*I received a free copy of this book with thanks to the author. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Richie Billing’s short fiction has been published by Kzine, TANSTAAFL Press, Far Horizons, Writing on the Wall and a dozen more. Flying on the Ground is a collection of the majority of these pieces, in addition to two stories unseen by the eyes of the world.
Inside, you’ll find twelve stories from the genres of fantasy, historical fiction, general fiction, horror and crime. Tales of adventure, of intrigue, of defiance and love and the morally grey, exploring myriad themes from loneliness, fear, and pride, to the nature of creativity and the cycle of addiction, to name a few.
This anthology features an assorted collection of Richie Billing’s short stories.
The stories are mostly unconnected (with the exception of ‘The General’ and ‘Forgotten’ which are set in the same world) but there are some commonalities between them.
All of the fantasy stories feature everyday people or underdogs, and their small daily struggles, rather than epic battles, princes and dragons, knights and mages. Similarly, the general fiction is a mixture of homelessness, addiction and the real-life foundering of an ocean liner in the Liverpool docks. The problems are real and engrossing, but on a small scale – ideal for the format.
There are a couple of horror stories too: a creature feature about a man, a dog and a dark, dark hole; and a serial killer who targets society’s monsters for horrific torture… a very unheroic hero!
Each story here is different, but they are all well-written and filled with a wealth of detail that draw you in and make you feel that you are riding along on real events, rather than reading a story.
I would love to see some of the fantasy stories widened out into bigger fantasy worlds, as they had the tantalising feel of catching an interesting bit of conversation and being aware that there is so much more just out of reach.
The collection really gives a good feel for the scope and range of Billings’ writing, and makes an excellent advert for his future work.
The thud of a hammer woke me. It was at the edge of my hearing, travelling up from downstairs. I checked the windows. The ledge was too broad to see the alley below. Hide or investigate? Curiosity won.
I went barefoot, boots too clunky. The hammering grew in volume as I neared the shop floor, and when it faded, another more distant strike filled the silence. Had the workmen returned? Panic consumed me. I didn’t want to give up this place. Here I had some level of comfort, a comfort I’d sought for a long time. They would take it away. Maybe do worse. I’d heard stories of people paid to make squatters disappear. Few people ever asked questions about the forgotten.
– Richie Billing, from ‘The White of the Canvas’ in Flying on the Ground