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From United Kingdom
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 4 February 2022
I went back to Black, like Amy Winehouse, when I saw that author Katherine Black had—not before time—published another book, this time the anthology of short stories entitled Travesty. I’m not a fan of horror or the twisted material about which Black writes, but she writes it so darn well, damnit, that I can’t resist. The night’s the time for dark tales, which is why I was there in bed, glued to my phone with Travesty downloaded before I slept and when I awoke early, as is my custom.
Once more this author examines the shady side of life and doesn’t flinch from an examination of what draws foul breath there. Tales of horror, the vulnerable, inexplicable supernatural phenomena are interspersed with some soul-searching and some poetry. The side of life that most of us would prefer not to see is here, from the unfortunate—sex work, disability, dementia, euthanasia—to the downright criminal—rape, murder, psychopathy and so much more. There’s nowhere that Black will not go, although she adds some positive pieces for much-needed balance. The poems, a new departure for this author, I thought, until I remembered the magic formula from Lizards Leap, which ought to have warned me it would make an appearance at some point. So amongst others we have the raw humour of ‘The Thing With a Cock’ as well as the poignancy of lost love in ‘Memberwhen’. Back in the land of prose, meanwhile, there’s a fantasy-driven suggestion of how all these things could be healed, in ‘Angel Stew’. If only.
We find Black’s fine forensic eye for detail, in the rubber worn from the heel of a streetwalker’s stiletto to both positive and negative possibilities of a man removing a child’s clothing. More than one tale deals with the thoughtlessness of the privileged in terms of the deprived and destitute: the bloody history of a pretty ivory box given as a present to a child, the inconvenience of a heatwave to a pampered rich westerner compared to the dire consequences of drought for a community living close to the Equator.
There’s a matter-of-fact tone to shocking occurrences, and the usual Black-esque twist that will knock you down and leave you winded, and that you won’t see coming even though you should be expecting it, if you know this author. Like many of those in the stories contained here, Katherine Black lulls her readers into a false sense of security with effortless skill. Breathtaking.
Born in South Shields, Tyne & Weir, Katherine Black lives on the tip of the beautiful British Lake District. She lives with her partner, father-in-law and 4 dysfunctional but co-mingling pets. She is mother, grandmother and secret keeper of all. She is Best Book Editors’ principal editor.