Before the Bubble Burst 

This story was  published in  Writers’ Forum in June 2015 -.

The judge’s comments read; Before the Bubble Burst by Paul Barnett also opens with a good scene-setting and a nice hook. The unnamed narrator is looking for freedom and believes she will find it in the form of flat-bed Ford. The unusual aspect of this comes in a couple of surprising revelations; the narrator is dressed in designer labels yet is prepared to get down and dirty to judge the roadworthiness of the vehicle. Then she is willing to pay over the odds, as long as she can drive it away there and then. Why such an odd choice of vehicle and why the urgency? The phone calls from Dan Tucker provide some answers, but not all. Instead of spelling things out for us, the author uses unfinished and interrupted dialogue which works well to add to the intrigue while imparting just enough information to keep the reader interested. As the story unfolded and I found out what Alice planned and why my sympathy slipped somewhat – was this yet another story of marital infidelity and revenge. Fortunately, there was more to the narrator’s actions than simple pay-back. She had lost sight of who she used to be, surrounded as she was by opulence and seduced by the lifestyle her unpleasant husband provided. It was the plight of ordinary people, whose lives her husband and his associates destroyed, that pushed her to take her final action. I was never convinced by her desire to buy a flatbed Ford rather than a more comfortable car, but I am glad at the end when Alice views the future as adventure to embrace.

Our Quiet Bond

Mavis Cheek Commented… (The Judge)

This story was placed second in the 2014 Yeovil Literary Award.

“This is number two. A brave and compelling story – with a wonderful sense of the characters through dialogue – and a strong sense of place, too. We are back in the early 1960s, – when Martin Luther King gave his ‘I Have a Dream…’ speech, and we are with two brothers who might, in their time, be described as ‘white trash.’ The older brother has married. It’s a sparky marriage but it seems to be secure – but the younger brother is wayward and has all the trademarks of a lost soul, drinking and drifting. Something has been shared by the two boys when they were younger which has wrought a terrible effect on the younger brother who is lying in drunken mess in a broken down motel when he calls his older brother for help. The tale gradually unfolds leaving the full horror of what it was the boys saw as children that has marked them – and made their Quiet Bond – it’s a comment on past prejudices and where it can lead, and on the full effect of brutal fathering. Excellent.”

Where the White Poppies Grow

Credited in the Bedford Prize – Judges comments

What difference is there between the bravery of one who refuses to fight equivalent to the other who stands up for King and country? A Story that takes us inside the minds of young men in a time of conflict.

A powerful narrative. The characterisation excellent. Whatever your views on going to war you cannot but be moved by this story.

That Bleakest  Winter

Published in Writers’ Forum – Editor’s comments.

Although That Bleakest Winter covers a familiar story, the impromptu Christmas ceasefire during WW1 I admired the way Paul stuck firmly to a single scene which consists mainly of dialogue and conveyed the risks and strengths of the occasion without too much explanation.