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Brian J. Showers
Old Albert: An Epilogue
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2011

Ex Occidente Press
UK Hardcover Limited Edition
Publication Date: 06-01-2011
80 Pages; NA
Date Reviewed: 11-30-2011

Index:  General Fiction  Mystery  Horror

Stories have a natural power, a gravity that draws the reader in, pulls the reader down. Even the most inconsequential-seeming tales catch our attention, and more so if they filter out from the world around us. The issue of veracity, of truth, no matter how slight, increases that gravitational pull tenfold. Stories we think are true, or might be true, or that even feel true command our attention.

Brian J. Showers commands the readers' attention in 'Old Albert: An Eplogue,' a short collection of linked stories that add up to a very nice reading experience. After an Epigraph from Italo Calvino's 'Invisible Cities,' you'll find "A Note to the Reader by Jim Rockhill," which purports to be a sort of introduction, but is, in reality an integral part of the collection. Rockhill sets the scene with letters from Showers, notes on Showers' previous book 'The Bleeding Horse' (which will end up on the must buy list of anyone who reads this book), and notes on storytelling and fiction itself. Rockhill anchors the work that follows with his well-known scholarly prose and reputation.

Showers follows through with six short stories (one of which is the "Prologue") that start out craftily meandering but eventually wind up being intensely powerful. Showers begins with an introduction to Rathmines, a suburb of Dublin that the author makes real for the reader by virtue of extremely smart and engaging writing. Then, in a series of stories that follow, he brings the work to focus on Larkhill, beginning with "Ellis Grimwood of Larkhill," the story of a reclusive eccentric who studies birds, and finishing with "Come Like Shadows, So Depart," in which the author reveals his sources. Each story brings to light a new perspective on Rathmines in general and Larkhill in particular, culminating in a chilling finale.

The prose, and the prose voice in particular are engagingly low-key and academic, but extremely compelling. Showers fills his stories with notes that mimic reality but may or may not be based in reality. There are a series of end-notes that lend credence to the tales being true, and add a sense of veracity. The effect of Showers' incredibly well-crafted prose is to give the tales he tells a ring of truth that is undeniably and very enjoyably compelling.

Equally compelling are the characters he creates in a very offhand manner, from Ellis Grimwood to James Walker and his wife Eva, to the Author himself and his unnamed friend who finish the book. There's a sort of documentary, casual feel to these people; they're introduced as real and they feel that way to the reader. The characters' stories, their definitions, as it were, form the plot of the book, in a powerful cumulative effect that makes for a striking reading experience.

Ex Occidente Press is known for its lovingly-crafted work, and alas, the hardcover editions of this book are sold out. But Showers' vision persists, and his work is clearly worth looking for. If you happen upon a copy of 'Old Albert: An Epilogue' in any form, snap it up, and let it do the same for you. His other book, 'The Bleeding Horse and Other Ghost Stories,' to which 'Old Albert' is the epilogue, is still available at a very reasonable price. Showers is clearly an author of great talent, with an ability not just to describe reality, but create it out of whole cloth.

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