There has been much talk about the ‘return of the short form’ in publishing recently.

Arguably, the short form never really went anywhere, what has changed is the way in which writers are using it to tell their stories.

One such writer using the short form in innovative ways is South West based Tom Vowler. We have been following his campaign for publication with crowdfunding publisher Unbound and were delighted when we received a copy of the resulting collection Dazzling the Gods in the Literature Works mailbag.

With assured and mesmeric prose, Vowler instantly draws the reader into the stories. The sense of voice throughout the collection is unfailingly well achieved and with each new protagonist, we are transported; we are in Ireland, Paris, Gaza. We are both outside and yet, somehow also inside the characters’ minds and we achieve these things, experience these places without effort owing to the excellent writerly craft shown here.

What is refreshing and surprising about this collection is that the stories it contains are not at all what they seem. In ‘Debt’ for example, we enter a world of organised crime, a microcosm in which family: blood, is the only thing which matters but we also learn of the debts that cannot be repaid. There is pause for thought here, there is action aplenty but there are also questions for the characters and indeed for the readers and that is the power of these stories.
Never is this more apparent than in ‘At the Musee D’Orsay’ wherein the characters are made complicit in a horrific act (and so too are the readers for turning the pages to see it realised) in the name of redefining art and what it means to be modern, which begs the question how far is too far?

These are stories whose plots seem beguilingly straight forward, they are life on a page: love, family, death, destruction, truth, lies and wars both literal and moral are fought in this collection. There are tragedies born of addiction – to more than just the obvious and there are addictions born of tragedies. These thirteen stories contain a full spectrum of life’s ups and downs and asks the reader to spend more than the fleeting moments of reading to consider the effects of our actions on our own and others’ lives.

These moral dichotomies are excellently realised with the charismatic wit and well timed delivery of Vowler and the stories enter your thoughts, lodging there for further consideration long after the final story has been read.

An utterly recommended read, Dazzling the Gods is published today by Unbound.

Tom Vowler will be appearing as part of the Word on Tour line-up in Somerset later this year alongside Christopher Redmond. More details can be found here