Salt are rapidly establishing a reputation for publishing fine writing - particularly poetry and short stories. Sue Gee has written a number of excellent, best-selling novels for Hodder Headline (Reading in Bed serialised by the BBC, The Mysteries of Glass long-listed for the Orange prize) but it's Salt who have published her collection of short stories. I really like Sue Gee's writing and so I delved happily into the twelve stories that make up Last Fling. They are very, very good - each one reads like the beginning of a novel and I would have gone on and on reading if there had been more.
If there's a theme to this collection, it's loneliness - the solitary person, only children, single parents, women who have never married, men whose wives have left them, business men alone in a foreign city. As one of the characters remarks: 'being single is an art. It is, like a marriage, something to work at'. These solitary people feel different, even from other solitary people. One of them observes: 'Jenny didn't seem single', she had 'the air of a woman who knew how to live with someone, should she ever choose to.'
Sue Gee was until recently a Royal Literary Fund Fellow and is currently teaching for the new Faber Academy - a fast-track scheme for creative writing students. She really knows how to establish a setting and fill in character within the first paragraphs, and then give each story the depth of a novel. She has a light touch - she never tells too much - and this is a collection of excellent, traditional, short stories - some of the best I've read in a long time. The title story 'Last Fling', about a gifted musician suffering from cancer, is still with me, turning itself over and over in my head.
The Kindle edition of this was, at £6.17 at the top of my price range, but small publishers can't discount in the way that the big ones can and - as I feel Salt are worth supporting - I paid up with the certain knowledge that whatever I bought from them would be worth it. The collection is available in paperback at a similar price. I'm also delighted to find out that she has a new novel out this year provisionally titled 'The Tiger of Tulsipore'. More great reading!