I had the pleasure of meeting Charles Harris as we were both among the authors who attended the Brechin Book Festival in Brechin, Scotland in November, 2021.
It was great chatting to Charles, award-winning film director and screenwriter, and fiction author. He has also written, besides his fiction, a complete screenwriting course.
I’ve now read two of Charles’ dark and witty books, and here are my reviews below.
This satirical book is compulsive reading as we follow the disastrous journey of desperate journalist Jason on the trail of a story. The only trouble is, this story involves a real tragedy, a 14 year old boy stabbed in the street and now in a coma, while his grieving mother sits at his bedside hoping he will be restored to life. And in order to clinch the story, and grab the exclusive, Jason makes ever more inethical, illegal and even callous choices.
I spent the first half of the book mostly in sympathy with Jason. I think we all have an instinctive desire to be the one to “break a story”. Imagine what it must be like for journos in the hard world of newspapers whose careers hang on that byline, along with money and fame and praise and everything that goes with it. I believe all writers can probably identify with that base desire, no matter how much they claim higher motives.
As this is a satire of our contemporary British society, focused on a particular area of London, nobody comes out with any kind of noble or high-minded sheen. The novel is peopled with huge number of named characters from the kaleidoscope of our familiar world, and I admit I wrote them all down on a list to try and keep track of them. (The last time I felt I had to do that was when I read JK Rowling’s ‘The Casual Vacancy’). The author here drives the narrative along with a waspish wit reminiscent of SJ Perelman and Joseph Heller. Several moments are hilarious. I particularly loved the description of all the rival journos and photographers descending upon the private hospital.
A must-read for all who love satire!
The Cupboard is a collection of short stories and one novella, bringing together several ‘tales of the unexpected.’ Contained within these short stories are the creepy, the disquieting, and the macabre. Charles Harris here gives us his curious and unpredictable take on life, in stories that sometimes remind me of Roald Dahl and and at other times have a Woody Allen-like flavour. They are the sort of stories that leave you with a frisson of unease. I do like the Classic Tales of the Macabre and in some ways the author’s style puts me in mind of those: an elegant narrative that suddenly twists you round and drops you into a dark pit. Recommended to all lovers of noir, and to those who like to be shocked out of their habitual ways of seeing things.