All interested parties are invited to post reviews and/or critiques below in the form of a comment. The smaller list of entries last month was rather disappointing, but it does mean that it will be less time consuming to prepare a review of any or all of the entries submitted. Links to all the stories can be found here –

These reviews are very much appreciated by our writers and the feed-back is an important and valuable part of the monthly cycle.


13 thoughts on “We invite your views and comments re.the October 2016 CW competition stories.

  1. Peter – Men in Black

    This was a superb story in many ways. The dialogue and procedure of the trial flowed really well, making for a very good read – that is no small achievement when you have to introduce legal details and arguments. The mysterious men in black added a layer of intrigue and then the argument about banks and Bank of England policy was a very interesting twist.
    The only reason I didn’t give this entry points, or even five points, was that all these fascinating threads of the story didn’t quite come together at the end as I hoped. Did the jury ignore instructions and take on board this moral defence about bank lending being a worse offence? Who were the men in black working for?

    Araminta – Fred the Philosopher

    It’s always a pleasure to read your stories, Araminta. You have an outstanding sense for style in your writing, and this was another ingenious tale. It was great how you switched into the narrator’s voice some way into the story. There were just a couple of things I couldn’t quite get my head around, such as what great evil had Gloria committed? One more complaint – and this to some extent may be a matter of personal taste – but personally I try to follow George Orwell’s advice on French words, which is not to use them as there is nearly always a more widely used English version. Denouement and decolletage sound better as ending and cleavage, in my opinion, just because they don’t stand out as much.

    Colmore – Deadly Sins

    This was a very good character portrayal, and the story had a clear message that we can all relate to. It was all well written and an easy read.

    Angie – Halloween Temptations

    Similar to Colmore you took a fairly straightforward character but developed him really convincingly, and you addressed the topic very successfully. I enjoyed the twist in the lap dancing club – it took me by surprise, but then I realised that is probably because I don’t associate lap dancers at all with being mothers or wives (when some of them must be), which was then quite thought provoking. I wish my local paper was as entertaining as the one mentioned right at the end!

    Atiller – The Shuffle

    A very enjoyable story. The dialogue was superb throughout. I am not personally familiar with the East Grimstead Amateur Dramatic Society but all the characters seem like they could well belong to it. The first section was particularly impressive, I thought, as it can be very difficult to feature multiple characters in a single scene, but you managed this very smoothly.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Dan, what a very generous and pleasing review of my story, and my writing in general.
      Thank you so much. It’s really encouraging to get such positive feedback.

      Ah, the Evil that is Gloria: no, she really wasn’t was she? Fred’s mother didn’t approve, but the Guardian didn’t believe Fred, or possibly his soul, was in any sort of mortal danger from Gloria. I think his superiors rather overreacted. They both turned out fine in the end. This story was written with in a definite hint of irony running through it though.

      I’m most certainly not going to argue with you or Orwell (one of my favourite authors) about the preference for English over French words. I can’t even claim ignorance because I re-read that particular advice quite recently!

      It was having re-read my story, after reading your review, I realised I’d done just that. It get’s worse, I also used raison d’ etre and just to cap it all I lapsed into Latin at the end!

      Mea culpe.

      Sorry, Dan, it’s quite obvious that I cannot help it! Seriously though, you and Orwell are quite right.

      Again, thank you for taking the time to review the stories and yours and Bleda’s have cheered me enormously.

      PS. I’m obviously losing my command of the English language – I just re-read my response below to Bleda: deus ex machina, I wrote!


      1. Hello Dan, and thanks.

        Did the jury ignore instructions and take on board this moral defence about bank lending being a worse offence?
        The jury simple couldn’t agree on a majority verdict. I did think of adding some reference to political influences on the judge and barristers but couldn’t do it within the word limit so left it for the reader to infer from the footnote.

        Who were the men in black working for?
        This was the point of the photofits, references to the government and for these to two not being identified. I guess if this were The Prisoner series they could have been the numbers 10 and 11.


    2. Hi Dan.
      Thank you for your reviews, and particularly for the kind comments re. ‘The Shuffle’..
      You are right to highlight the first part of the story as this was the part that I enjoyed writing most and the second part was a compromise ending as I began to realised that what had been planned was going to far exceed the word limit.
      This remains my constant problem.
      The East Grinstead Am-Dram. is a flourishing organisation that might yet figure in future stories if I can persuade Brenda james to accept an invitation to become an active member.:)


  2. Hi Peter, Thank you for your very generous reviews, not just of my stories, but also for the remarks that you have made regarding critiques and reviews in general.
    There is much more that I would add, and in fact just did at some length here as a comment … but I pressed the wrong button somewhere and lost the lot.
    When I recover my composure and stop cursing I will see if I can find it and post it, but I can’t pretend that I am overly optimistic.
    I must try to remember in future to set out my comments on my own WP site first and C&P into the comment block, thus retaining a copy in case anything goes wrong.
    Life wasn’t this complicated when I were but a lad. ;(

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember that everyone stopped — including traffic — and men doffed their hats whenever a funeral cortege passed by. A farthing would buy you an oxo cube and you could salt your own crisps.
      PS — I saw a lady pay 15 shilling for a cake recently.


