Sunday, 15 August 2010

Short Story Specialists

Fiona mentioned Stacy Aumonier recently, in relation to his story ‘The Octave of Jealousy’, which has a structure reminiscent of La Ronde. I haven’t read it, but I’ve read one or two stories by Aumonier, who in the course of his short life (1888-1927) established a formidable reputation as a short story writer. Julian Symons was an admirer, and so was James Hilton, author of Goodbye, Mr Chips.

Although Aumonier published six novels before TB cut short his life, there seems to be general agreement that he was better at the short form. There are a few writers, not just in crime, of whom the same might be said – not so much because there novels lack merit but rather because their gifts are especially suited to the short story.

I’m tempted to put Arthur Conan Doyle in that category, and possibly G.K. Chesterton. In the modern day, names that spring to mind are those of Edward D. Hoch, Mat Coward and Jerry Sykes. Hoch in particular was a prolific short story writer – he produced close to 1000 – and only turned out novels sporadically.

I enjoy writing both forms of prose. I’d rather be thought of as a novelist, I suppose, but it could be argued that, with one Dagger win and a further Dagger short-listing for my short stories, I’ve achieved at least as much recognition with the short form. One problem, of course, is that you can’t begin to make a living nowadays just from writing short stories. And that may mean that, in future, specialists like Aumonier will be very rare indeed. Which would be quite a pity.


Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - I'm glad you mentioned both Conan Doyle and Chesterton. I have to agree with you that both were much more exciting short story writers than novelists, at least in my opinion. And you happened to mention Hoch, too, whose short stories are, I think excellent. It takes a particular talent to put a story across in that short format, and though I've tried it myself once or twice, I know it's not as much my metier as novels are. I have nothing but the deepest admiration for those who can write good flash fiction and short stories. Thanks for bringing this topic up.

seana said...

How odd. La Ronde has been adapted as the 'fringe' play for our current Shakespeare festival. Now I feel I have to go...