Publishing is a tough business, but Ray Russell and Rosalie Parker of Tartarus Press, have what it takes – talent and persistence. The talent makes it self-apparent not just in their choice of authors to publish, but more importantly, in their own writing, published in this case by another esteemed UK talent, Peter Crowther of PS Publishing.
In Ray Russell’s novel Waiting for the End of the World, you will find plenty of strangeness, mostly in human memory and behavior, and yes, elements of the fantastic. But Russell brings an engaging wit and sympathy to his all-too-human characters. His light but steady touch enables him to not only draw the reader into their lives, but more importantly, to make their lives a part of the reader’s life. Eliot and Lana have lived on Sapphire Street forever, but all it takes is a phone call from Eliot’s past to threaten their world. Vincent, once Eliot’s best friend, joined a millennial cult, and has remained a part of this cult even though the predicted apocalypse never came to pass. Some 20 years later, memory (both long and short term) threatens Eliot’s reality. Russell is an expert at making us love his characters, and he creates scenes on the page that will live in readers’ memories right alongside their won. As for his elements of the fantastic, Russell manages the unusual feat of creating something that seems grittily realistic, while at the same time being wildly, inventively imaginative. Suffice it to say that your charmed smile will give way to a dropped jaw more often than you will suspect. The combination is utterly unique; I’ve never read anything quite like it. If we’ve learned anything (unlikely as that may be), it’s that life is capable of being more surreal than we expect. Waiting for the End of the World confirms this with the perfect dash of writerly skill and a palpable empathy for humans immersed in a world much bigger than they are.
Rosalie Parker’s Through the Storm is a very different kettle of fish. It’s a collection of short stories that embrace the form with a sense of poetry, urgency, variety and intensity to evoke a carousel of emotions of in the reader. “Showtime” immerses us in the beguiling perspective of an obsessive, and parker infects the reader’s mine slowly as well. “Dear John” plays the epistolary form as well as our sympathy. Parker is an expert at putting us in a mind that even as we are compelled to read, becomes more and more unpleasant and dangerous; not just to those in the story, but to the reader’s own light grip on sanity. “Toadie” turns a fairytale sideways, while “Cow City” unties family ties with the cold gleam of the Grandma’s rural beliefs.
Parker is an expert at switching up the perspective, style and sense of story in each entry. She masterfully orders the stories as well, so that it is impossible to stop turning the pages. She writes with such confidence that we always know the next bit will be quite different from what we just read, but just as enjoyable. Expect to charge through the book at light speed – leave yourself time to read – but as well, expect that the impressions the author makes will linger in the afterglow, or the just as often, the after dark.
Here’s a link to all things Tartarus: (http://www.tartaruspress.com/ )
Here’s a link to PS Publishing, who publish the publishers: (https://www.pspublishing.co.uk/ )
I spoke with Ray Russell and Rosalie Parker about their work as writers, publishers, filmmakers and musicians. You can listen below, or download the file from this link.