  3. A personal review of the October stories. Comments are welcome, particularly from the writers themselves.
    Suggestion! Why not review this review in the spirit of this little poem?

    Big fleas have little fleas,
    Upon their backs to bite ’em,
    And little fleas have lesser fleas,
    and so, ad infinitum.

    And the great fleas, themselves, in turn
    Have greater fleas to go on;
    While these again have greater still,
    And greater still, and so on.

    MEN IN BLACK. Written by Peter Barnett.

    The first impression that I formed as I approached half-way in the reading of this piece, was that the writer was cheating slightly by taking an actual trial and manipulating some of the details in order to have a dig at HMG and The Bank of England vis-à-vis the matter of Quantitative Easing.
    On reaching the end of the story and reading the footnote I was more convinced than ever that such was the case, and set about tracking down the characters and the trial in question via google … and found no link whatsoever.
    All of which leads me to the conclusion, unless I am mistaken, that no such trial and no such characters exist other than in the imagination of our writer … so well done that man.

    I thought that the phraseology of the courtroom was spot on, the court procedure entirely believable, and as a life-long card carrying cynic I am willing to accept that the duplicitous men in black and their shenanigans are as much a part of our everyday life as CCTV and ANPR.
    The three stories that I chose for the top three places were separated by the finest of margins, and this one got the nod for my five points solely for the reasons that have been set out above i.e. the story was fictional, imaginative, confidently composed, and perfectly rounded.

    But what if I am wrong and the story was based upon an actual event, would that alter anything?
    I don’t think so, for if the doubt in my mind still lingers it is due to the authentic quality of the writing and the skill of the writer … and those facts alone are as good a reason as any for awarding this tale top spot, so five points it is.

    FRED THE PHILOSOPHER. A story of pride and sloth. Written by Araminta.

    As I have already said, and in view of the difficulty of picking the top three last month will probably say again, how was it that I could only award one meagre point for a story with such a cracking scene-setting opening paragraph?
    The only answer that I can offer is that ‘Fred’ was nowhere as unfortunate as ‘Halloween’ and ‘Sloth’, for I had no points left at all for those equally worthy tales.
    This was a month when the fairest way to allocate the points would have been to assume the role of Captain in this bowdlerised final verse of the old monologue ‘One each apiece all round.’ (Stanley Holloway).

    ‘No points for them’, said Samuel,
    ‘That’s not fair I’ll be bound.’
    Said Captain, ‘Split among your pals,
    Make it one each apiece all round.’ 🙂

    But back to ‘Fred’.
    I really liked this entry and am surprised that it didn’t do better in the voting. If I had to be really picky, it might have been better to have started the story off as a first person narrative rather than changing half way through, but that’s just my opinion.
    The story still read easily and held the attention, and throughout the fanciful plot it was easy to draw comparisons with real everyday life as we think we know it.
    Except possibly for one thing … in real everyday life when ‘Guardians’ are less than diligent in their duty, they tend to be moved sideways and promoted. Rarely, if ever, are they ‘sent down’.

    But all in all a good entry and well up to Araminta’s consistently high standard.

    SLOTH AND LUST. Written by Danthemann.

    Last month’s joint second and only just out of my first three.

    Why? Possibly because running through some of Dan’s writing is a thread of anarchic chaos (rather like watching an old episode of ‘The Young Ones’), and yet this writer can, and often does, come up with deliciously perceptive passages like ‘ the poorly disguised disappointment in his mother’s voice when phone conversations turned to “how are the job applications going?” which had developed into “still no luck with the applications?” and more recently “how are you spending your time these days?”.

    It must be a generation thing. As much as I accept that I am now out of my time, it irritates me that the younger generation in their Gadarene dash to the cliff edge of civilised morality have thrown out so many (mixed 🙂 ) metaphorical babies with the bathwater.
    Tom, who could buy a plant for the object of his desire and feel ‘like a kind of pioneer – perhaps a Scandinavian web designer getting a trendy plant to brighten up his office’, was the same Tom who had so sullied his desired relationship that he was now reduced to trolling and stalking, and with a prohibitive court order against his name.
    A man, despite his academic achievement, so ignorant of the (sometimes false) social graces that are the bedrock of what is referred to as ‘civilised behaviour’, is throwing his life away as casually as he crushes the next empty can of Grabnius.

    That Dan’s writing makes me feel that way is a testament to its quality, and Dan can certainly write a good story … it’s just a shame that in this particular case this hypocritical old prudish dinosaur cannot bring himself to actually vote for it.

