort from their Hotel California album. Big shoes to fill indeed. 8
I Dreamed There Was No War (Glenn Frey)
instrumental
From the longest track the Eagles ever committed to an album, to one of the shortest… a simple guitar number in the hands of Glenn Frey. 6
Somebody (Jack Tempchin / John Brannen)
Lead – Frey
An excursion into a more uptempo world for Frey. He doesn’t do it often, but this is a welcome change of pace for him. 7
Frail Grasp on the Big Picture (Don Henley / Glenn Frey)
Lead – Henley
I know this is credited to both of them, but both stylistically and lyrically, this has Henley’s fingerprints all over it. This is up there with the best songs on the album. 8
Last Good Time in Town (Joe Walsh / JD Souther)
Lead – Walsh
Joe Walsh gets his hands on another lead vocal, but this one is a more mellow effort by him. It reminds me (and probably nobody else) of Steely Dan. 7
I Love to Watch a Woman Dance (Larry John McNally)
Lead – Frey
Frey is back in comfortable territory, but I don’t like this one at all. Unfortunately, this is one of the worst Eagles songs on any album. 4
Business as Usual (Don Henley / Steuart Smith)
Lead – Henley
This is yet another cracking Henley vocal where he rages at the machine, but he does it so well… so who am I to tell him to spread his wings a little? 8
Center of the Universe (Don Henley / Glenn Frey / Steuart Smith)
Lead – Henley
Henley lets the pace slip a little for this love song. It’s not too bad, but he knows his niche, and I’m sure he knows this isn’t it. 6
It’s Your World Now (Glenn Frey / Jack Tempchin)
Lead – Frey
Frey’s finest moment on this album. This has a friendly flamenco sound that – despite the sadness of the story – gives the song a holiday vibe. 8
Hole in the World (Don Henley / Glenn Frey)
Lead – Henley
It’s impossible, when you know the history of this song, to disassociate it from 9/11. The chorus goes on a little too long at the end, but it’s a very poignant song for a very difficult moment in our history. 8

Overall: 69%
Long Road Out of Eden is a much safer collection of songs than their last couple of albums from the seventies would have suggested. There’s some rust,but I’ll cut them a little slack – they’ve been away longer than most.

What I’ve Done This Month #April…

April zipped by, and the only creative writing I have to show for it is carrying on with one of those challenge stories I had intended to finish for Christmas last year. It’s nearly there, and I can probably cross the finish line in a few days.

What I have done though is spent more time staring at a jigsaw than at any other time in my life. It’s relaxing and takes my mind off all the other shit that’s going on in the world… I just wish there wasn’t so much damn sky in every one I do!

I’ve also written a hell of a lot of quizzes for the house. For a while I was presenting one a day, and finding out a lot of things that I thought were common sense were really not all that common at all. Bats are mammals, guys. That’s stuff they teach you when you’re six.

I’m back into my reading as well, which is nice. I am currently in the midst of two books – the Jimmy Connors autobiography called The Outsider, and the Stephen King novel, Joyland. Both are very good for quite different reasons, and they are reminders that I should have been doing more of it these last few months.

Wash your hands, folks.

Lockdown Ain’t So Bad…

index

Confirmed global cases are now over 2.6 million, and over 186,000 people have died. The people who think they know are saying that we are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, but I’m not so sure. We are certainly not out of the woods yet by any means.

I have now been off work for almost four weeks and the time is certainly zipping by very quickly. While I do miss work in as much as it gives a pattern to my day, I don’t mind the down time, and I can’t relate at all to those people who can’t seem to find a way to deal with the confinement. It’s all fuss and bluster for no reason that I can see: a lot of people looking for some attention.

Just find something to do – it’s really not that difficult. Mow the lawn, paint a picture, build a birdhouse, take a walk, read a book, write a book, learn how to knit, learn a foreign language, paint the fence, change that lightbulb that you have been meaning to look at for ages, bake a cake, get drunk on all that wine you have been gifted but has just been sitting in the rack gathering dust, wash your car, call your mother, learn to juggle, learn a magic trick, sing along to your favourite songs, catch up with your Netflix queue.

Just wash your hands before and after.

I am filling my days by reading (something I wasn’t doing too much of before), working on those jigsaws that have been sitting in the garage unattended for months, and making quizzes for the family… mostly general knowledge, although the others in my household do not consider them to be general at all. I’m also squeezing in some writing, which is nice.

Stay safe, folks.

Night Shift – Overview…

stephen king night shift nelNight Shift is the first collection of stories that Stephen King published, way back in 1978, and after reading it over the last six months I come away quite happy with the content. There are no blow-you-away fantastic stories here – although several are very good – but more importantly, there are none that really shit the bed either.

