A ‘dangerously’ good debut from journalist Freya McClements

THE inclusion of the word ‘dangerous’ in the title of the debut book from BBC Radio Foyle journalist Freya McClements is many faceted and very, very apt, simply because this is a ‘dangerously’ good read. So good in fact that this work will have writers and publishers everywhere sitting up straight and watching closely for what is coming next.

The Dangerous Edge of Things is a collection of short stories which are immediately resonant, attention grabbing and as relevant to the dark side of today’s materialistic and lustful society as anything recently written on this island. This author’s finger is clamped on the pulse of the modern world and she has put her acute journalistic skills of observation to full and devastating use.

To make your debut as an author within the genre of the short story is a courageous thing to do. To master the balance of detailed characterisation whilst getting to the heart of the story within a very limited amount of words is a feat often attempted but rarely mastered. Freya McClements has managed to join the list of rare successes in these respects.

Any good writer must have of course a feel for a character, but the variety, and depth of insight here, especially for a debut writer, is startling to an extent that if the role of Kaiser Soze is ever recast for a female, Freya McClements should be offered first option!

Also, with all good works of fiction the reader should be left pondering how much of the narrative is based upon personal experience. Undoubtedly, there must be something of the personal contained within the words of the Dangerous Edge of Things-yet, since some of the protagonists range from the at first recalcitrant and mousey book shop worker turned enthusiastic thief by her passion for a rising and handsome academic in ‘Book Lovers’, to the sordid betrayal and portrayal of the worst of tawdry human emotion in the affair written of in ‘Happily Ever After’, to the heartbreaking tale of the onset of old age in ‘The Girl of My Dreams’, it is clear that such a young author has not experienced all that.

What that therefore leaves as an explanation for such a width of imagination is simply talent. Not a raw talent but one already honed to an extent that mention of the fact that these tales are also brilliantly written almost unbelievably becomes an afterthought.

Attention must also be given to the portrayal of angst and longing for a wider, brighter world in the form of a restless, ambitious and hormonal teenage girl ‘trapped’ in a rural town, scornful of all about her in the story ‘Last Bus’, and the dark and very disturbing tale of a drug-addicted single mother turned prostitute and all the dangers that that life presents in ‘Night Breath’.

Rarely in recent times has a collection of short stories captured such a gamut of emotion - from the tender and charming to the dark dangers of the street and simply of other people, to the sadness brought with disappointment in a friend or a partner.

The Troubles also feature in a stark story outlining the swift and bloody shift from the Civil Rights era in Londonderry to the all out carnage that engulfed and divided the city. ‘The Morrigan - A Dramatic Monologue’ tells the tale of Bogside man Charlie Doherty, his marriage to his Protestant girlfriend Maggie Thompson, his descent into deep involvement IRA violence and the subsequent effect on his family. The monologue is delivered by his daughter -a would be ‘Morrigan’- the mythological Irish goddess of battle who could take many forms, but also appears on many portrayals of the dying Cuchulainn as a crow perched on his shoulder as the harbinger of death.

Refreshingly Freya McClements did not leave out the chance to have a crack at her own profession of journalism. In ‘My Last Murder’ the author gives a devastatingly accurate portrayal of a reporter on the beat and the tungsten shell of hardness that ‘hacks’ are prone to even in the most harrowing of human circumstances. The tactics employed by this particular reporter to get a new angle on a horrible story will stand as a lasting testament to the Leveson era and how journalists define the term ‘truth.’

Along the way the tales within The Dangerous Edge of Things also just happen to contain last gasp twists and turns of plot that would make a lot of crime and thriller writers turn emerald with envy. They also contain high evidence of a grasp of history, politics and literature that show this will undoubtedly be a rich and varied writing career bereft of predictability of topic and will leave fans seeking the launch date for the next publication.

Freya McClement’s The Dangerous Edge of Things is available from all local book stores priced £5.95 or at the website of Guildhall Press, www.ghpress.com or also by download from the Kindle Book store on www.amazon. co.uk.