    DEADLY SINS. Written by Colmore.

    I awarded ‘Deadly’ three points so I had better set about justifying that decision.

    This story flows in a way that makes for good reading, and that is always a good start. I also liked the way that the character of Peter Blake was so finely drawn that I could instantly put a number of names forward of people who I have known who fit the description.
    The self-importance, the arrogance, and the inability to suffer fools sympathetically or treat decent people properly, yet at the same allowing themselves to be tortured by an underlying insecurity and a stubborn refusal to find time to ‘stop and stare’ at the world outside the boundaries of their own selfish ambition … it was all there in Colmore’s writing.

    And if that wasn’t enough for the points we also had the short, but so painfully accurate description, of his wife Pat. The wife who had given her own life to the service of this man’s blind ambition, and a role only too familiar to this reader, bringing with it the tinge of guilt that any man who has also spent a large part of their life running a business would be bound to feel.

    If there was one thing that I would have liked to have seen emphasised more in the description of Pat it was the restrained bitterness and resentment that so often becomes evident as the years pass. Business is often described as being a hard taskmaster, but in the eyes of many wives business is their husband’s mistress, and one that he will never tire of and cast aside.
    The outcome of this story had become evident before the tale was one third read, but Colmore sharpened the pins and stuck them in slowly which gave the reader time to savour the finale and wipe away every last vestige of sympathy for that might linger for Blake in those of a more charitable nature than this reviewer.

    A touch sadistic perhaps, but also very satisfying … I’d give it points any time. 🙂

    HALLOWEEN TEMPTATIONS. Written by ExpatAngie.

    One of the joys of this group is watching as the confidence and sureness of touch of our various members increases in their writing month on month. One or two have been writing for years and the changes are less evident, but that does not apply to all of us and when I look back on some of the stuff that I was entering back when I first joined this group I realise just how much I have learned in such a relatively short time.

    In the past I have referred to Angies stories as having the feel-good factor, a slightly sugary view of life devoid of hard edges … not any more, here the knife was slipped between the ribs and slowly twisted. There might still be a few grains of sugar remaining on the blade, but the steel beneath has been nicely tempered, and the edges keenly honed.
    Not that our ‘hero’ didn’t deserve it.
    GoldenBoy Geoff. was not so much hoist by his own petard as hung, drawn, and quartered … and it couldn’t have happened to a more attractive but dislikeable love-rat.

    This story was a very worthy winner in a small but high quality field of entries, ‘Halloween’ was well written and sported a number of good turns of phrase. I particularly liked the way that not a word was wasted, and let’s face it, Geoff was not a character worth the waste of too many words.
    Personally I would have turned the knife even more, but Angie made her point well enough and remained true to her much kinder nature.
    I think that we can all look forward to Angie’s choice of topic for December, confident that whatever it is, it will be full of the spirit of the season of charity and goodwill … just like Angie.

    Molto ben fatto Angie! (Which I hope and pray sounds much better in Italian than it looks in English. 🙂 )

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Many thanks for this, Bleda. I’m exceedingly chuffed and encouraged by your very kind thoughts on my story.

      The opening paragraph was partly autobiographical. Just like Fred, and about the same age, I sat down by the wireless, eagerly waiting to learn the secret of eternal life and was thwarted! I got over it; although I don’t have the same passionate interest in philosophy as Fred, I am inclined to dabble occasionally.

      After that start, I actually found the rest of it quite tricky, I couldn’t decide which way to go, especially with Gloria but after several re-writes I finally made up my mind. Hence the deus ex machina in the form of the Guardian/narrator.

      Most of the time I really do not where the story is going, and perhaps I should plan the plots a little more carefully in advance, but don’t seem to be able to write like that.

      I do think being part of this group and contributing regularly has helped me to gain more confidence and think more carefully when putting pen to paper.

      Many thanks again for taking the time to write your thoughts about the stories.


    2. Your reviews of all the stories are wonderful Bleda, thank you very much. Your Italian
      is excellent, grazie mille!! Mario thought that one thud on the floor for Geoff was enough. I wanted to end the story with Geoff not knowing if his wife had seen him or not and going off for the Spa weekend looking at her with different eyes, but then it sort of wrote itself.


  4. I thought your preamble with regard to critiquing and reviewing was very interesting. I shall bear your thoughts in mind when I write my next story.

    As to your comments on this month’s offering “Fred the Philosopher”, I agree with you. Fred and Gloria’s transformation should have been included. I have trouble achieving the minimum word count on occasions although my stories are getting longer. I tried to expand on this aspect about three times and just couldn’t seem to get it right so I abandoned it. If I ever had any thoughts about writing a novel, which I haven’t, I should have started at least twenty years ago.

    You are right though the subject area I launched into was a bit tricky and I’m not entirely sure I got it right!

    Thanks for your thoughts Peter, very helpful as always.

    Liked by 1 person

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