by Atlantis Collective
Edited by John kenny
First collection? Yes
The Atlantis Collective is a writing group in Galway. The
authors are: Aideen Henry, Alan Caden, Bob Whealan, Colm Brady, Conor
Montague, Dara Ó Foghlú, Máire T. Robinson, Patricia Byrne and Paul
Love the review? Disagree violently? Come rant and rave in our
through the blue wedge of sky
to where it turned black and blinked back at me with a million eyes.
Below I could see the backs of birds and airplanes struggling against
the wind like ants in shifting sand."
Reviewed by Vanessa Gebbie
Town of Fiction
is a collection of thirteen short stories by nine writers - the
Atlantis Collective writing group - plus one story by the editor, John
Kenny. Four members of the group have two pieces of work here, and five
members have contributed a single story – so it is a tad unbalanced in
terms of showcasing their abilities.
The book is nicely produced, a glossy multicoloured street scene on the
front. It runs to 92 pages, and is work by a group of friends who
studied writing together, it seems. But I got that from a website -
there is no introduction to explain what the book is, in the book
itself… and that might be a mistake.
I certainly enjoyed some of the stories, and look forward to reading
more by some of the writers showcased here, but I had to dig to find
The first thing in the collection is this, Dedicated Follower of Fashion, a
two-liner by Conor Montague:
"A thought crossed his mind as the truck struck: wrong day for frilly
thought it was an epigram introducing a story to begin over the page. I
was wrong – it is followed by the Contents. And was meant as a joke, I
think. But it is not original, I’d certainly met this before, maybe in
a news report…and it made me feel short-changed.
Then the actual opening story - in place of an editor’s foreword - is
indeed by the editor, but is described as "Editor’s backword" and is
Oh dear. Do I really have to be told that this is a word spelled
backwards? My annoyance doubles. I actually put the book down, to be
able to come to the other pieces fresh a few days later.
There are some interesting pieces of work here - Dara Ó Foghlú’s two
stories Lonely Hearts Club
and The Final Flight of But-I-Am
(see the quote above the review) are among those that stand out,
although both have slightly weak endings. Despite that, I enjoyed the
reads. Lonely Hearts Club is
laugh-out-loud funny, well voiced, tightly written and manages to be
poignant as well:
the day you wake up wearing a dog collar and can’t sit down without
hurting you know you’ve lost sight of who you used to be. That’s not
compromise. That’s domination."
Patricia Byrne’s two stories stand out as well, two very different
voices here, although my money is on In
being the one that comes more naturally to the writer. Some lyrical,
easy writing, spoiled only by an unfathomable event at the core of the
story… a girl climbing a wall, then a body being tossed into the air.
What happened?!! A case of the writer knowing and not letting the
reader in, I think. Her other story The
Method – a list of ways to kill off ones boss, is OK, but it
doesn’t "go" anywhere.
Maire T. Robinson’s story, An
Unkindness of Ravens, a Murder of Crows
is cleverly structured and original, the unfolding of the story
punctuated and mirrored by descriptions from a birdwatchers’ manual.
But the maturity of the piece is let down by the ending again, and the
odd editing howler. Alan Caden’s stories, In His Shoes and Bust, are both enjoyable romps, and
well voiced. Sadly, there are some poor pieces as well - the title
story Town of Fiction among
them- a litany of mixed metaphors that feels more like a "morning
pages" exercise than a polished short story.
is a brave thing to do, putting this collection into the public domain,
not just producing it for writing group members and their
families/friends. And it is a very tough call for a reviewer to remark
honestly and publicly, without wishing to damage creative spirits.
However, some writers show their skill with words, and hopefully we
will see more of their work.
Apart from those mentioned above, if I can
pick out a piece that really made the read worthwhile, it is What Happened
by Bob Whealan. Great characterisation, lovely controlled voice,
controlled fade out, and a strong ending. Thematically speaking (and I
am not talking "plot" here) Whealan seems to know exactly what he wants
to leave his reader with, and that was refreshing. I will close with
his ending lines – (the main character is a roofer):
the scaffold, no matter how ‘fraid I am. I’ll walk across the cold hard
slates and be high up in the early morning. I’ll look out over the
whole town: the strings of rush hour traffic. The people walking to
work, the school buses and the church steeple sticking up into that
part of the sky that still belongs to the night. And when it gets dark
and we’ve to finish up I’ll go into that church and light a candle for
all the things I haven’t lost."