J. R. R.Tolkien once said, “A story must be told or there'll be no story, yet it is the untold stories that are most moving.” Part of the power of a good story is the background which is hinted at but never directly revealed. This is a large part of the success of David Bowmore’s collection of short stories, The Magic of Deben Market.
We are introduced to a collection of characters through a series of stories which are at first only connected by a common location: Deben Market, an invented small town on Britain’s east coast. It’s a satisfying enough introduction: the characters are rounded, believable; the dialogue sounds authentic; the setting adds elements of romance. But soon, strange things begin to happen. There’s a strand of tales based around an old fisherman, Moony Moore, for example: we meet him through another character, but pick up his story from different angles throughout the book. Suffice it to say, his story does not evolve as we might have expected — without spoiling anything, I can suggest to you that there is at least one twist in there which is not only surprising but apparently impossible.
Similarly, the other stories begin to take unforeseen turns: we meet very real characters engaged in very real problems, including an overworked chef facing alcoholism, or an unscrupulous and uncaring part-time worker illegally drawing unemployment benefits, but in each case the narrative unfolds in an unanticipated way. What began as a common thread, the seaside town of Deben Market, begins to look less like a convenient narrative tool and more like a living presence, breathing down the necks of its inhabitants. We get clues and hints of greater stories, some of which we only catch the remotest edges; we see suggestions of deeper implications and begin to detect a tapestry of events which lies just outside our comprehension as readers. Probably the most powerful of these occurs towards the end of the book, when characters who have already appeared on the fringes of other tales suddenly take on about as much serious meaning as it’s possible to pack into a short story.
The overall effect, as Tolkien states above, is a moving collection.
I have had the advantage of knowing the author and of discovering from him the place upon which Deben Market has been based. I took the liberty of looking it up online. Even through the snapshots placed on the web, one can tell that it has its own atmosphere. Part of me yearns to visit it —but the other part, having read The Magic of Deben Market, is too afraid. Not that this collection is about horror — far from it. It’s an eclectic collection of reality tales, science fiction, romance and fantasy, along with a little bit of spy drama. As a matter of fact, putting a single definition on it is rather difficult — it defies simplistic categorisation and almost invents its own genre: ‘Debenian’, perhaps. But sometimes we might dread to visit somewhere not because it evokes terror as such, but because what has happened there has proven too real for the narrow preconceptions we have developed to try to define our own realities.
One further word: I came across a soundtrack which, for me, sums up something of the sense of mystery contained in The Magic of Deben Market. Funnily enough, it’s a piece of music from the Marvel film, Captain America and the Winter Soldier.
Things like musical taste are very subjective, I know. And I hasten to add that The Magic of Deben Market has nothing to do with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, only being linked slightly thematically if at all. But if you listen to the first three or four minutes only of the accompanying music, you may experience a kind of synchronicity of mood, as I did.
See for yourself what I am talking about — get a copy of The Magic of Deben Market now.