Reader reviews

Here are some reader reviews of my books and stories
...the good, bad and indifferent.

Most of these were written by good friends, hence their general leniency, but all of them are genuine, unprompted opinions.

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Thank you so much to everybody who has given me feedback and encouragement over the years.

Other stories

"'The Gay Misanthrope' is my fav... it's written in an interesting fashion... and what I think I like is that I don't really know what it's trying to say, in that I know what the words say but I think the fine nuance is lost on me at the moment... but I did read it quickly... but there are definite archaic notions to all your stories... why is that?"

Samuel L, internet (2002)

"I have also read one of your stories 'The House with the Seven Staircases' ...I liked the story, but I can't express an opinion about the style because English is not my first language and is difficult to criticise. I was thinking about your story in Italian ...I want to try to translate it in Italian!!"

Antonio, internet (2002)

"Hell, I just read your work entitled 'Gay Misanthrope', only through it once, and quickly too. So this is really a feedback and not a review at all. I quite like the character ‘Gaheris’, I mean I understand his mind, his way of thinking and of looking at the world. I could, in a way, identify with him. I know, this might put me in a minority, but Gaheris is unique and anything unique is perhaps by definition in a minority. I find him believable, but I also want to find out more about him: what made him a misanthrope, why he becomes what he is today (well, up till his visit to Manchester), what incidents in his earlier life experience shaped his worldviews, and so on. Those are the questions, perhaps undercurrent story lines which may enrich the character with more dimensions. Gaheris’ dance changed the course of his life but not before pricked his dream and shattered the foundation of his attitude towards man (really people!) on the night. I would wish to explore the process of this change a little bit more. A great deal seems to be Gaheris’ reflection and thinking; and I wonder whether the form PLAY might give it more space and freedom to carry it further, since some dialogues in the story read like a play anyway. While reading it, I was reminded of Oscar Wilde’s plays and stories, and yet the language is more akin to Jane Austen’s. And yet I find it a bit like a fable which tells a moral story. These are just some of my thoughts, initial reactions really, and I meant them to be taken as friendly and constructive. As to other characters, e.g. Belinda in particular, perhaps I will leave it to the next time. Finally, let me say thank you for the story or for Gaheris. As a sideway question, why do you call him Gaheris? Any meanings behind it? ...Ah, Gaheris, the knight and protector – I am now reminded of paintings in the national gallery: the shining armour and often handsome face."

Tom, internet (2002)

"Well I've just finished reading the tale of woe that was 'The Gay Misanthrope'... poor Gaheris... (I think!)... I hope none of that came from personal experience! ...though I guess we have all been there at some time in our lives... again your most wicked (booyakasha) ability of writing in an oldee stylee was pleasing to the eye though tiring on my poor ickle brain (call me old fashioned ...or just a stupid twat) but yours are not the sort of stories that can be quickly read and digested... they require a level of concentration... which is rewarded with the appropriate attention. They could be interpreted by the reader as being modern or being 100 years old which is brilliant (though things like references to Manchester’s Canal Street and pubs nstuff give the game away and jar a bit) can you see what I’m saying?... it's not criticism because I’m in no intellectual position to do that its just and idea/suggestion.
Back to Misanthrope... yes the humour was there and I did actually laugh out loud at parts... I don't think I mentioned that! But I do like to stew in darkness at times and your writings do have a natural and very wonderful tendency to darkness... both your stories that I have read so far have in my mind occurred totally in darkness... (bit like Bladerunner was all dark and wet the whole film thru)... have you tried doing some kind of subtle horror? Bram Stoker's Dracula was a cool read years ago I seem to remember... but for you I think toned down and hinting at deep unpleasantness many moons ago... hmmmm I’m maybe pushing you into virgin territory here?! I will continue to read all your writings as work here is sporadic at best."

Richard, internet (2002)

"Just thought I'd let you know that I read one of your short stories, 'The Gay Misanthrope', and enjoyed it a lot. I was impressed by the way you juxtaposed the archaic style with the contemporary setting, and liked the way you worked in Dido's Lament at the end. And your engravings are great too!"

Nigel M, internet (2002)

"Surely the story of the seven staircases should be subtitled 'the story with seven sentences' with a further comment of the use of the word seven, yes, seven times?"

Gordon Cummins, London, England (2002)

"I like your paintings, I am interested in your stories. You asked me what I think... well, first of all: English is not my first language, therefore I cannot tell you anything about your English or the way you use your language. I am sorry for this, if you'd be interested in this. What I can do is this: I can tell you that I enjoyed reading these two stories tonight. Sometimes I had to laugh or to smile, and I asked myself, what does Benjamin want to express: his own feelings? his own experiences? his own way to overcome his experiences? I admire how capable you are in inventing and telling these stories. As I do not know how old you are, I want to wish you the desire show more of your capabilities."

