Someone like you?

After an argument with my Android, who had decided, for no particular reason to only speak Korean, I had to abandon Clare Chase's thriller A stranger's house (don't worry - there will be a review shortly). I hate it when you have to quit a book partway through, it always makes me feel unsettled, and I often find that the easiest way to cope with it is to look, initially, at a short story anthology. This time I decided to have a look at Roald Dahl's deliciously wicked collection Someone like you.

Many of these stories later found their way into the classic British television series of the '70's / '80's, Tales of the unexpected. They really are a fascinating collection of weird tales, and, as a collection, they are the best of Roald Dahl's short story anthologies.

They range from the macabre and peculiar to social commentary (most unexpected in what is essentially a horror story), and the best short crime story I've ever read with a most ingenious method for disposing of a murder weapon. As is typical of Dahl there is also a blackly comic twist to many of his stories.

The 18 short stories are variable. Most can only be described as excellent. The only ones that I didn't like were the Claud's dog quartet which contained more of the gruesome side that is more usual in Dahl's children's story, a facet of Dahl that I have never warmed to.

The rest though I loved especially the previously mentioned Lamb to the slaughter, and Poison. There is some extraordinarily prescient writing here too. The great automatic grammartiziator looks to a future in which machines are able to write books, with less able authors only too wil!ing to cede all their rights to write, leaving talented authors standing out against the age of computers.

Published in 1953, some of the stories have undoubtedly influenced other later writers. Skin, the story of a talented artist, a friendship gone wrong, and an extensive tattoo, must surely have influenced Spanish author, Jose Carlos Somoza, when he wrote The art of murder. There are also tales that reflect on how our childhood, for good or bad, can have long-lasting effects into our adult life, and several wicked tales of revenge.

While lying in bed the morning after finishing the anthology the night before, I started to wonder how the anthology had got its name. Who was the someone like you? And I suddenly realised that the "you" of the title was every reader. You too could be the person who killed their nearest and dearest with a frozen leg of lamb, or perhaps you might be the person who drove them to do the deed. You might be a racist or a victim of racism, a bully or the bulied. Every story, however extraordinary or unlikely, has a moral conundrum at its heart, that will be reflected to a greater or lesser extent in each reader.

When I mentioned the stories on Facebook, this was a book that more friends seemed to remember than any other. And I think this is because however unusual the stories may be, there is something about them that makes them emotionally a tale of Everyman and woman. They're a fascinating collection, do read.


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