Sun, 29 Nov 2020
Brian Quinn outside Hungerford Bookshop with owners Alex and Emma Milne-White
A COLLECTION of 26 short stories, Unaccustomed As I Am, has been published by Penny Post, the Hungerford-based local news and information website. All have been written by Brian Quinn, “the less significant half of Penny Post”, he is keen to stress, “all the important stuff, Penny does,” referring to his wife Penny Locke...
Except write short stories, it seems. And his book has earned the approval of actor, comedian and writer Stephen Fry.
...An enraged greengrocer, a hopeless salesman, a sinister collector and a lonely pharmacist; a chaotic interview, an inept public performance, an unexpected wedding, a messed-up exam and a good deed gone wrong; a burning telephone, a murder mystery without a body, a trip to the seaside in the 1950s, Richard IV’s map, two doses of broken glass and four famous sleuths in search of some lost teaspoons – 26 tales of confusion, misunderstanding, tragedy, parody and farce.
“I’m not sure if ‘short stories’ is the best description of them all,” Brian tells @newburytoday . “They fall into three groups.
“11 are fiction, pure and simple. Some are funny – at least, that’s the intention – others rather darker.
“There are also seven parodies, inspired by writers from Shakespeare to Hunter S Thompson.”
There’s also one in which no fewer than four famous fictional detectives are summoned one by one to solve a minor, but irritating, domestic mystery.
And the third group?
“There isn’t a snappy one-word summary for that,” he replies.
“The best description I can think of is ‘tales of personal injury and humiliation’. Nothing too intimate or graphic, you understand – just incidents from my past which were an awful mess at the time but which, from a safe distance, I can look back on and see that they were also rather funny. The more badly I conducted myself, the better: after all, you can be as scathing as you like about your own shortcomings.”
“I love reading Brian’s stories and pastiches in Penny Post,” said owner of the Hungerford Bookshop Emma Milne-White.
“A personal favourite is the parody of Pooh and Piglet – now I know what they get up to in the evenings. It's therefore wonderful that these funny and clever stories are collected in book form. Just in time for Christmas too!”
And Stephen Fry agrees: "What a truly delightful collection Unaccustomed As I Am is. There is such pleasure in being in Brian Quinn’s company as he ranges thoughtfully, insightfully and often comically over subjects major and minor, from vivid childhood and student memories and pitch-perfect parodies of Hemingway and Shakespeare to short stories of real power and punch."
Unaccustomed As I Am (240pp, paperback, ISBN 978-1-8382580-0-9) is available from the Hungerford Bookshop and through the bookshop’s website.