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Brian J. Showers
Old Albert: An Epilogue
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2013

The Swan River Press
Ireland Hardcover Limited Edition
ISBN 978-0-956-65874-6
Publication Date: 09-01-2012
72 Pages; £19.99
Date Reviewed: 01-15-2013

Index:  General Fiction  Mystery  Horror

Editor's Note:
In December of 2011, I reviewed an out-of-print version of 'Old Albert: An Epilogue' by Brian J. Showers, simply because it was so superb. In 2012, it was re-printed by The Swan River Press, with a new presentation and material; this is an edit of that review.

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.

Originally published by Ex Occidente Press, Showers has re-issued the book from his own concern, The Swan River Press. Alas, I never saw the original, but the new version offers a perfect cover image, one that becomes more beautiful and disturbing after reading the book. This version also includes an extensive afterword by Adam Golaski, not in the first version. As with Rockhill's introduction, it slots into the Showers' narrative seamlessly. Brian J. 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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