MATES AND OTHER STORIES

By Sandy Myhre

Adrian Blackburn is an established journalist and author, that much is clear.  What isn’t quite as clear is why he called this book “Mates”.  If he’s writing about his mates, he has some dodgy ones and there are the mates who masquerade as women but they’re probably not mates, in the true sense of the word.   

Perhaps that’s where the ‘Other Stories’ come in. Maybe it should have been called “Others Stories”.

In any event, it’s a book that holds one’s attention.  The random tales are so diverse you wonder, as you turn the page to reveal another chapter, what’s coming next. It’s so eclectic. It starts off with a drug deal gone horrifically wrong and ends with a woman who is waiting for her welfare ‘check’ (was the Americanism deliberate?) and what she does with herself while she’s waiting.

There are some quite riveting, even poignant, chapters.  Survivor, for instance, is about an elderly man who is waiting to celebrate his 102nd birthday.  He’s waiting to go to a party.

“It would be wrong of me to appear at those events anything but positive about my own longevity, given it seems all of society, secular society at least, seems focussed on living forever.

“However, for the moment, as I lie in my single bed the first summer light filtering between my sleep-encrusted eyelids, I can concentrate on the mundanities of existence,”

The next chapter “Karekare” is beautifully constructed right through to the bitter, as it turned out, end.

“Sand crunches, and I soon reach the rocks at the northern end.  It’s nearly high tide and the waves are sweeping in.  But I manage to balance my way out to my normal vantage point, an almost flat rock just big enough for me to stand on.”

There is an awful lot of sex.  Just about each chapter, bar two or three, contains a sexual reference in various form, sex with one’s employer, sex with one’s ex, sex with a casual acquaintance and sex with a partner who is about to be ex, it’s all there in graphic detail.  Even when he’s writing as a woman there’s sex but there’s violence as well.

It’s difficult to know what the author was wanting to achieve with this book. The front cover isn’t a mate at all, it’s a solitary figure on a bridge.  Perhaps he’s walking towards some mates?

I was a bit depressed after reading it but that meant it was well written even if a little uncomfortable at times. And that’s the mark of a good yarn.

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