Toby's Little Eden by John E Flannery

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Toby's Little Eden by John E Flannery

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Category: Short Stories
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A debut collection of stories which shows considerable promise. Further editing work is needed but this is easily achieved.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 326 Date: August 2010
Publisher: John Flannery Press
ISBN: 978-1445777948

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John E Flannery's debut collection contains four short stories (although one is more of a novella) and a series of amusing sketches about the ground staff at a new Golf Course in north Manchester. They're more varied than they might appear at first glance and demonstrate Flannery's ability to get straight to the heart of the story without wasting words and to develop character as economically as possible, whilst still holding the reader's imagination. I knew as soon as I began The Ghostwriter that I wasn't going to be disappointed as a man who has written successful thrillers is possessed by the spirit of Charles Dickens. It's a neat riff on John Braine's idea that novelists wait for an idea to descend on them and Graham Greene's belief that novelists are like mediums.

Something to Do is the novella. We stay with writing as a theme as Graham Randall, an ordinary man, decides that he wants to become a writer. As the story opens we know that he's inured to rejection by publishers and that his fortunes are not going to improve. His obsession with an old flame isn't going to help either situation. The titular story, Toby's Little Eden is perhaps the best of the collection and features a healthy young man who is happy to be isolated in his garden in north London – until a young housekeeper arrives on the scene. His mother wanted to shake him out of his attitudes, but will she perhaps regret the method she's used?

My favourite story is Found Wanting. It's something of a shock to Bob when he finds that his wife has a history as a prostitute – well, she'd have called herself an escort girl – but when money is tight and he tires of working in a petrol filling station he tries to nudge her back into the work, but has she already been thinking along those lines herself? Bob and Theresa are two characters who come straight off the page and there's no problem in working out which one you'd prefer to meet.

The sketches of the ground staff at the golf club were well-pitched (no pun intended) and captures the atmosphere of a golf club perfectly. There were several occasions when I laughed out loud and there was at least a wry smile for each story, but I was left with the feeling that, good as the material was, it could have been better used in a wider-ranging story.

There's a lot of promise in this debut collection. It's let down by inadequate editing which would have corrected the numerous grammatical problems and the occasional over-use of literary devices. These are relatively minor points which can be corrected and we hope that we'll see more from John Flannery in the future.

We'd like to thank the publisher for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might enjoy The Vernham Chronicles by John Saunders.

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Buy Toby's Little Eden by John E Flannery at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Toby's Little Eden by John E Flannery at


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