I have just finished reading Michael W. Thomas’s Collection of novellas and stories Sing Ho! High Cortez. It is a book I will want to read over and over. The central theme for this collection of stories is family life and friendships. The first novella, Esp: The Voice of Grenada, is the story of a group of boys. We journey with them as they grow from boys to men and learn the history of their country. The music they compose and play is more than the rhythm of their lives; it is their personal and Grenada’s battle for freedom. The writing is poetic and beautiful; the cultural refences to music and film resonate with one’s own journey from child to adulthood. It is witty and poignant. It is of no surprise that such a clever story, with its rich dialogue, should have been shortlisted for the UK Novella Award 2015.
‘Tickle, Tickle,’ a harrowing survivor’s story, is exquisitely written. We are steered through the twisting path of youth and experience and the minutiae of family life. Again, the musical references resonate with one’s own adolescence. Music, like a smell, puts you in the time zone giving credence to the tale.
‘Mister Sixth’ catalogues the of life Evan. It is reflective and insightful, examining the ghosts of the past. Using Evan’s boyhood bedroom and memories, the story unfolds, spilling the beans of sibling rivalry amidst sunny suburbia of twentieth-century family life. Finally, with the skilful use of metaphors, we learn the resolution and wisdom that comes with the rights of passage into adulthood.
‘Never Any Sometimes’ picks apart a man’s position in a family of three adult daughters. It is an intimate story set in a restaurant. The tension ratchets up as the wine flows. 'Sing Ho! Stout Cortez' is the story of a group of colleagues preparing to party on the first ever ‘New Year’s Day’ holiday. The characters are expertly drawn, the lightest of brushstrokes painting a thousand words. We breathe with them, making the poignancy of the ending real. ‘The Maker's Mark’ explores Ian’s angst of being fourteen and at the bottom of the pecking order in the family. Ian is a people watcher and an expert in body language. It is a satisfying read; we empathise with him.
Michael W. Thomas’s collection of stories would be a welcome addition to any bookcase; it will be well read and loved by all who read it.
Elizabeth Chell is a full-time teacher and is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester.