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If ​there is one thing Tibor Fischer can do like no one else, it’s to pen snappy, devastating titles. Once you’ve got past the provocative posturing of this collection’s title page, then you are faced with seven brilliantly dubbed pieces—try “We Ate The Chef”, “Portrait of the Artist as a Foaming Deathmonger” and “I Like Being Killed” for size.

As all that might suggest, Fischer—known for his Booker-shortlisted Under The Frog and more recently The Thought Gangand The Collector Collector—is a clever writer, a wordsmith of tremendous dexterity, whose fluent prose surges forward with an irrepressible energy, usually pushing him to the furthest edges of a very dark humour and occasionally to a jarring callousness.

The opening novella “We Ate The Chef”, for example, starts innocuously enough in Cambridge Circus, but somehow spirals into a Côte d’Azur thriller, climaxing in a particularly ungracious (but utterly appropriate) orgasm. In “Then They Say You’re Drunk”, Fischer, an adopted South Londoner, explores the quite plausible proposition that Brixton “must have more headcases per square inch than any other place in the world”. His trademark stream-of-self-consciousness shares much with the rhythms of stand-up, so it comes as no surprise to find the closing “I Like Being Killed” delving into London’s comedy circuit.

But there’s a hint of seriousness among the casual cruelty. In the short “Ice Tonight in the Hearts of Young Visitors”, Fischer stands on the Hungarian border and concludes bitterly: “I assure you if there is a hell, it will be the most solitary of confinements and cold”. —Alan Stewart

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