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Midnight Street #6
edited by Trevor Denyer
Immediate Direction £3.50

review by David Hebblethwaite

The strap-line of Midnight Street magazine is 'Journeys into Darkness', and the stories Trevor Denyer has assembled in this issue each live up to that description, but each in satisfyingly different ways. Perhaps the most (apparently) traditional supernatural horror story here is Evil Monsters by Paul Finch, which begins with two television researchers in a Scottish highland inn, hearing local legends of monsters. At which point, you think you know how it will pan out: the poor researchers will investigate and discover, to their cost, that the legends are true after all - except it doesn't turn out the way you'd expect after all. Nicely done, and well worth sticking with past the deceptively commonplace beginning.

S.A. Tranter contributes Shouting At The Shadow People, a short but effective piece about a man with a social phobia who hallucinates other people (including Madonnna and Plato), and just might have the chance to get back with an ex-girlfriend. Tranter's prose effectively conveys the personality of his protagonist, though the ending is perhaps a little predictable - but I'm being rather mean here, because I didn't guess it! And the story is worth reading in any case.

Every issue of Midnight Street includes two stories by, and an interview with, a 'showcased author'. This issue, it's the turn of Tony Richards, a writer I hadn't heard of previously. His first story, What Malcolm Did The Day Before Tomorrow, sees one Malcolm Cowper touring Amsterdam, where the mysterious Silas Farrell introduces him to a new kind of dope, one that places the user in a personal bubble of time, able to relive the same events, only better - but, naturally, there's a price to pay for doing so. It's an interesting idea with considerable metaphoric power, well explored; and Richards also does a good job of evoking Amsterdam.

The author's other story, Skin Two, explores, through a series of vignettes, the consequences of the development of a new cosmetic treatment - an un-ageing artificial 'skin'. I didn't enjoy this one as much as Richards' first piece, finding it a bit 'staged'. But I think my reaction was overly negative, partly because I was comparing the tale unfavourably to 'Malcolm, and partly because I read what the author had to say about it before I read the story itself. Taken on its own, I think Skin Two would be a fine story. Besides, the two stories and the accompanying interview have left me wanting to read more of Tony Richards' work, so the showcase has achieved its goal.

One of the most pleasing things about Midnight Street is the wide range of stories to be found in its pages. Skin Two feels entirely at home here, but it could also sit happily in a science fiction magazine like Interzone. Similarly, The Grass Is Always Greener by Jerry Oltion was originally published in The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction; but it doesn't feel out of place in Midnight Street, though it is perhaps the lightest story in this issue. Oltion's tale is narrated by a man who attends a party thrown by himself - a billionaire version of himself from a parallel universe, that is; and the guests are all him (or, in one case, her). The narrator is tricked by the billionaire (who is jealous of the other's love-life); the two exchange places, and the rest of the story tells of the narrator's attempts to return home. It's an engaging story that raises a smile at the end, and brings a nice change of tone to the magazine.

That's not all in this issue of Midnight Street. There are more stories, all of which are worth reading. There are several poems, which I haven't touched on (because I don't feel qualified enough to judge poetry!); but which, on the whole, I found evocative. There's also more non-fiction: I smiled at Michael Lohr's short column about things left behind in taxis, which I hope is true, because things like that just ought to be true. Read it for yourself and see if you agree. In fact, read everything in #6 of Midnight Street - it deserves your attention.
Midnight Street 6





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