Georg, internet (2002)

"I came onto your site completely by accident because I'm looking to decorate a strange little staircase at work with images and poems, anecdotes, infotainment, etc. about staircases. So far we've done two "exhibitions" on the landings of each twist and turn of this quirky staircase, but the last exhibition came down rather suddenly. As in last night, without explanation. So a new exhibition is called for. And in my search for new things to delay people's climb upwards, I came on ‘The House with the Seven Staircases’. I have one question and one comment.
The question: would you mind if I posted ‘The House with the Seven Staircases’ in this stairwell at work, for people to read as they climb? Your story is nice and compact, and will give people something to read in the few minutes it takes them to catch their breath. You'll get full credit for the story (complete caption, your e-mail, however you'd like it to read) and I'd be happy to put up the frontispiece as well.
The comment: I enjoyed the story. I used to read 19th century ghost stories by M.R. James and Sheridan Le Fanu, and this has a flavor reminiscent of those. I also collect Edward Gorey books and it also fits in well with his style. There's one story in particular that it reminds me of... (argh, which one) either The Grand Passion or The Disrespectful Summons. No implication that you're derivative of their works at all, please don't take it that way. I just enjoy the imagery and style evoked by the story.
[...] I don't see anything wrong with your designs. I like the crispness, the simplicity, the flow, and the starkness of the design. They work perfectly as woodcut style illustrations. Actually, I really enjoy the frontispieces for Judith and Holofernes and The Fish-Wife. I love the flowing, inverted figures and how the design holds together while being open to elements coming in from outside. I think those are very well done."

Larry Wentzel, Pennsylvania, USA (2002)

"Got your short story [‘The Castle-Toppler’] yesterday and read it immediately. I was gripped all the way through, and am still thinking about it now. Your characters are evil! I'd love to read the others - please send them to me as I'm starved of decent lit. I'm still thinking about your woman made of flames - she has rather a profound effect on those who encounter her. As you know. And yes the pic sheds a different light, but I enjoy having such a bitch on my wall - it gives me something to aspire to!!! I tell you it works - treat men like they're dogs (but flirt outrageously at the same time) and they'll do anything you want. Secret recipe."

Paula Winzar, Penzance, England (2002)

"Let me say that I read with intense subjectivity; everything I read is part of me - I don't know how to acurately explain it. They are living inside me as I read them. Your ‘The Gay Misanthrope’ and ‘The Mourners’ both are paralyzing pieces. My hands are shaking trying to write this to you. Your dreams have come full circle and not everyone can acclaim such an accomplishment in life. I have to stop to read whatever is left available on this site. I just happened to fall upon it and can only say it is a fortune to embrace. It is inspiring to see a talented young man have an avenue to turn onto and express himself so exceptionally well.
I’m okay now that I’ve read your other stories. ‘The Gay Misanthrope’ is a classic story of loneliness and self-condemnation, a dissolute victim of his own shame. ‘The Mourners’ is a compelling lament of doubt and the need to refill an emptiness lost. The other stories on your site are apparantly very thought out, imaginative to the point of absurd at times and needed some proofreading. I found myself absorbed in the first two I mentioned; the others I found myself criticizing and proofreading while reading through them unlike during the other two. Mixed ages were sounding a couple of the last ones but I liked the analogy of 'orpheus and eurydice' in 'The Beltane Comedy', but a faerie king in hades was stretching my suspension of belief, sort of against the grain a bit. Anyway, if you wouldn't mind, I would like to read some of your other tales. When I wrote the last review I was having a very weird and strange day, forgive me."

Richard Barglowski, internet (12 June 2003)

"I read ‘The Merlin’ and as always really enjoyed it. I love your characters, they are always so afflicted with the human condition!"

Paula Winzar, Penzance, England (2003)

"I really like the designs... a lot. Not only are they beautiful but they are also representative of the key aspects to the stories and hence a great introduction to your writing. To give you an idea, these were my first impressions of 'The Beltane Comedy': the design has a cyclical balance to it, almost like the designs on packs of cards, suggesting that 'The Beltane Comedy' is an ordered game, lives inextricably linked by a fatalistic set of rules? I really want to read it now to see whether I’m right (or wrong), and the others. I think my favorite design is 'The Fish-wife'."

Paula Winzar, Penzance, England (2003)

"I am an international designer and have worked in the art field a lot. Your art is really unique and has a light touch between Art Deco and Art Nouveau. Which I thought was quite interesting. You ought to try to show a colour rendering on the web page. Sometimes black and white is not everything for most people. Keep up the good work."

Robert Tamez, Galaxy Star International, internet (11 April 2002)

"LOVE your art work!!!! ...I love all of it... what I like most is how the art tells the story. I loved it... and I am jealous!"

Keith Campbell, internet (5 September 2001)

"I really like ‘The Beltane Comedy’. Damn I’m jealous. Lovely voice, total immersion in the story, and really cool ending. You should get one published. And send me more.
[He’d read the first page and thought that was it.] Well I’ll confess it’s an uphill struggle after the work of genius whimsy that was page one, but I shall finish tomorrow and mail you."

Anthony O’Brien, London, England (5 September 2001)