Well told but let’s hope it’s just a warm-up for the big business novel Charters clearly has in him.




Debut British paperback entitled No Tears: Tales from the Square Mile, now renamed and seen here in hardcover, contains a portfolio of stories set against the world of London high finance.

These brief, pointed stories nearly all turn on deception. The first, “Diary,” tells of a marketing director (MD), an incipient alcoholic whose marriage looks clearly out of hand. In “Dinner Party,” Richard is invited to a dinner given by his ex-girlfriend and attacked by the guests for his downsizing of various companies; he turns the tables, but not endearingly to the reader. In “Team Move,” a female MD tries to hijack her team and sell it, along with herself, to a rival firm—but all is not as she hopes. “Infatuation” plays out in e-mails across an open office space between another MD, 15 years older than the young woman being seduced; it blooms with dizzy love until the O. Henry ending when we discover a disconcerting fact about the MD. “Smart People” tells of an interview at Barton’s (a firm that often pops up in these stories): three young candidates await their interview, one of them intimidating the other two. When the intimidator is called in first for the interview, he learns something he can’t pass onto the other two without deceiving them about it. Several of these tales would make good opening chapters for a novel, which is what readers will find themselves hungering for as the stories suck them into varied climates and machinations of high finance. “Takeover,” for instance, tells in sweeping gestures of a German company taking over a British company, calling a meeting of the directors of the Investment Banking Department, and letting them face the inquisitorial representative of the German company, who is intent on firing the whole bunch. So it goes when playing the game of lawsuits, mergers, and getting the inside track.

Well told but let’s hope it’s just a warm-up for the big business novel Charters clearly has in him.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-312-33381-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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Readers seeking a tale well told will take pleasure in King’s sometimes-scary, sometimes merely gloomy pages.

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A gathering of short stories by an ascended master of the form.

Best known for mega-bestselling horror yarns, King (Finders Keepers, 2015, etc.) has been writing short stories for a very long time, moving among genres and honing his craft. This gathering of 20 stories, about half previously published and half new, speaks to King’s considerable abilities as a writer of genre fiction who manages to expand and improve the genre as he works; certainly no one has invested ordinary reality and ordinary objects with as much creepiness as King, mostly things that move (cars, kid’s scooters, Ferris wheels). Some stories would not have been out of place in the pulp magazines of the 1940s and ’50s, with allowances for modern references (“Somewhere far off, a helicopter beats at the sky over the Gulf. The DEA looking for drug runners, the Judge supposes”). Pulpy though some stories are, the published pieces have noble pedigrees, having appeared in places such as Granta and The New Yorker. Many inhabit the same literary universe as Raymond Carver, whom King even name-checks in an extraordinarily clever tale of the multiple realities hidden in a simple Kindle device: “What else is there by Raymond Carver in the worlds of Ur? Is there one—or a dozen, or a thousand—where he quit smoking, lived to be 70, and wrote another half a dozen books?” Like Carver, King often populates his stories with blue-collar people who drink too much, worry about money, and mistrust everything and everyone: “Every time you see bright stuff, somebody turns on the rain machine. The bright stuff is never colorfast.” Best of all, lifting the curtain, King prefaces the stories with notes about how they came about (“This one had to be told, because I knew exactly what kind of language I wanted to use”). Those notes alone make this a must for aspiring writers.

Readers seeking a tale well told will take pleasure in King’s sometimes-scary, sometimes merely gloomy pages.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1167-9

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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