3 out of 4 stars
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That Guy What Kill Topsy is a collection of short stories written by Peter Wood Cotterill, most of which are set in the United Kingdom or in Zimbabwe. As one would expect from a book with such an unusual name, the stories feature colorful and unique characters that have found themselves in quite unusual (and sometimes twisted or macabre) circumstances. It is certainly not a book I would recommend to young readers, as the stories contain frequent mentions of death, suicide, prison, sex, violence, and other mature topics.
The characters in the stories tend to be somewhat exaggerated in their behaviors, and not always overly concerned with morality. Much of the writing has a hint of irony laced throughout, and even the most shocking scenes contain elements of the absurd. One story chronicles the last inner thoughts of a dying man; another is written in journal format by a man going through a temporary bout of homelessness. Other stories feature attendants at a timeshare pitch meeting, a portrait of a man who dies by suicide (but not for a reason one would expect), and a man whose life is wholly transformed after he experiences a car accident on the way to visiting his parents.
There were numerous cultural references and slang terms within the writing with which it was difficult for me to connect, since my background is so different than the characters (and, presumably, the author). Many of the stories were heavy on dialogue, and it was not always clear to me who was speaking. At times, it was difficult to keep track of the various characters, as not much back story had been given besides what could be pulled from the character’s interactions with each other.
Nonetheless, the stories themselves had a unique perspective and style that may appeal to other readers in a more direct way. One interesting element was the author’s use of local dialects within the speaking scenes. Depending on the character’s background, the dialogue was written with the appropriate modifiers to fit the type of speech one would hear from someone from that part of the world, and it was easy to “hear” the characters in one’s head while reading the text.
For these reasons, I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. Though I personally had trouble connecting with it at times, and did not always fully grasp the extent of the humor and satire that I believe the author was intending to put into the work, I believe there are other readers out there that would respond well to this writing style, and find humor and wit in these pages.
That Guy What Kill Topsy
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