By Andrew J Keir
Troubador Publishing Ltd – £8.99
There’s something unequivocally graceful about how this book starts.
It’s 2001 and the book’s protagonist, Leo Hunter, is writing about his dying father with such a broad and controlled beauty, that one is compelled to delve ever further. Ever further into the book as well as one’s own imaginary hinterland of languid, lurking grief. The sort of which neither resists nor desists the notion that tranquillity could ever reside amid anything other than that of the norm: normality (whatever that is), the everyday, razor edged equilibrium, of the here and now.
Bloody Flies’ opening gambit is called ‘Deep Water,’ wherein the brevity of the author’s frankness is such that we are somehow, invariably reminded of our own lives: ‘’Initially I notice a shortness of breath, like the panting of a small dog, which lingers for ten minutes after he performs the most mundane of tasks, such as sipping water or even pointing a finger, Then, over a five day period, the pant becomes a rattling wheeze, inevitably deteriorating into a choking fit that causes his eyes to bulge with panic […]. Three days pass to a soundtrack of one-sided conversations and the rhythmic rale of the machine.’’
Admittedly, assorted readers might home in on the discrepancy between ‘’three days pass’’ over ‘’a five day period’’ which; to all intents and nit picking purposes, really isn’t a big deal. As at this stage, what Andrew J Keir is actually writing about, blows all such inconsistencies into oblivion.
The problem, if such be the word, arises later in on in the book during ‘A Day at the Races,’ wherein the speaker’s voice suddenly changes from that of Leo (the father and the husband) to that of Diana (the mother and the wife). Not only is the reader not really ready for the unforeseen change in literary gear, but the warmth and plausibility of the new voice is completely different to that of what we’ve previously read and become accustomed to.
For instance, following the death of a small jockey-child at the racetrack in Abu Dhabi, a woman, possibly Diana’s friend Bushra, is overcome with grief. Yet through the formers’ words we read: ‘’I get to my feet and stumble away from the track – bumping through the crowd, which is squeezing in for a closer look. I think of Bushra, a woman on her own, surrounded and constricted by all these local men: distraught and confused. But I push the thought from my mind – she’ll just have to deal with it.’’
‘’She’ll just have to deal with it’’ isn’t something Leo would have said. These seven appalling words leap out of the page with all the brash selfishness of a Celebrity Big Brother contestant (and even though perhaps they’re meant to, they’re more jarring than they are telling).
Having thus far been procured by the rather sympathetic voice of Diana’s well-meaning, believable husband Leo; we, as readers, just aren’t readily attuned to such an abrupt and acute alteration of tonality. This, plus the fact that some of the book’s characters would probably benefit from being allowed to bloom a little more – as opposed to merely being contingent upon chronology – is what holds Bloody Flies back from a being a terrific read.