We invited Literally Stories author and friend, James McEwan to be Editor for a day and choose his three favourite stories from the site. Here is what James had to say about the stories he chose and why he felt they were special…
I am pleased to have been asked to provide a contribution to the Editor Picks, and I have checked the previous selections to avoid any repetition. I have selected three stories, ones I missed reading when they first appeared since I was busy trying to unpick a murder or two. I am still flogging that dead horse.
You Don’t Say No to Ituango by Amanda McTigue, a story of suspense.
Minka works for a bank and has taken the mountain road to a meeting with her colleague and a dubious businessman. Driving the company car she is distracted checking the map, and round a tight road curve she hits and kills a local snack vendor on his way to the market. Of course it was an accident, and this is where the suspense for me begins. What is she going to do? Throwing her shoes away at the scene was probably not a good idea. Now, I ask, is Minka a character of integrity? But it appears not, although feeling remorse she does not report the accident, instead after a few drinks she tells her colleague Diff, who because the victim was not American seems indifferent and more concerned about being implicated. The question of arrogant irresponsibility begins to float into my mind.
In the market place a crying woman selling clothes, provokes the guilty conscience of Minka. She wrongly assumes that the dead man is related to the woman, and to placate her admits to being there when a bus hit him. A half-truth that adds to the suspense, is she going to finally confess? Questioning by another vendor unnerves her and she overpays the crying woman for a blouse she doesn’t really want to buy. Perhaps this is an act of semi-repentance.
Minka is an ordinary person and the hook and suspense that held me was how she was going to deal with this accident. In the end she washed the guilt from her mind by money. I know she will be found out; leaving the shoes behind at the scene, the damage to the company car and what was said in the market place will finally catch her out.
The Violin He Played Downstairs by Ashlie Allen is tagged as a horror story, but it is one that, forgive the pun, plucked my strings. Abramo is one of those persons damaged mentally and unable to recover from his grief due to the loss of his parents. Yet someone cares. This is a disturbing story of a person withdrawn so deeply that physical pain is meaningless, since he is willing to tear out his eyes to lubricate the strings of his violin. To me the horror of this story is how society ignores such cries for help.
I have to mention Ossie Durrans’ tale, Up to the Stars (no longer available on LS), which I found clearly a flight of fanciful nonsense. A chance meeting of a mysterious farmer who passes on his tips on how to fly, perhaps he should give a warning about the beer. It is a range of best bitter that transforms you during the night into a grouse flying across the moors, and with the added danger of being pursued by shotgun welding hunters. Although I think that is preferable to drinking Old Peculiar beer and afterwards being transformed into a werewolf. However, I was disappointed that Rambling Rose did not turn out to be our local gypsy fortune-teller. I found this story had many enjoyable whimsical moments.