Pat Black (2011) Suckerpunch

Suckerpunch is a collection of 36 short stories and a Post Script. All for two quid to download, the kind of loose change that makes a five-year old wain scowl at you and poke their lip out when you hand it to them. It’s a great deal. Not all of them are of equal quality. I’m thinking, for example, a bit of ‘Tongue’ action here. I also think as we get nearer to the end of his collection, well, you know, there’s a bit of extra padding being added. But in saying that I’m still glad I’ve read them.

Let me put that into context. Janice Galloway’s short story collection isn’t as good, can’t put a glove on Pat Black’s.  And he mentions an online writing tutor we both shared, Elizabeth Reeder. And she was, a great Reeder and brilliant at critique, but really, you wouldn’t want to read her debut novel. I’m half way through The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis (£9.99). The Times is quoted on the orange cover: ‘Rich, deeply involving, extraordinary, remarkable.’ Daily Telegraph in typography below: ‘Brilliant, exciting, thrilling, extremely funny.’ I must be living on the moon. ‘Funny?’ Sure she can parse a sentence to death. And like Gertrude Stein there are no mixed metaphors and no slippage into verbiage. If you find the writing of an overly neurotic white woman funny then Pat Black isn’t the writer for you. Stick to the rip snorting antics of Stein and Davis. I can take or leave them and in 99.9% of the time it is the latter. That’s funny, eh?

Pat Black is funny. He dives into the Glasgow dialect and creates some great characters who talk the talk, and walk the walk, that I recognise. Fuck sake Pat Black, although he seems to have some fishy thing going with Jaws, and crustaceans in general, sounds like the folk I know. In ‘Your Number’s Up, Let’s Go Crazy,’ for example, the narrator is in a dead-end office job he hates and he’s been in that long that he’s used to being miserable. He’s got a thing going with one of the female staff that kinda makes him less miserable, but apart from that his life is shite. Even worse he’s made a mess of some big account and the boss has shouted him into the office to give him what for. He flicks onto his emails and finds out he’s won £27 million on the lottery. He lets rip with all his frustrations telling those in the office what he really thinks of them. The boring beardy guy, the kind we all know, that’s always droning on about adventure holidays is told he’s got a bushy face like a fanny. It’s funny. And I won’t spoil the ending by telling you the narrator hasn’t really won the lottery. It’s a hoax from fanny face.

If you want to seem smart and with it stick to Getrude Stein. If like me you like reading about fanny faces and guys that get lost going to the toilet read this book. I guarantee you’ll like it.

p.s. sorry Ms Reeder, but you always did say try and give an honest critique. You stick with Stein.

3 thoughts on “Pat Black (2011) Suckerpunch

  1. Jack – brilliant review, you are a gentleman, thank you. It’s odd, I was thinking about “Let’s Go Crazy” the other week. With each passing day in the office it seems like prophecy. When did you do Elizabeth’s course? I was 2007/2008.


    1. ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ is a great story. Honest in the way life should be, especially the fiction of written life. I did the online course with Glasgow Uni, I guess, 2011-12. I never met Elizabeth Reeder, except on the page, where it counts most. I guess Dr Reeder had been head-hunted and moved across town to more prestigious surroundings when you knew her. She could spot the shadow on the lung of a story from 100 yards. I don’t know if you read her first novel. I recognised one or two of her online witticisms, but really, emmmmmmmmmm. I don’t know if she’s published anything since the appropriately named Ramshackle.


      1. I liked Elizabeth – first encountered her when she published a story in the Herald’s wee short stories corner. Not sure where she is now – haven’t read her novels, though. Just read through the story – I’ve been meaning to re-publish Suckerpunch with some editing (and maybe a few more years’ experience) but there isn’t a lot I’d change about that one.


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