Always Never, Rarely Sometimes by Alexander Raphael
This is a collection of short stories by one person,yet they vary in style and content so much they elegantly demonstrate the versatility of Alexander Raphael as a writer. Only seven stories, but each has a different tone and flavour, from the brash showman to the small boy working hard, the importance of names in someone’s life to the reunion of two people who were once important to each other. They are all more or less contemporary, and show the way that sometimes the domestic settings of coffee shops, bars and small towns can be enough for vibrant fiction. This is a short book and an entertaining one, as with commendable economy the author establishes the setting, often during the lively dialogue which he seems to revel in. The characters which he evidently enjoys creating are consistent and often surprising, but always intriguing. There are twists sometimes within the stories, but they are not essential to tell the story. There is sometimes a surreal theme, but all are within the range of experience; the human context is well developed. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this fascinating book.
The character of Jimmy Nirvana is a failed magician and disappointed showman, but has a talent and an appreciation of how to have an effect on people, not always for the better. In another story the question is “what to say next” after many years. The nature of luck and timing is a very real topic for some, as a man comes to know the power of a name and much more. There is a chilling element in a story set in an everyday pub, despite outward appearances. This is in direct contrast to a delightful story of innocence and attraction, appearances and contrivances. A smart and clever story of intense motive is an intriguing story of a marriage. The final tale features Christmas from a particular point of view and is a touching tale with a few surprises.
This is a lovely book of stories for reading and thought. They do not always go in the way that is expected, and are the stronger for that, but do not indulge in showy tricks. It is an entertaining collection which I recommend as an enjoyable read and well written treat.