One of the joys of #ReadIndies is realising just what a rich array of independent publishers are around nowadays. I guess that modern methods of printing have helped with this, and with the internet to aid publicity, it’s actually possible to develop yourself as what could be considered a niche outfit, producing a particular kind of work. Nightjar Press are perhaps a good example of this; as their website states, “Nightjar Press is an independent publisher specialising in limited edition single short-story chapbooks by individual authors.” Nightjar’s publisher and editor Nicholas Royle will be no stranger to readers of the Ramblings, as his marvellous book “White Spines” was a hit with me last year; and Nightjar have featured here too, when I was delighted to read and write about one of their earlier releases, “Doe Lea” by huge favourite of mine, M. John Harrison. Today, however, I’m featuring a story by an author new to me – Robert Stone. Currently based in my neck of the woods, he’s had stories published widely; and his Nightjar chapbook is called “Spoon”.

At 12 pages, this is a story to be read in one sitting, and certainly you won’t want to put it down without finding out where it’s going! From the Nightjar titles I’ve read it’s clear that as a reader you should expect to be unsettled, and I certainly was with this story… The protagonist (male?) has moved back home to his family home where his mother still lives; and the sight of a silver spoon by the door strikes a note of uncertainty straight away. The narrator helps ‘Mother’ round the house, seemingly at a loose end after his return. There are pests and insects to be dealt with; the narrator struggles with insomnia; and why *is* he having to drink to get to sleep?

I shan’t say anything else about the storyline, but “Spoon” really is a wonderfully unnerving tale, full of hints of menace, implications of arcane knowledge and folk superstitions. The narrator is incredibly unreliable, insinuating things without spelling them out; yet there is a very strong underlying feeling of threat. This is a brilliantly written story, and I’m rather glad I encountered it in daylight…

“Spoon” is the first work of Robert Stone’s I’ve read and I was really impressed by it; it was all the more effective by implying menace rather than spelling it out. It’s always good to explore new authors, and a chapbook story is a brilliant way to do so. Nightjar are doing a grand job bringing out these rather dark, disconcerting works, and tomorrow I’ll be sharing my thoughts on another one. Meantime, I highly recommend searching out a copy of “Spoon” if it’s still available – the Nightjar website is here.