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D. J. Taylor

Stewkey Blues

Stewkey Blues


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Fiction Category Winner in the 2022 East Anglian Book Awards

Some of the characters in Stewkey Blues have lived in Norfolk all their lives. Others are short-term residents or passage migrants. Whether young or old, self-confident or ground-down, local or blow-in, all of them are reaching uneasy compromises with the world they inhabit and the landscape in which that life takes place.

Praise for this Book

‘In his solid, grounded, entertaining collection of stories, DJ Taylor draws out the mythical qualities of East Anglia’s terrain, urban or rural or somewhere marginal in between. He expertly locates those moments in ordinary lives when ‘reality seemed to be curling at the edges.’ His steady gaze discerns quiet heroes, men and women as they jauntily set out in search of disappointment. We see them clearly for a moment before they melt into a blur of lamplight or sea mist, with their vague regrets and tarnished illusions; with indefeasible tenacity, by minor roads or motorways or deep lost rural lanes, they keep on keeping on.’ —Hilary Mantel

Reviews of this Book

‘Famed though it is for its flatness, Norfolk is a county of manifold aspects, many of which are captured in these sharp, subtle new stories by native son DJ Taylor. They all emerged from 2020’s lockdown, and together delineate the region’s geographical and social range, occasionally squinting back in time and tuning in to mythical echoes.’ —Hephzibah Anderson, Observer

‘The wide variety of experiences explored keeps this collection fresh and of interest. The author writes with elan as he excavates the core of the human condition. The reader is left hoping that Norfolk avoids the encroaching homogeny of modern expansionism. Each story provides a highly enjoyable and still lingering read.’ —Jackie Law, neverimitate

‘There's urban ennui and dead-end lives in the suburbs of Norwich, loneliness in a caravan park outside Thetford; social codes traduced in a village near Shopham; and wild shotgun-toting lawlessness in the wilds of Breckland. Taylor has a gimlet eye for the telling detail and enjoys the oddity of Norfolk's eccentrics, those born and bred among its flat farmlands, and those attracted to the place like iron filings to a magnet.’ —Siobham Murphy, The Times

‘DJ Taylor’s Stewkey Blues is set not only in the (culturally and geographically) different territory of Norfolk, but in a different time too. Several of his tales are set in the 20th century and his tone and points of reference across the collection are redolent of this era. His characters namecheck The Wind in the Willows and Top of the Pops, PG Wodehouse and the Benny Hill Show. People dating are ‘walking out’ together; the new Bill Bryson is ‘jolly good’. The collection’s realm is the provincial domestic: the middle managers, shop owners, minor public school boys and lesser gentry of Norfolk fret over the ‘damp-course’ and bleeding the radiators, unspoken social mores and petty social interactions.’ —Melanie White, Literary Review

‘The stories are subtly composed and elegantly written. The narrative voice is attractively wry, and particularly acute in its choice of telling detail. Its air of savouring diffidence, moreover, is curiously reminiscent of Anthony Powell, particularly in our sense that behaviour is being observed far more than judged. No one should be deterred by the Norfolk setting, for only in the most literal sense is this provincial fiction. After Stewkey Blues, I for one would happily read Taylor about anywhere: Swaffham and Snoring (Little or Great), to be sure, but also Timbuktu.’ —Andrew Rosenheim, Spectator

Praise for Previous Work

‘Taylor has a great knack of pulling the reader in, and his endings, which spin out into rather mournful, very British epiphanies, linger long in the mind.’ —James Smart, The Guardian

‘He is a very fine writer teasing out the idiosyncrasies of his characters in ordinary circumstances, all is neat and tidy and as it should be, beautifully described and then suddenly there is an underlying menace. If you are a short story fan these are glorious.’ —Sarah Broadhurst, LoveReading

‘The stories abound with gleeful absurdity and waspish humour. But they are also rich in melancholy and the heady sadness of people struggling to find places in the world. Some are fascinatingly strange; others are uncomfortably familiar. Some are simply hilarious – and all are touchingly human.’ —Fantastic Fiction

‘The melancholy of the middle classes is expertly dissected. Taylor’s wit, his gift for surprising with a striking usage and his eye for human sadness make this a consistently superb collection.’ —James Kidd, The Independent

‘Literature can be an ameliorating force which encourages us to see ourselves in perspective. This collection of stories offered variety of place, time and people yet each of its snapshots appeared both universal and personal. I saw aspects of myself and of those I know. The mirror held up was entertaining, discomforting and enlightening.’ —Jackie Law, neverimitate

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