Islington Crocodiles
 by Paul Meloy

TTA Press 2008,
First collection
Shorlisted, British Fantasy Awards 2009

Paul Meloy lives in Suffolk and is a psychiatric nurse.  His story Black Static won a British Fantasy Award in 2005 and this collection, was shortlisted for an award in 2009.

Read an interview with Paul Meloy

"I'd watched Frank prepare a joint of beef once by cutting slits in the thick, bloody muscle and pressing a fistful of garlic cloves into the gashes.  That's what that dog's head looked like, battering itself earless against the sharp steel edges of the doors: like an enraged and gory joint, tumorous with great yellow cloves of teeth, animate with a mindless longing to chew."

Reviewed by Pauline Masurel

For sheer inventiveness, you'd be lucky to beat these stories. The late Lenny Bruce pitches up to piss in the narrator's sink, a clown runs away to unjoin the circus and feral mutant pandas terrorise a suburban neighbourhood.

Paul Meloy does faded glory and extraordinary happenings remarkably well. There are some fabulous, almost Dickensian, character names: Nurse Melt, Doctor Mocking, Ginger Lee and Jack Feculant. The opening story, The Last Great Paladin of Idle Conceit, is not only one of Meloy's great titles, it examines how our heroes from the past might fare in the modern world. It is, indeed, a wonderful conceit, well played out and the story sets the tone for a log of slick, black-humoured prose to follow.

I should probably fess up that I'm not an habitual reader of Horror, well, not since my adolescent reading of Edgar Allen Poe and Pan anthologies, but even though it's not a genre I'd normally be reading, I enjoyed the exuberance of these stories. If I have one major quibble with this book, it's that I wasn't sure that I really needed both a Foreword and an Introduction telling me how special Paul Meloy's work is. I should have preferred to get stuck in and find out for myself.

For the most part, these are blokey, laddish stories. They're funny and well-crafted, but if you're easily offended by misogyny in a first person narrative then they may not be the stories for you. If you can be open-minded and accept the attitude simply as a "point of view" then you stand more chance of making yourself at home in these rather disturbing worlds.

I can honestly say that I never quite absorbed the underlying "message" of this collection, so I am probably paraphrasing incorrectly when I say it is about the Paladins who will deliver us from the Autoscopes (who are fans of entropy) in a war with the Firmament Surgeons (the good guys). There are characters, locations and references which reoccur in different stories forming linking worlds and arguments.

All of this washed over my head somewhat, I'm afraid, although I'm sure some people will enjoy it. But I could still grasp the gist of an argument that says: "...there are more destructive powers in the world than there are constructive ones. Entropy is a dark, ever-widening eye that never ceases in its function to see all and disassemble it. So we have to close that eye a little, we have to throw a little salt in it, shine a little light in it; temporarily blind it, if you like. To give us a chance."

These stories certainly fling a little salt. Be careful where you stand.

Read Raiders, a story from this collection on MySpace

Pauline Masurel lives in a  stony hollow in South Gloucestershire. She writes small and sometimes even smaller fictions.  Her story Song Without Words was recently published by Inkermen Press in the anthology Loss.
Pauline's other Short Reviews: Erin Pringle "The Floating Order"

Jim Crace "The Devil's Larder"

Mark Budman, Tom Hazuka (eds) "You Have Time for This"

Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities

Carson McCullers "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe"

Jeffrey Eugenides (ed) "My Mistress' Sparrow is Dead"

Kasia Boddy, Ali Smith, Sarah Wood (eds) "Let's Call
the Whole Thing Off"

Ben Tanzer "Repetition Patterns"
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