KZN’s lit­er­ary vet isn’t one for the herd

The Witness - - FRONT PAGE -

IN line with the names of his first two vol­umes of short sto­ries, Un­der­berg au­thor Tod Collins has ti­tled his third an­thol­ogy The Black Sheep Black Sheep.

Read­ers not as fa­mil­iar with this moun­tain vet’s writ­ings as I am might ex­pect a se­ries of James Her­riot­style yarns about vets, an­i­mals and weird own­ers.

Al­though sev­eral of the sto­ries are in­deed rol­lick­ing Her­riot types, Collins has bravely — in my opin­ion — tack­led top­ics that most of us shy away from. He has cre­ated sto­ries around his and oth­ers’ ex­pe­ri­ences with de­pres­sion and its re­lated emo­tional con­di­tions. I am de­lighted that while tack­ling such “black” is­sues he has stuck to his ear­lier recipe in short­story writ­ing by in­clud­ing snatches of hu­mour and the in­evitable twists in the tail.

This is the sort of book that is re­gain­ing popu­ lar­ity among read­ers world­wide. Easy read­ing and suit­able for bed­sides or hol­i­days, short sto­ries sat­isfy lan­guid read­ers seek­ing “in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion”. Nev­er­the­less, I must men­tion that the depth of Collins’ writ­ings has im­pressed my lit­er­ary thirst. He has de­vel­oped a writ­ing skill and ma­tu­rity that cre­ates chap­ters that had me read­ing them twice to ap­pre­ci­ate fully their sub­tleties. From be­ing hoisted in a front­end loader to at­tend a mad beast to ma­jor surgery in a trop­i­cal down­pour, be­ing dragged into court cases, episodes of de­pres­sion with sur­pris­ing out­comes, South Africa’s great­est sheep theft, his­toric tales in­volv­ing the siege of Lady­smith and 1863’s most epic raid into “Ba­su­toland”, the sub­ject mat­ter is re­fresh­ingly di­verse. If I were to choose my favourite story, sur­pris­ in­gly I was most moved by Skip and Goom. This shared the ex­pe­ri­ences of the time when some white South African boys were con­scripted into mil­i­tary ser­vice. It sadly re­minded me of the di­vide be­tween Afrikaner and En­gels­man in those years. Again with a lovely twist in the tail.

I was tempted to con­sume the en­tire book when given a copy to re­view. For­tu­nately I took my time over a long week­end and thus savoured each story with greater ap­pre­ci­a­tion. The ac­com­pa­ny­ing sketches add to the book’s charm, al­though the au­thor should per­haps take art lessons from Clau­dia McKen­zie. Her charm­ing cover should it­self at­tract ca­sual browsers.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.