The Red Grouse Tales: The Little Dog and Other Stories by Leslie W P Garland, 358 pages, December 2nd 2015, Genre: Contemporary Fiction. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.
Review by Leigh Holland.
The Red Grouse Tales is a collection of four novellas into a larger work. Each tale is tied together by style and theme. The style of the work is first person storytelling narration. A person is telling the story to another person for the duration of each tale. This is my least favorite style, but that’s a personal preference. Others may like the way the stories are presented.
The theme that binds the tales together is the nature, origin, and manifestation of evil in our world. Each tale presents ‘evil’ in a different way and compels the reader to reflect on it. What is evil, truly? Can we know someone is ‘evil’? Is evil a sentient force striving to release itself and cover the world? Or is evil just a name we give to things that horrify us? How do we confront evil when others can’t see it for what it is?
Of the four tales, my favorite is the third one, “The Golden Tup”. In this tale, a couple having marital problems discovers a journal from one hundred and fifty years ago. The journal reveals information about an evil on their farmland. Once the couple agrees as to the place where evil dwells, what they do to remedy the situation is truly horrifying. Were they right? Or were they now “evil”?
Overall, I really liked the concept of each story. I think the style made it more difficult for me to really get into it. The stories weaved the theme well throughout the work and the style remained consistent.
You can find this book at The Red Grouse Tales.
Comprising four intriguing novella length contemporary adult fantasy stories which contain mystery, a hint of the supernatural or paranormal, together with a passing nod towards philosophy and religion – though in these modern fairy or folk tales the fantastic doesn’t happen in some remote fantasy world, but right here in this one, in very ordinary, almost everyday circumstances!
The Little Dog – a story of good and evil, and retribution.
This tales is told by Bill, a retired forester, and takes the form of most of the stories in our lives, namely, that we have no idea that we are living a story until later when previous events suddenly seem to fall into place and make some kind of sense.
Bill recounts a week in his early working life when, paired with an older, unsavoury and unpopular colleague, they find a little dog sitting beside the forest haul-road way out in a remote part of the forest. What is the little dog doing there? As the week progresses Bill finds himself becoming emotionally attached to it while also becoming increasingly concerned about just who is his objectionable workmate, and when he notices that the little dog is no longer present at its usual spot his concerns heighten, as he cannot help but feel that his workmate has something to do with the dog’s disappearance.
Although a troubled Bill has a conversation with his local priest and learns of the nature of sin and evil, he remains blind to that which is right in front of him. However the very next day events suddenly take an unexpected turn and the young naive Bill starts to learn some awful truths.
The Crow – a poignant tale of misunderstanding, dying, blame and bitterness.
This story, which centres on our almost desperate desire to leave something to mark our lives upon this earth, is told as a history recounted by Dave, of the time when he, as a child, was taken by his mother to a hospice where he met a dying and embittered old Irish priest known as Mad Father Patrick, who told him about the school days and subsequent rise of a local councillor, Reginald Monday, and of his (Monday’s) involvement in the construction of a dam which flooded a valley. Father Patrick’s increasingly mad tale is told with a blend of biblical quotations, philosophical musings and wild fantasy, but how does it end and just why is he so bitter?
The Golden Tup – a dreadful tale of paradise being cruelly taken by latent evil.
Can evil be in a place? The tale opens with Verity, a farmer’s wife, recalling how a young couple were arrested a few years previously for killing their newborn baby. How could such a nice young couple have done such a dreadful thing? Through a series of flashbacks we learn how they had created their rural idyll, how an enigmatic man had come into their lives and how their idyll and relationship had gradually fallen apart – how, with references to Milton’s Paradise Lost, their paradise was lost. Gradually the young wife reveals a dreadful past, but Verity realises that she is holding something back, but what? What is the terrible truth that caused her and her husband to kill their baby?
The White Hart – a happy ghost story, if there can be such a thing!
Told by a likeable male chauvinist, bachelor and keen fell-runner, Pete Montague recalls three strange incidents which he initially thought were unconnected. The first is his encounter with a little albino deer which he found in the forest when he was out for a jog. The second is that of a chance meeting with a beautiful, young but somewhat enigmatic girl in a remote chapel, and of their conversation in which she told him of the tragic story of the daughter of the family which built it. And the third incident …. A ghost story with a happy ending!
Adult fantasy stories for those who like to think about what they are reading
(Warning to sensitive readers; these tales are for adults and so do contain some bad language and references to sex).
About the Author:
Leslie Garland was born in 1949, qualified as a Chartered Civil Engineer and worked for several years on projects in the UK, the Far East and Africa. During this period he won the Institution of Civil Engineers “Miller Prize” for a paper on tunnelling. Changing times resulted in a change in direction and after qualifying as an Associate Member of both the British Institute of Professional Photography and the Royal Photographic Society he started his own stock photograph library and wrote for the trade press. An unexpected break in his Internet connection fortuitously presented the time to make a start on a long cherished project of a series of short stories, and the first two of “The Red Grouse Tales” were drafted. Two more tales have followed and he is now working on a second batch of tales. He lives with his wife in Northumberland, England. More information is available on http://www.lesliegarland.co.uk.