Baines' stories are executed with a subtle smoothness, and a precise portrayal of human relationships - both the surface of them, and what goes on underneath.His favourite in the collection is 'Compass and Torch', of which he says:
The story I wanted to pick out is 'Compass and Torch' - in the third person, an uncertain boy on a trip with his Dad, whom he doesn't often see. 'The boy is intent. Watching Dad. Watching what Dad is. Drinking it in: the essence of Dadness.' The awkwardness of their relationship - with its latent closeness, and surface of discomfort - is portrayed so exactly. We see it first in relation to the torch, of which the boy is so anxiously proud:
The boy is chattering: 'Have you brought one too, have you brought a torch?'
Is this a problem? the boy suddenly wonders. Does this make one of the torches redundant? For a brief moment he is uncertain, potentially dismayed, a mood which the man, for all his distraction, catches.
'We can use both of them, can't we, Dad?'
'Oh yes! Yes, of course!'
Then a swoop of delight: 'We can light up more with both, can't we?'
'Oh yes, certainly!' The man too is gratefully caught on a wave of triumph. 'Oh, yes, two are definitely better! Back-up, for a start.'
I shouldn't dream of telling you the end of this story, except that it is done calmly in a couple of sentences, and won't leave your mind for some time.
He reviews it alongside Vanessa Gebbie's wonderful collection, Words from a Glass Bubble, also published by Salt, and which he also loved.
The whole review here.