Ok, so let's start with a declaration – I know Alan a little, and he is a nice guy. Maybe a great guy, but I only know him a little, so let's not get crazy. But I do know this – he is a great writer.
I started with The Gulp, last year, because the cover looked great, because I had read a few of Alan's short stories, because he has longevity in this writing business. I was, not reluctant, but… ok, reluctant. I have had mixed levels of enjoyment reading small town horror. So much of it rings false.
The Gulp rang true like a damn old Big Ben of dark Australian fiction. I'm from a small Australian town myself (about 400 people) and straight away I found myself back there. The voices, the mannerisms, the backdrop. Eerily like home. Too much, really. Too real, really. I loved it from the start. And then it builds – different stories, separately enjoyable, with enough references and easter eggs to show you how they are connected, to keep you turning the page, wondering who, and what, would pop up next. I only really have two criticisms – the first is, this thing should be pulling in some awards. The second is my need for closure, or at least another walk down Tanning Street, another beer at Clooney's. I know Alan is working on the next, so here's hoping.
Next I thought I'd try The Roo. It must have the same Australian small town flavour, right? Wrong. But in a good way. It has small town flavour the way red dust has the flavour of the Outback. It is gonzo, it is bleak, it is bald and harsh and does not waste a word. It has a body count that is deliciously ridiculous, and Alan manages to name several characters after well known Australian spec fic writers and then do terrible things to them. I kept seeing the streets of the small town I grew up in (well, near, being a farm boy). It was short and funny and thoughtful and full of horror.
These two were my introductions to Alan's longer writing. He has many more books on offer, which I will be exploring. Check out his webpage https://www.alanbaxteronline.com/