Encapsulate the book in one sentence? A man diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour finds himself falling through the cracks of his own history, trying to make things right with the one that got away.
Intriguing, tell me more. The blurb: “With one diagnosis, editor James Daniels learns that he’s literally running out of time. Looking at his life, he sees one regret: Andy, the one that got away. Andy was the first man that James ever loved, but Andy has been gone for years, and might not want to be found. But as his cancer progresses and James starts to lose his grip on time and memory, it might just be that time and memory are losing their grip on James, too. It’s the biggest and most important re-write of his life. Restoring love from nothing but memory might be possible, if the past isn’t too far gone to fix.”
Why this, why now? Full disclosure: I designed the cover for the book, and so am ephemerally involved on the outskirts of this book’s existence. Which really answers the why this, why now question: firstly because I rarely miss a chance to read a new short story by Burgoine if I can, and secondly because, while I worked on the ebook, I caught snippets that whet my appetite. (And conversely to what you might expect, that’s quite significant: normally by working on a book in production I end up hating the damn thing, and never wanting to see it anywhere near me again. So In Memoriam beat the odds, you might say.)
What genre would you say it is? In Memoriam I suppose falls into sort of penumbral area between gay romance, drama and speculative fiction (which, in my opinion, is when Burgoine’s stories are at their best.) He has an enviable ability to tell stories that might be heavy-handed or cliched in anothers hands, stories that conjure emotion but invest them with warmth and subtlety, sidestepping over-earnestness or mawkishness. He also has an enviable ability to always be reviewers’ favourite story in anthologies I’m also in, but I’ll let him off because he’s so damn nice, and because this story is so damn good.
Did you finish it? Did it work for you? I loved it.
I may even (shhhh… don’t tell anyone) have cried a bit. The bastard.
I will admit that this story ticks quite a lot of very particular boxes for me–honestly, you’d be quite hard pushed to design a story more calculated to kick me in the emotional soft bits–but that almost-creepy specificity aside: it is really just a great story. It’s both raw and unashamedly romantic at the same time, and handles the potentially-melodramatic subject matter with a light touch that still conjures empathy for and investment in the characters, apparently effortlessly. It’s brilliant; you should buy it, immediately, and if it wasn’t for the wonderful Psychometry of Snow, I’d say it was his best every story.
Give me a good quote: “It was so damn hot out. I took a sip of my water. It didn’t feel right to die in summer. Autumn maybe. Or winter. Winter was for dying. Death shouldn’t have a UV rating.”
Is it available today? Out now in kindle ebook and in audiobook format narrated by the estimable Jerry L. Wheeler.