Falling Over by James Everington

You can’t blame gravity for falling in love Einstein said, but fall we do. And there is a certain gravity and love in James Everington’s anthology of weird fiction, ‘Falling Over‘. The author obviously loves his chosen genre, the carefully crafted twisting tales are testament to that. He also tackles the gravity of some of the real life concerns hiding inside the pixels of the 24 hour news channels and skulking between the lines of the printed press.

Everington offers us eight stories here and two flash fiction pieces. All have their merits, though the flash pieces distracted the natural flow of the anthology for me. However I must praise Everington for this collection. I’ve been reading a lot of anthologies lately, some multi-author titles and some solo author anthologies like this one.This is my favourite solo work by far.

Everington’s precise use of language and almost instant setting of tone made each story easy to fall into. And falling does seem to be the theme here.  Each tale is about falling in some way. That may be literal dropping of bodies, of declining standards or falling for lies we’re fed.

The book opens with ‘Falling Over’. It’s a guessing game of a story, a mystery of events unfolding and occurred.  It sucks influence like osmosis from the pods in Jack Finney’s ‘The Body Snatchers’ but has something very different to discuss. It’s about isolation and fear of loneliness. It’s also a dissecting look at the power balance in society. It may have you looking at the people you know in a new light after reading.

The theme follows us into the amusingly titled, ‘Fate, Destiny and a Fat Man from Arkansas’. This is about falling in and out of dreams and in and out of society. ‘Fat Man’ is a modern noir tale of a robbery gone right but very wrong. The problem this pair of chancers face isn’t CCTV or DNA trails following them, it’s a wasp nest of destiny they poked with a very big stick.

‘Haunted’ is a bumper before the ad break, or the ad break itself. It’s a haunted house drabble that nods toward another haunted house classic from Shirley Jackson.

Back from the break we’re introduced to the ‘New Boy’. He’s an Emo temp that haunts a high rise and his manager with chilling consequences. It’s a tale of falling from grace. It examines the construction of Towers of Babel that spread across our cities now. Tower blocks and high rise offices spaces that confuse and isolate people, packed with people using the same language but never understanding each other. It’s also about how we’ve turned people into commodities, disposable and invisible people that are ghosts even if they’re not even dead. We can fall into place or be replaced.

Everington takes a sharp turn with ‘The Time of Their Lives’. An almost magical and occultist take on death and old age. It’s a story filled with childhood innocence that helps the reader peek through gaps of light as the author tries to shut the doors in our face. Eventually the doors are swung open and what we find is poetic and sad. A sense of ennui at the loss of youth spreads through the latter part of the story and adds a great weight to the Dahlesque tale.

‘The Man Dogs Hated’ has shades of Richard Yates trapped in a Bradbury construct. It’s a fun tale about cross-the-road-strangers and the fallaciousness of our suburban empires.

Falling does pay a visit in all of these tales in one form or another. Even the outsider in ‘The Man Dogs Hate’ literally falls over, and his pompous agitator finds his own figurative falling later on.  None of the stories in this collection tackles the theme as straight on as in ‘Sick Leave’. The symbolism of Ring a Ring o’ Roses that weaves through the piece is a perfectly selected device for this story. When a primary school teacher returns after a bout of flu that knocked her off her feet she’s greeted by a classroom of children not quite the same as when she left them behind.

Along with traces of Wyndham’s pesky Cuckoos this story is steeped with creepy children and archaic rites. The effective use of the nursery rhyme and history of the Black Death add to the pressing weight of dread pushing down on the sickly teacher. That dread lifts from the page with Everington’s stripped back prose and storytelling talent.