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A Writer's Life

Eric Brown

PS Publishing, 2001

ISBN 1 902880 20 X (Softback)

ISBN 1 902880 21 8 (Hardback)

78 pages; $14.00 / $40.00

Date Reviewed: 12-02-02  

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 2002



Horror, Science Fiction


Writing about writing is a dangerous business. Yes, it surely fits in with the old paradign of 'Write about what you know'. It also runs the risk of being self-indulgent and boring. But for Eric Brown, it's a break back to the real world. He's a science fiction writer whose usual territory is the future, near, far and in-between. In his PS Publishing novella, he takes an entirely different tack, writing a scholarly, quiet ghost story about a mid-list nobody writer who discovers another writer who may be more than he seems to be.

This is the realm usually reserved and owned by Ramsey Campbell, Robert Aickman and M. R. James. Brown approaches the subject with a quiet reverence for his predecessors and deliberately tamps down the tone. Daniel Ellis is a mid-list writer who writes novelizations of computer games and other hackwork in between his own novels, which aren't flying off the shelves. He's lost his motivation until he discovers the work of Vaughan Edwards, a little known novelist in the early years of the twentieth century. Edwards' work rings true for Ellis, moves him both to question his own troubled personal life, and to delve deeper into the mystery of Edwards' disappearance. There's a touch of Borges here in Brown's invented life of a fictional fiction writer.

Ellis' journey of discovery is laid out in the best traditions of the English ghost story. Brown interleafs the personal problems of Ellis' life with the slowly revealed story of Edwards effectively, layering the mudane and the fantastic so that both are enhanced, and he brings a nice twist to wrap things up. The contrast beween Ellis -- unworldly and relatively unworried -- and his partner -- very much of this world and very much worried about making ends meet -- helps to knit together the touch of imagination and the travails of everyday life that Brown portrays. Brown carefully illuminates the inner lives of his characters in classic showing, not telling fashion. He doesn't make his characters live -- he lets them live, and all the more effective a tact.

'A Writer's Life' is another fine entry in Peter Crowther's PS Publishing line of novellas, and certainly a U-turn from the previous entry. The introduction by Paul DI Filippo is excellent, hinting at the story and giving a useful background. This book is resolutely NOT a barn burner, but a quiet read for a quiet day in the country, something to read and then handed to the one closest to you.