I recommended sixteen of the twenty short stories in Night Shift, and of the four that I gave a red arrow to, the only one I really struggled to get through was the first story in the collection – Jerusalem’s Lot. Others may get into this one more, but I just couldn’t stomach the language for the length of time King asked me to do so.

Although I recommended 80% of these stories, they are not all of the same high quality. The Last Rung on the Ladder is hands down the best story here – simple in execution, with a haunting and perfectly played pay-off. Just below it on the totem pole are Battleground and the serial killer tale, Strawberry Spring. Just below those I’d put vertigo-inducing The Ledge and The Man Who Loved Flowers. They are the five stories here that I would recommend to any fan of Stephen King.

Night Shift is a good collection, and crucially, most of the best stories in this anthology – with the exception of Battleground – are not in any way supernatural or out-of-this-world, whereas the stories I liked the least were not grounded in reality at all. Subjective, sure… but it is worth mentioning.

Night Shift #20 – The Woman in the Room…

619i-4slsfl645695221..jpgWord count – 5,300

The Woman in the Room is a dramatic tale about a man dealing with his bed-ridden mother who is dying of cancer, and his struggles over whether or not euthanasia is his only option.

Back in the late seventies this was likely a much more controversial narrative thread than it is these days – not that readers are blasé about euthanasia in fiction, although to some degree that is probably true – but this story simply lacks the punch that I think it once did.

The Woman in the Room is the last story in Night Shift, and unfortunately it is probably not the final kick to the gut you are looking for or expecting from King. It’s a perfectly serviceable tale, just not a particulary memorable one.

Recommended

What I’ve Done This Month #March…

Unfortunately my short story More of a Wednesday Girl didn’t place in that contest that I was waiting for at the end of February, but I’m all right with that. It was nice to be shortlisted, seeing as it has been so long since I’ve even been that close to success. And more chances will come my way, I just need the right story and the right judge looking at it.

Obviously, the coronavirus has been all-encompassing this month, and rightly so, but the downtime at home has given me (and will hopefully continue to give me) the opportunity to catch up with some writing.

I finished a short piece called Paid in Full, in Plastic, which was a lot of fun and turned out quite well. It’s the fifth tale I’ve completed in 2020 and the 100th short story (upwards of 1,000 words) I’ve done since I started keeping detailed records of my writing exploits in 1995 – some of which are even pretty good!

It’s nice to hit a milestone like that, and I just hope that the inspiration can continue in these strange and uncertain times.

Stay safe.

It’s What We’re All Talking About…

On 17th of March I posted on here that the number of confirmed global cases of Covid-19 was over 180,000, and that the number of deaths had passed 7,000. Thirteen days later and those numbers are now over 740,000 and more than 35,000 respectively. These are frighteningly large numbers, and they will get a lot bigger.

I am now off work for twelve weeks as a result of the furlough plan that the UK government has put in place. It wasn’t my idea, but once it was presented to me it quickly became apparent that it was the most sensible move to make. Nobody quite know how it works – least of all, my manager – but effectively I will be paid 80% of my wage to sit at home and ride this thing out… well, that is certainly the plan. Watch this space.

It’s a difficult time for everyone, not least of all the families and friends of those who have sadly died, or are currently suffering, as a result of the coronavirus. Everyone who reads this will have been touched by the restrictions that the virus has forced upon the world, and we all have to do the right thing and get through this together, so the less we all jump on the bandwagon and bitch about cabin fever or how we are becoming a nation of depressed zombies because we can’t go out, when we all stay inside on our tablets and mobiles anyway, the better we will all be.

There is no need to panic or raid the supermarkets for all that they have, but we do have to be careful by interacting with as few people as possible, and washing our hands often. You don’t have to agree with the politics of those who are telling you to do so, but – come on, folks – a little common sense is not beyond you.

Night Shift #19 – One More For the Road…

619i-4slsfl645695221..jpg

Word count – 6,300

The first story in this anthology, Jerusalem’s Lot, acts as a prelude to King’s second novel, ‘Salem’s Lot, and One More For the Road is somewhat of a suffix to that novel.

What this piece has going for it over Jerusalem’s Lot is that it takes a more modern approach to the storytelling, and that in itself is immediately a tick in the pro column. The narrative style of that first companion piece is one of the main reasons that I could not recommend it.

You don’t need to have read ‘Salem’s Lot (and certainly not the other short story in this collection) to get or enjoy this piece. Ultimately, this is a straightforward vampire tale, but familiarity does help to flesh out the world. One More For the Road gets a pass, but it’s a very thin recommendation.

Recommended ⇑