MERRY BLOODY CHRISTMAS by Ellie Scott
Reviewed by Kelvin M. Knight
I first came across Ellie Scott in June 2018 on the FridayFictioneers weekly photo prompt for flash fiction hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. There was something different about Ellie’s storytelling that piqued my interest, so I added her to those I already followed on WordPress; then, in December, when I saw on her blog that she’d published a collection of short stories in honour of Christmas, I purchased her eBook from Amazon without hesitation.
From her blog, Merry Bloody Christmas’ strapline is: “In a gloomy Yorkshire town on a snowy Christmas Eve, nothing pans out exactly as it should…”
My original intention was to read these twenty-four stories about Christmas Eve one at a time from December 1st onwards like they were an advent calendar, to nudge me into the Christmas spirit. I failed immediately, which is no surprise really because I buy my Advent calendar on the cheap now, around the second week of December, where I have an initial catchup flurry of chocolate scoffing, followed by a Doh moment on Christmas Eve when I find I need to play catchup again.
Reading this anthology went something like that, except my final flourish came on 6th January, on Epiphany, when I just had to finish this collection. That is not to say these stories dragged on, far from it, but as with the majority of short story collections, and flash fiction come to think of it, they can be read however and whenever – in a tea-break, in a lunch-break, while on a bus, while waiting for a bus, while in a doctor’s surgery, or at a hospital’s A&E.
The dedication says this is a “novelty” book. Yes, Ellie Scott’s stories are unusual and amusing, this is her inimitable style, which is something I look forward to. Furthermore, I do not think the novelty of this alternative view of Christmas will ever wear off, and like sprouts and honey-roasted parsnips, I believe these stories can be enjoyed all year round.
And to ensure you are not in any doubt as to the tone of this collection, before the stories commence, there is a metamorphosis of a classic Christmas poem by Clement Clarke Moore: ’Twas the Night Before Christmas. Ellie’s re-writing of this poem had me nodding and smiling, as did reading the majority of these stories. However, towards the middle of this collection, there were several stories where I felt this sadness lurking behind the prose, one the humour could not mask.
Despite making copious notes while I read these stories, I am not going to break each story down for fear the spoiler police might arrest me; however, I will say this:
My favourite story is A Blackout because of the realness of the story, the character’s interactions, and the stupendous “revelation” moment.
My second favourite story is A Battle Commences. Who would have thought a remote control and Top Gear and Strictly could cause such mayhem.
My third favourite story is An Incarceration where a cat’s viewpoint is skilfully portrayed right down to the…
In all three of these stories, and several more, the omniscient viewpoint was tethered to the viewpoint characters rather than slipping into authorial tones.
The icing on the cake is there’s a twenty-fifth story, where Ellie revisits all the stories and finishes on a high – which is exactly how Christmas Day should be.
And the decorations adorning the icing on the cake are found at the end of the book. On the About page, how glad I was to learn that Ellie Scott was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize in 2018 which is no mean feat, as any aspiring writer will testify.
Congratulations, Ellie. I look forward to your next published work.