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Hall, Alexis

"Paper bag?", in a mildy sarcastic tone and a mock Northern accent, is the shorthand reply by person B when person A complains (or boasts) about having had to make do with very little during a deprived childhood.
With the possible exception of "being brought up to speak Danish", I can't really think of anything I missed out on as a child – but in my teens and early twenties I was conscious of a lack of models and examples.

Unrealistic, of course, to speculate on how now would be if it had already been available then … but I can still suspect that having tales of this quality available then might have saved me a lot of time. At least I managed to avoid identifying with anyone in Mary Renault or James Kirkwood, either self-accusing or aware only from the waist down. What I've read so far of Alexis Hall – I think he has written stories I would not be so comfortable with, which I can simply make a free decision neither to read nor to criticise – presents characters who are "people first and foremost", defined by much more than their orientation. A breath of fresh air!

Waiting for the flood is set in outer Oxford with (indeed) a flood warning in force. Good writing, the sort of simple but well-turned text I can never achieve, and just enough sidelines and unexpected observations to round out the characters without making them tiresomely quirky. I wish them happy!

There will be phlogiston is, I suppose, steampunk – a prime occasion for writing that is stylish without being affected. The steampunk setting is sketched and persuasive. The characters are direct and honest. What they say rings true. What they do is plausible – on occasion, appropriately erotic.

Happy the readers of today who have such tales available! and, indeed, a lot more to choose from. "Try all things, hold fast to what is good." The rise of the e-book has made it easier to bring stories to publication, easier to access an extraordinary range of stories, and easier to discard the disappointing or the frankly irritating without the guilt of having to discard a book. So I browse, I explore, I (frequently) discard … and hope for more Alexis Hall.

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