A short story collection
by John Holton

Burren Publications, P.O. Box 6, Axedale Vic 3551.
Trade Paperback
Recommended Retail Price $Au19.95.
ISBN 0 646 40089 4

   In our busy age, the short story collection is often the ideal form of reading. A good short story will fill the train ride, the tea break at work, the wait for the kids to emerge from school. Complete in itself, it will grab the attention for just long enough, and then life can resume.

   John Holton's short story collection, Snowdropping, is an excellent example. Nineteen little gems wait to entertain the reader. Some of them are prize winners, all are good entertainment.

   Holton's style is vivid and lively. His grasp of English is excellent - there was only one mistake in the whole book, a very rare accomplishment. The subject matter is varied, demonstrating a highly creative if quirky mind.

   The particular strength of these stories is Holton's ability to show the world entirely from within the point of view of the story's protagonist, whether it be a young boy, a simple-minded no-hoper, a bank teller turned bank robber or a housewife escaping from her bondage. For a short while, it seems believable that a person can turn into a bird, or that a Ukrainian nuclear physicist should clean windows in London (I am not sure which one is inherently less plausible). Even the minor characters behave naturally and true to type, though I have noticed that the author is better at painting the male than the female psyche.

   A few of the stories had endings that were near enough perfect. Once I read the last sentence it fitted, was necessary, the only one that could be there - and yet it was a surprise, a twist that made me laugh. Examples are Blood and Chocolate, Mowing and Shooting Rubber Bands at the Moon. This last story was the cause of my initial contact with John Holton: he entered it in a short story competition for which I was a judge. A year later I noticed his name in Write On, the Victorian Writers' Centre newsletter as the author of the newly published Snowdropping, and emailed him for a review copy.

   I am glad that I did. This little book gave me a lot of pleasure, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys good writing.

   Nothing is perfect, and I do have a suggestion for improvement. As I stated, some of the stories had wonderful endings, but several of the others came to a stop leaving me wondering what the story was about. But then, the ending is the hardest part of a short story.

   However, even these stories were a joy to read. I wish this talented writer a lot of success, and hope that his book will be read and enjoyed by many people.

   John Holton entered a story in a short story contest I run every two years. The three judges agreed that he deserved to be 'Highly Commended' for it. Later, I found out that John has had a conisderable number of other successes. Many of his prize winners are in this collection.

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