Two Cows and a Vanful of Smoke : A review

Two Cows and a Vanful of Smoke
By Peter Benson
Published by Alma Books
Reviewed by Jessica Patient

Two Cows and a Vanful of Smoke is a charming, funny coming of age story and full of West Country allure with bent cops, a superstitious Mother, hippies in hospital and a vanful of weed. I galloped through this book and I really enjoyed the sharp, direct writing.

Set in Ashbrittle, Somerset, during the longest, hottest summer of 1976, Two Cows and a Vanful of Smoke is told through the first person narrative of twenty-something Elliot, a loveable yet misguided character. He gets a labouring job after being sacked from his previous job for liberating six sows, as they seemed to be telling him that they wanted to be free. He thinks working for Mr Evans will offer him peace and quiet so he can stare out across the fields. He even takes the big step of moving out of his parents’ home to live in a grotty caravan in the farmyard.

“The summer had been mad. It had been like a badger caught in a tarred barrel, fed on chilli and forced to listen to chanting monks.”

Jonathan Falla Interview


Jonathan Falla 
Interview by Shanta Everington

Jonathan Falla was born in Jamaica. He has a degree in English and Art History, but trained as a tropical diseases nurse and worked for aid agencies in tropical lands. He has had BBC film and stage drama productions but now focuses on fiction. His fourth novel, "Dafne & the Dove" will be published by Aurora Metro this autumn.

Hello Jonathan and welcome to The View From Here.
When did you start writing?

As a child. I’ve a vague memory of writing a poem about trilobites, at my primary school. I had a notion up to university and beyond that I should be a great lyric poet – but I wasn’t. My professional career began in 1981 when I wrote extensive journals about working for Oxfam during a famine in Karamoja, Uganda, which became a play at the Bush Theatre in London, called Topokana Martyrs’ Day. It has had other productions since, and is still the only comedy about famine that I’ve come across.

I understand that your novel, Poor Mercy, is based on your aid work in Western Sudan, which I imagine must have been a very powerful experience. When and why did you decide to write the book?

Street by Tyler Stevens : A Review

by Tyler Stevens
Publisher: Paperbooks (Legend Press )
Review: Jane Turley

There isn’t a single person I’ve ever met that I haven’t thought about killing or at least seriously harming.

Have I caught your interest?

Take old Marvin down the road. Marvin’s about sixty-four, I’d say. All the time he talked to me I could stop thinking about his neck. How it was hanging, all that skin, and it flashed in my mind to properly gut the poor old fucker.

I bet I’ve caught your interest now. Shall I turn a page or two?

Today I took a day off to see a shrink. To tell him my problems. And I went and it was okay, except I knew he was messing with me, and he knew I was messing with him. I told him I felt out of sorts and violent. Tell me about the violent thoughts, he said.

Are you hooked yet? I was.

Writers are always being urged to dream up the opening sentences to novels which grip a reader by the throat and pull him headlong into an inescapable world of fiction. However, if I’m honest, these days it’s rare a book has such an effect on me. Perhaps that’s because since beginning my own journey to becoming a writer I’m more analytical or maybe it’s because as I grow older my tastes are just more discerning. But what I do know is that I was engrossed from the opening sentences to the very last line by the novel Street from newcomer, Tyler Stevens.

Tania Hershman Interview

Tania Hershman
Interview by Catherine McNamara

Bloomsbury Publishers have declared 2012 as The Year of the Short Story and will be publishing a selection of debut and already-published authors this year – publicity stunt or true love of the craft?

I'm delighted when the short story gets great publicity! This is definitely Bloomsbury's Year of the Short Story, which is wonderful, and they are to be hugely applauded for publishing not just short story collections but excellent fiction, but I'm not so sure it's a general Year of the Short Story, not much seems to have changed. And also, the danger with a “Year of..” is, well, what happens next year? But I do see that in terms of the tastes of mainstream publishers, is not just short story collections that are unfashionable, there is definitely a much greater conservatism, there's just not the risk-taking that there was. I have enormously talented friends whose novels have not been picked up, and so it's not just short story writers who are having a hard time. But when you take a look at the short story world itself, it's flourishing, it just keeps on and on... it's just not on view, you have to dig a little.