Through the whirlwind imagination of Robert Neilson you'll
be taken on a journey where Lennon left The Beatles, reality
television plumbs the depths of history for more thrills (The
Big Fellow) and the Pope is a dipsomaniac who needs to
make money fast (The Pope, Sonny Liston and Me)...
Entertainment is a new collection of fourteen short stories
by Dublin based Robert Neilson. Most of the short stories
have been previously published elsewhere, though there are
a couple of unpublished stories to satiate the appetite of
any Neilson fan.
uses many different literary genres as a jumping off point
for his stories, so that whilst some look like science fiction
or horror, these are often just hooks to hang the story on.
One thing you do notice is that Neilson seems most enamoured
with music and musicians especially The Beatles. A lot of
his stories have either a musical theme, Love Song,
or examine what would have happened if the careers of world
famous stars had taken a different turn, including To be
a King, Faces I Remember and The Great Eddie
Clarke Farewell Tour.
In Bigger than Jesus, Lennon reminisces on a life that
could have been very different had he not been thrown out
of The Beatles at such an early stage. Although the story
looks to be a deceptively easy idea, after all you just need
to change the order of events; Neilson uses it to ponder on
the true value of fame. In the alternative timeline Lennon
lives to a ripe old age, in the bosom of his family, alive
and in the end not so discontented not to have been famous.
of the other stories could also be said to have a point, where
as others are there for the final line pay off. Trouble
Ahead tells the story of a writer whose growth on his
neck starts to grow a face and take over his life. Written
in the form of a diary entry, I thought that this was the
least successful of the short stories in the collection, not
because it was badly written but that the story bore too much
of a similarity to both Harlin Ellison's Shatterday
and Bruce Robinson's film How to Get Ahead in Advertising
(1989), which, if you are familiar with these, gives away
most of the ending.
title story That's Entertainment shows Neilson at his
best, juxtaposing the ordinary with a reality where comic
book superheroes are real people. How does a fading, cross
dressing super villain finish out his final years? The story
highlights many of Neilson's strengths as a writer. Its unexpected
twists offer up equal measure of amusement and thought provoking
undertones, which often don't pay off until the last few lines.
Press continue to bring great new writers to the market and
in That's Entertainment have found another pot of gold
for their readership. Whilst some of the stories have weaknesses
the quality of the writing cannot be denied.