If you are looking for love; you have come to the wrong place! You certainly won’t find love, empathy and understanding in Graham Wynd’s short story collection, Love is a Grift and Other Stories of Desperation.
This is a collection of dark tales, with lust, manipulation and sexual obsessions recurring with frightening and exciting, regularity. The featured story has all the hallmarks of classic noir; seedy bars in Galway, a gullible man lead by his desire, a disposable wealthy husband, and a femme fatale who can literally charm the pants off any man she encounters. This beautiful grifter is a survivor, who is always at least one step ahead of her criminal companions, playing them for everything they are worth, before making her ultimate and timely discards. Is the lady a sociopath? Quite possibly, does she exploit her sexuality with vicious cunning; absolutely!
It was challenging to pick out individual stories as my favourites; because they are all good. But my personal preference was for ‘These Toys Are For Tough Boys’ as I loved the comedy, and the Slovenian connection. The characters are a bunch of ill-suited petty criminals operating way out of their league when they attempt a kidnapping, which goes horribly wrong – or right depending on the character’s allegiance.
On a more serious note, some of these stories show the depths to which a woman’s life can descend, when she has created her world, around a love that has become a restrictive nightmare. ‘Repetition’ and ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’ are stories in which women have lost themselves to the mundane torture of their daily lives. However, as this is written by Graham Wynd, you can be sure they will find a way to extricate themselves from their soul-destroying situations.
The dystopian story ‘Rebellious Jukebox’ was a fantastic tale of life in the city of continuous noise. Imagine a world surrounded by loudspeakers and tannoys, making constant nonsensical announcements. It’s a place where only the very rich can purchase illegal earplugs. This story of torture by noise, with imprisonment and banishment for perceived infractions; has a genuine Orwellian feel to it.
I loved the classic noir, the dystopian tale and the hints of dark magic in this collection. But to return to the theme of dangerous attachments, with the concluding story, another favourite of mine, ‘Thirty Versions of Leatherette,’ – love is in this book is more often than not, a sexually charged car cash.