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Coming Home in the Dark by Owen Marshall

Review by Ray Bayley

Random House. Auckland $24.85.

Collection keeps up high standard

OWEN Marshall's latest collection of short stories contains 28 stories. Only six of these have been published in magazines, while nine have been read on radio. For most readers, Coming Home in the Dark is therefore entirely new. The opening story, Working Up North, is about a young man who goes to do casual work in Nelson, while A Part of Life is about sex in the modern tourist industry. Other good stories are Ciss Robins, which is about a man who shifts to the South Island, and Late Run, which is about an old man who makes a fortune in the oldies' athletics.

A few of the stories look back to earlier days. Notable among these are This Man's Arms, about national service and Day One and Clive Sudamus Ivo, which are concerned with school teaching. I suspect these three stories have a stong autobiographical content. Owen Marshall has also ventured into other kinds of short stories. Several are about writers and writing, notably Recollections of MKD, which is about a rather unscrupulous writer. There are also several fantasy satires with a non-New Zealand setting, for example, Pendragon, about English aristocrats, and Genesis, which is a parody on creation.

The collection shows a good mix of comedy, satire, tragedy and the understanding of ordinary people. There is only occasional muted violence, except in the last story, Coming Home in the Dark. This story, which comes at the end of the book, gace me a horrible jolt, which is perhaps what it was meant to do. I did not appreciate it. Coming Home in the Dark is Owen Marshall's seventh short story collection, and in general it maintains the high standard we have come to expect from him. It also shows some interesting signs of future possible developments.

Random House. Auckland $24.85.

Evening Standard 6/1/96

Contents of collection:

Working Up North

The Occasion

Cometh the Hour

A Part of Life

Not a Visitor

Recollections of MKD

The Aftermath of Moloch's Heaven

The Lenny Fudge Bibliography

The Tank Boat

Growing Pains



Prairie Nights

Peacock Funeral

The Orchid House


Cass Robbins

Living at the Belle Monde

This Man's Army

Day One


Goodbye, Stanley Tan

Clivo Sudamus in Ino

Flute and Chance

The Birthday Boy

A Late Run

Coming Home in the Dark

Read Michael Morrissey's review of Coming Home in the Dark