Roads Ahead, Edited by Catherine O'Flynn

New talent's a cause for celebration

The Birmingham-based publisher Tindal Street Press was founded 10 years ago and has built a reputation as a discoverer of new talent. Some of its writers had been turned down by mainstream publishers, others are home-grown, for the most part specialising in a tough, gritty style dealing with modern urban life. In conventional publishing terms, Tindal Street has compounded the error of investing in new writers by championing the short story.

Its first book was the anthology Hard Shoulder, and it marks the 10th anniversary with another. There are richly imaginative stories in Roads Ahead, although a few others bear the impress of the creative-writing class and are written in the absurdly fashionable historic present tense.

All anthologies are mixed bags. This one has a wide range in subject matter and place, and the best stories chance their imaginative arm the most. So more than honourable mentions to Anietie Isong's "Devotion", about a Nigerian mother having to prostitute herself to secure the release of her rebel son, and to Nick Walker's "Old School Entertainment", a surrealistic take on an escapologist's outrageous performances. The longest story, and one of the best, is Luke Brown's "Borges in Buenos Aires", about crime, sex and tequila, and how to avoid reading Borges.

Violence occupies many writers: most memorably in the grotesque murder of Michelle's Singh's "Shooters", David Savill's tale, "Table Rock Lake", of a black man and his white lover who is a soldier in Iraq, and Richard Milward's doomed female narrator in "Venus in Firs". Violence is more obliquely rendered in Daisy Cains's subtle story of a childish encounter with charming IRA bombers in "Never said a Word", and Dea Brovig's tragic-comic "Ania's Wake", with an old man at his wife's funeral.

Richard Milward has already been published by Faber, but it might be a good idea for other editors to get hold of Roads Ahead and investigate its many talents. If they still do things like that.

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