Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Halifax Chronicle-Herald Review

A review from the Sunday December 22, 2009 Chronicle Herald (Halifax). I previously listed the link, but that link is now broken. So here's what reviewer Judith Meyrick had to say about Hard Ol' Spot. It truly is an honour to be singled out among such talented writers.

Hard Ol’ Spot short fiction at its best


Sun. Dec 20 - 4:46 AM

Hard Ol’ Spot — An Anthology of Atlantic Canadian Fiction selected by Mike Heffernan (Killick Press, $19.95)

Selecting short stories for an anthology is a challenge. The content, the varying styles of the authors, it all must somehow "hang together" — make a whole. Mike Heffernan has walked this fine line well, and his new anthology, Hard Ol’ Spot, brings together a collection of stories that represents the best of Atlantic authors. Darren Whalen gives each story "a visual signature," his illustrations heading each story, sketching their essence.

These are stories about growing up and learning the hard way, about taking stands, and the Ocean Ranger. There is a quality to these stories that is uniquely Atlantic Canadian. They tell of the harshness of living in outport Newfoundland. They talk of resilience, and joy and dying, and throughout them, the Atlantic Ocean roars and simmers.

In six short pages, At Sea tells of a sailor suffering the deep misery of seasickness in raging seas. Don Roy somehow holds out hope, that a lifetime of poor choices and missed opportunities may still be redeemed.

Michael Crummey’s ability to place his readers inside his stories is remarkable. The Night Watchman tells of a company man, hired to walk the streets of Black Rock, to keep his employers informed of happenings in the night. And of Ellen, "although it’s only in (his) head that she’s part of the story at all."

But it is Winnie in Gerard Collins' "Hold Out" who speaks loudest by saying very little at all. The town is beyond dying, and residents are being offered $50,000 to leave. Only trouble is, it’s all or nothing. And Winnie won’t leave her home and her memories behind.

A good anthology is a cause for excitement among lovers of short stories and Hard Ol’ Spot — An Anthology of Atlantic Canadian Fiction is no exception. Heffernan’s collection showcases Atlantic short fiction at its best.

Mike Heffernan is the author of Rig: An Oral History of the Ocean Ranger Disaster. He lives in St. John’s.

Darren Whalen is a visual artist from Newfoundland. He lives in St. John’s.

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