love songs for the shy and cynical by Robert Shearman

The first love song in the world, as composed by a pig in the Garden of Eden...

The Devil, alarmed when his hobby of writing romantic fiction begins to upstage his day job...

A man finding love with someone who has an allergy to his very own happiness; another losing love altogether when his wife gives him back his heart in a Tupperware box...

Sometimes you just get a good feeling about a book. I had this reaction as soon as I saw love songs for the shy and cynical, even before I noticed that the author had won a World Fantasy Award. That was just the cherry on the top.

Robert Shearman’s short stories are all themed around what love may or may not be. He does not give us the saccharine-sweet Hollywood version, nor the love sung about in at least fifty per cent of songs. What he does show us is that there is indeed real love but he also shows us the love that masquerades as familiarity, obsession and the fear of loneliness.

The love felt between two fifteen-year-olds who have just met is not the same love as a couple that has been married for forty years. The love of a parent for a child is not the same as the love felt by a child for a parent. This collection of brutally honest and often dark stories portrays the many forms of love with extreme clarity, showing great tenderness underneath an acerbic guise.

Some of the tales are light-hearted, tongue in cheek looks at the madness and the absurdity of the most famous of emotions. The first story involves the publication of the Devil’s first work of romantic fiction, the third shows that the first love song ever was written by a pig in the Garden of Eden. In between this is a tale of how one woman copes with the death of a child by embarking on an affair. In a last vain attempt to feel anything other than dead inside the woman find herself accompanying an odious little man on a weekend’s retreat. The man and woman of this story are as realistic as any I have encountered in a work of fiction, the story so poignant that its effects remain long after reading.

Throughout the book the author will have you remembering moments in your life; times of great happiness but most of all the toe-curling, embarrassing moments that result in the pursuit of “love”. The relationships explored include those between married couples, parents and children and kidnapper and hostage. All the short stories are excellent but a special mention should be made to Roadkill, Pang, Be of Good Cheer and One Last Love Song as they are just that extra little bit special.

I cannot recommend Robert Shearman’s love songs for the shy and cynical highly enough. Read it and see your life flash before your eyes.

This collection of eighteen - seventeen if you can't find the hidden one - short love stories is an absolute delight. We enjoyed it so much that we made it the Book of the Month for December 2009. If you want a second opinion, why not read what these far more illustrious people think of Robert Shearman's work...

"Corrosively funny, wistful, sharp, strange and black as a coffin lid, Robert Shearman is an addictive delight."
Mark Gatiss

"Shearman offers us haunting, nightmare alternatives to our world that are still somehow utterly recognisable, thanks to the way he always picks out the comically mundane among the impossible and the fantastical. He makes each story cling to you, forces you to make sense of it and somehow inhabit it."
Steven Moffat, executive producer and Hugo award winning writer of Doctor Who

"Rob Shearman is a truly unique voice... His peculiar fantasies of our emotional lives, full of eccentric surprises and exquisite absurdities, tell the secret life of love in all its silly glory."
Stephen Volk, BAFTA winning author of Ghostwatch and Afterlife

"His stories are like the bastard offspring of Philip K Dick and Jonathan Carroll, but with a quirky personality that is completely their own."
Stephen Jones, World Fantasy Award winning editor, Best New Horror

"Robert Shearman has surpassed his incredible debut, Tiny Deaths, with this second collection, which is even better... His stories are numinous, incisive and devastating, by turns hilariously funny and unbearably sad."
Mark Morris, British Fantasy Award winner, author of Deluge

"Shearman has called his stories 'love songs' and rightly so - like the best love songs, they go straight to your heart, and haunt your memory."
Frank Cottrell Boyce, author of Millions, winner of the Carnegie Medal

"Rob Shearman is one of those rare writers who knows that reality can't be pinned down. These stories lift off. They do loop-de-loops. They glide from the mundane to the marvellous, from the dark to the delicious. His stories soar over the landscape of the human heart and return us dizzy, delighted and moved."
Alison Macleod, author of Fifteen Tales of Attraction.

About the author
Robert’s first collection of short stories, TINY DEATHS, was published by Comma Press in 2007 and won the World Fantasy Award for best collection. It was also shortlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize and nominated for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize.

Robert brought back the Daleks in a Hugo-nominated episode for the BAFTA-winning first series of DOCTOR WHO starring Christopher Eccleston, and also contributed to the second series of BBC1’s BORN AND BRED.

As resident dramatist at the Northcott Theatre in Exeter, Robert was the youngest playwright in Britain ever to be honoured by the Arts Council in this way. He has regularly written for Alan Ayckbourn at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, and he’s been the recipient of the Young Playwright Award, the first Sophie Winter Memorial Trust Award, the World Drama Trust Award, the Guinness Award for Ingenuity in association with the Royal National Theatre, and the Sunday Times Playwriting Award. As theatre director, he has staged plays from India to Italy. In radio, his scripts for his interactive series THE CHAIN GANG have won him a Sony Award, and his comedies for Martin Jarvis can be heard on BBC Radio Four.

9/10 A stunning collection of brutally honest and often dark stories.

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