Monday, June 24, 2013



Stewart Kirby presents quite a cast of eccentric, fascinating individuals in these two stories. At first glance, I was skeptical that this book would appeal to my reading preferences; characters include a six-foot flea, Bigfoot, Hippies, and a reanimated corpse. But Kirby surprises and weaves delightful tales using whimsical language and unexpected humor. His detailed and adjective-rich environmental descriptions facilitate immersion into the peculiar world he introduces. I found myself anxiously running from enraged Bigfeet, fleeing in fear from an oddly-controlling weatherman and his cronies, to sitting court with a reanimated corpse as he both terrifies and enchants with his plan for vengeance. Kirby gracefully presents far-out concepts and convincingly transforms them into relateable stories for the reader.


Terry LaBarba, author of WE, THE HIDDEN:

Storytelling That’s Wildly Poetic                     

The story takes place in the small town of Madrani in the redwood forest. There were strange things going on that kept me engaged, the reason partly being due to the interesting narration and the main character’s voice. It reminded me of the descriptive ramblings of Arlo Guthrie doing "Alice’s Restaurant," only with higher octane.

It’s a casual read and then again it isn’t. The eventful but not overly complex story uses descriptive word groupings that, in itself, entertains. You will want to take your time and let the verbal constructs take hold. There were “caves of problematical intricacy,” and a trek through the forest mentioned trees with “boughs outstretched like gem-laden supplicants bearing offerings before the ancient giants.” Truly poetic.

When I read this mastery of words, I had to wonder if it easily flows to the author or does he take the time to labor over the most creative way to put together a concept or description? Stewart Kirby’s literary work comes across as play, seeming natural, yet brilliant. As far as being creative, the funny but creepy little twitching doll in this book is a good example. The names of the local businesses in this town were a hoot. There was also some twisted humor when one character builds the perfect, dirty sandwich (with not so nice intentions). It had me laughing out loud as the deed progressed.

The plot moved forward without a dull moment. I’m looking forward to the next book of “uncanny tales of the redwoods in the hugely Hippie haven of Humbaba County,” as Kirby calls them. I suspect it is just as campy, witty and fun as this one.


Craig Jones, author of GEM:


You know when you've got something too good to read when you plough through it faster than your new born baby can fill nappies! 'Drifting Room' is one of those stories. It is well written, cleverly crafted and incredibly interesting, yes, but then so are many novels and novellas. What made Stewart Kirby's work stand out for me was the smile it put on my face as I read it. A piece of serious fun, in a nutshell.

Why did I like it so much?

Okay, first off was the material. A good sci fi needs certain elements (the unknown, a hero you can take to, believable unbelievability) and what Kirby does really well is to take normal people and put them into very strange situations, which makes the story then become plausible. Then there is the story structure. I was reminded of Dean Koontz and how he used to wield story arcs until, unlike the Ghostbusters, he would cross the beams and bring everyone together in a dramatic conclusion. Many people have tried and failed with this technique, usually one character would have to do something quite bizarre for everything to fall into place but 'Drifting Room' is a tight story and that does not happen here. Then there is the humour. The material may be quite different than say Gaiman and Pratchett but the wit and turn of phrase is there. Cleverly funny is how I would describe it. Like I'd read a line and find myself starting to snigger a few lines I said, cleverly funny Next up are the characters...personally I liked the kind of Irvine Welsh way that the main character (not going to give the plot away) develops as the story progresses. I liked the guy and wanted him to succeed, no doubt about it. And finally, in sci fi there has to be an ending that you cannot guess at fr
om five pages in...why read it otherwise....and Kirby has that down like Charlie Brown!

Loved this story, off to purchase more from Mr Kirby's back catalogue. I've found a good un here, methinks. I suggest you give 'Drifting Room' a turn too. You will not be disappointed!


Craig Jones, author of WHAT HAPPENED TO RHODRI:


Hidden Springs is the second Stewart Kirby novella that I have now read and I have to now confess to being a fan. I am not, however, going to rush to visit Humbaba County where Mister Kirby sets his stories because no matter how beautifully his prose describes the place to me it is always going to be the home of oversized bugs, fleas, aged Hippies and... well I don't want to give away too much (a good review shouldn't need a spoiler alert) but let me just say that when you read a Kirby you simply do not know what is going to be hiding around the next tree stump.

What I will comment upon is the stylish writing that Kirby transmits so slickly from mind to page. How someone can make the desecration of Mist River with a herd of dead livestock sound poetic I am not quite sure, but achieve it Kirby does. Not since my first introduction to Robert Rankin have I become so hooked on this type of series, stories linked by geography and a particular take on the world as we (don't) know it. Kirby's strength is in his players though, making even those fleetingly involved in the story's progress well crafted and believable. In 'Hidden Springs' my favourite character (and the most creepingly cringe-worthy) is Denny Holmes. This is one disturbing guy. I didn't like it that I liked him, if that makes sense. Think Renfield as played by Tom Waits in the Gary Oldman Dracula movie and you are halfway there to this twitchy, odd individual. Animal lovers are NOT going to take to this guy. Kirby weaves this guy's traits around Bret, Julie and Tim... and a rather large flea... no, not going to give anything away... however...

There is one scene where Kirby weaves his words in such a manner that we the reader are completely unsure who is the hunter and who is the prey and that to me is darn good writing. Anyone can write a 'thriller by numbers' but what makes Kirby stand out is the twists and turns that he builds and builds into his tale. Tense at times, claustrophobic at others, put the Kindle down to wipe away the tears of laughter on numerous occasion. Although very different in content, I was reminded of Asimov's Tales of the Black Widowers in terms of 'the flip' away from what is expected.

And I guess my review of Stewart Kirby and his writing comes down to that simple concept. Think what is normal, think what is expected, think what is mundane. Don't expect them here! Stewart Kirby's tales are the polar opposite. And then some!

“Quirky and charming, Stewart Kirby’s writing filters the places and the people of Humboldt through Dorothy’s tornado and lets them spill out into an Oz-like world where the legends of the North Coast come to life.” –Kym Kemp, Lost Coast Outpost

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Thanks to artist John Angus for the honor--much obliged!


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