This anthology of short fiction by John Howard Reid contains the following stories: "A Packet of Dreams", "The Reclamation of Edwin Drood", "Bethany", "Contest Blues", "A Clean Sweep for Mazeppa", "A Jewel of an Idea", "Vince Viner’s Victory", "End of the Penny Section", "Anyone for Play Ball?", "Counter-Clockwise", "Dead Man Walking", "Step-Ladder Nine", "Gone West", "Scent of Lotus on a Windy Day", "Beachcombing: Your Questions Answered".
I don’t propose to comment on all the stories and essays in this collection, but here are some random remarks:
"The Reclamation of Edwin Drood" is not only a Dickensian parody, but a humorous attempt to complete the novel that Charles Dickens left unfinished. Incorporated into this "conclusion" is the sketch, "How Mr Sapsea Ceased To Be a Member of the Eight Club", written by Dickens himself. Discovered by friend and biographer, John Forster, among Dickens’ papers, this sketch was first published in Forster’s life of the novelist and, until quite recently, despite its importance, was not usually included in editions of "Edwin Drood".
"Contest Blues" is a story about the judging of a literary contest, inspired by my own experiences in these events.
"Dead Man Walking" is a long short story that I originally contemplated as a novel. It is set in contemporary Egypt.
"Step-Ladder Nine" revolves around a group of poets with whom I was associated at university. Although all the verse quoted (with two exceptions, though the translations are mine) was written by me, I have attempted to duplicate the various styles of the poets concerned.
"Scent of Lotus on a Windy Day" is a short story derived from my published novel, "In All His Glory". Set in Ancient Egypt, it details one of King Jeroboam’s adventures with Pharaoh Shishak.
"Beachcombing" is a humorous essay. Although most literary contests despise attempts to be funny, this little piece was fortunate enough to set the judges laughing. They gave it a "Highly Commended" award.
Except for "Vince Viner’s Victory", the other stories, essays and sketches in this collection were written after I ceased entering writing competitions. (I didn’t think it fair for a judge to compete, even though there are no rules against it. A judge, after all is a professional, and most contests are designed to promote the work of authors who are not professionally engaged in writing). "Vince Viner’s Victory" won both the Hills Library Prize and a "Very Highly Commended" award.