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Dial M for Monkey 

Adam Maxwell

Thomas’ imaginings were things he kept to ward off the lure of insanity. Sex with the receptionist. Training an Orang-utan to slap every third person who walked through the door. Wondering if cushions were stuffed with foam or whether it was specially dried jellyfish. That­ sort of thing "

Reviewed by Sara Crowley

The title Dial M for Monkey sets the tone for what is to come: funny, pop cultural stories, which reference many familiar names (Take That, Chas ‘n Dave, The Beatles, Jim Morrison…). The collection is a series of short, snappy jokes, and Maxwell is the bloke in the pub, leaning on the bar, setting up punch lines, and enjoying himself. 

The first story takes literally the Beatles claim that happiness is a warm gun. 

“There is very little I am sure of in this life, but following the literal advice of a man who had once claimed to be a Walrus was not the beginning of an adventure I might someday tell my grandchildren. Even as I pressed the start button on the microwave I should have known it would end in disaster.” 

The story runs to just a page and a half, and is typical. 

There’s a lot of improbable daftness going on. A monkey works a pickpocket scam on an underground train in I almost spanked a monkey, and the narrator faces him in a battle of wits. 

“Slowly, he stood upright, his miniscule monkey mind processing some long-held instinct. He lifted his right arm, clenching his paw. He froze, fist aloft, and stared deep into my eyes as I waited for his move.” 

A man worries that his neighbour has brussel sprouts for eyes in, yup, Sprouts

“He has eyelids. Proper ones, not sheathes like the outside of a sprout, but human eyelids, and underneath – sprout.” 

The stories are fast, they read like the author has thought "What would happen if…” and let his mind take off on a flight of fancy, but it is not all light and smiles either. A stroll along the prom, prom, prom neatly flips the popular notion of teen thugs carrying knives and instead features two pensioners who have their own way of dealing with a young criminal. 

“The promenade had long ago begun to disintegrate and the council’s lack of interest meant that no-one even walked down the prom the way they used to. Two elderly gentlemen moved stoically along, lost in a world where the prom was freshly painted and it wasn’t a dangerous place to be.” 

There’s also violence, guns, theft, soul taking, grave robbing, and a severe caffeine overdose! It’s a quick read; very short fiction with twists of dark humour, and violence. 

I was asked to expand my review of this book, but I have found it impossible to think of more to say beyond read it, enjoy it, and smile. It’s not a deep book full of layers and literary references to be unpicked, or at least I don’t think it is! It’s all there on the surface, what you see is what you get. It is a collection of amusing yarns, and I think you’ll probably know if you are going to be entertained by this or not. It is perhaps a bit of a boys' book, a bit lad lit for my personal taste, but it succeeds well in delivering funny, fast, flash fiction. (Say that quickly!)

Read one of the stories from this collection on McSweeney's Internet Tendency.

Sara Crowley has had fiction published by Pulp, elimae, flashquake, Litro, Cella's Round Trip, Every Day Fiction, Red Peter, Boston Literary Magazine and a variety of other lovely places. “Salted”, her novel in progress, was shortlisted for the 2007 Faber/Book Tokens Not Yet Published Award.

Sara's other Short Reviews: Miranda July "No-one Belongs Here More Than You"

Alison McLeod "Fifteen Modern Tales of Attraction"

Zadie Smith (ed) "The Book of Other People"

Neil Smith "Bang Crunch"

Dave Housley "Ryan Seacrest is Famous"

Jen Michalski "Close Encounters"


PublisherTonto Books

Publication Date: 2006

Paperback/Hardback? Paperback

First collection?Yes

Author bio: Adam Maxwell was born in 1976 and has written for a plethora of publications, including Dave Eggers' McSweeney's, and Tonto Short Stories. He has a Masters Degree in Creative Writing from Northumbria University, and lives in the wilds of Northumberland. This is his first book.

Read an interview with Adam Maxwell

Buy this book (used or new) from:

The Publisher's Website: Tonto Books

Author recommends: AbeBooks




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