John Grant’s Take No Prisoners is anthology of 15 of his stories. What is one to think of John Grant, well-reviewed by Clute, co-editor of a major encyclopedia in the field, and much-published?
Well, to the eyes of this Hopeless American, he’s British. And it shows. Grant tickled many of my odd Brit culture worshipping bones, such as his knowledge of books like The Wooden Horse, a great tale of WWII POW escape, and old B&W films. These tidbits come out in the story of the same name, a leisurely (some might say “wordy”) tale that wanders through a film critic’s memories of being a graduate student studying to be a vet. The story is satisfying, much more so if one relaxes certain ingrained expectations about fantastic literature.
Grant’s pacing and use of language is in some ways reminiscent of an earlier time. He is willing to employ turns of phrase many writers would excise from their work as unproductive. Taken with tea in a relaxed mode of mind, they help build a certain effect. I couldn’t help but think that the same effect might have been achieved with slightly less verbiage, however.
He is flexible, as shown by “The Glad Who Sang a Mermaid in from the Probability Sea”a story of cosmic breadth, and “A Lean and Hungry Look,” a funny snippet of a story that recalls a feeling of a certain dead English playwright with lines such as “She had a way of adjusting her carpet slippers while she said this that made it clear to him she was not just indulging in idle whim.”
For this reader, “Snare” was the most engrossing of Grant’s offerings. This is the story for which he thanks a songwriter for permission to use her lyrics. “Snare” requires a careful eye, but it is rewarding, if one can follow it through to its logical conclusion.
This small press text is annoying in only one sense: the name of the story one is reading does not appear in the header. Otherwise, this Willowgate Press text is a well-made book. I cannot generally recommend Take No Prisoners—I suggest that if you, gentle reader, have a taste for things English, a patient reading eye, and a willingness to let Grant be Grant, this book might be for you. If you seek an easy read, or a quick one, or fiction written in the generally accepted contemporary mode, it might be best if you pass this by. John Grant is much recognized in the field, however, so maybe, just maybe, if you are in the latter category but of a mind to take a chance, to experiment, to dip your toe into new waters, try this or one of Grant’s other publications.