Internal Difference: New fiction by Roger Granelli, Nigel Jarrett and A. L. Reynolds

The Cockatrice happily endorses the view that a book should not be judged by its cover, because the content of these is even better.

Roger Granelli’s is a rich and satisfying authorial voice. His work is simultaneously traditional and bold, accessible and challenging, fast-paced and affecting. His collected stories, Any Kind of Broken Man, with a foreword by Phil Rickman, was published by Cockatrice Books at the start of November: a rich body of work produced over thirty years, and encompassing the Valleys of south Wales, post-war Spain and Austria, the American badlands and the suburbs of the Florida Keys. Isabel Thomas reviewed the book for Buzz Magazine, praised the book both for the richness of its humour and characterisation, and for its nuanced portrayal of ‘the complexity of living through shifting and stagnant economic landscapes.’ She also picks up on the variety of a collection whose characters include ‘the disillusioned old gentleman in the pub lounge who sleeps in a coffin… the carer who owns the town’s drug trade… the gun-wielding jazz musician bored of bebop and seeking new thrills.’

The publication of Nigel Jarrett’s fourth short-story collection by Cockatrice follows his second novel, Notes from the Superhorse Stable, by Saron Press earlier this year. Again there is an extraordinary range of historical periods, settings and voices, accompanied by a remarkable social and emotional intelligence expressed in laser-targeted prose. As Jonathan Lee said in his review of the book for Nation Cymru, this is the work of ‘a polymath of the written word’: ‘The first ink splashed onto these blank pages formed the words to draw me in. The rest, I happily discovered, kept me there – line after line, story after story – hooked.’

A. L. Reynolds is not (yet) as well-known as the writers above. Nevertheless, her first novel, published while she was an undergraduate student, attracted the praise of Carol Rumens, and her brave and extraordinary second novel, Of the Ninth Verse, was praised by Jim Perrin for ‘its austere beauty and precisely knowledgeable evocations of the land, its people, and its rhythms, written in prose “felt in the blood, and felt along the heart,”’ by Angela Topping as ‘a compelling narrative of forbidden yet irresistible love,’ and by Jason Barlow of Some Melodious Plot as ‘a strangely comforting read… compassionate and incredibly convincing.’ Seaside Towns is a love story also, a celebration of the growing of trust between a Ukrainian physicist and an American literature scholar against a backdrop of cultural and sexual intolerance, and the yawning gulfs of time represented by the fossil beds of the north Welsh coast. This seemingly unassuming novel is a wise and enlightening read.

The months ahead involve the publication of Roger Granelli’s new novel, set in the colonial Congo of Albert Schweitzer’s time, submissions by some of the most respected writers in Wales, a new edition of the classic study of Welsh politics and literature, The Welsh Extremist by Ned Thomas, and Walter Map’s compendium of history, hearsay, folklore and gossip, A Courtier’s Trifles, translated by M. R. James from the Latin. Established presses of Wales, it is high time you woke up. The Cockatrice has barely begun running rings round you.

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