High Spirits: A Round of Drinking Stories, edited by Karen Stevens and Jonathan Taylor, was published in paperback in November 2018, and in hardback in November 2019, by Valley Press.

It was winner of the Saboteur Award 2019 for Best Anthology, and Recommended by The Publishers Association on their Summer Recess Reading List for Parliamentarians, 2019. 

Drinking stories are told by drunks, or about drunks; they are told in pubs, or set in pubs. They are stories where people drink, and stories which somehow induce a sense of drunkenness in readers and listeners. Anton Chekhov may or may not have drunkenly compared the experience of reading a short story to downing a shot of vodka, and F. Scott Fitzgerald claimed that a good short story could “be written on a bottle.” Here is a collection of contemporary short stories written on and about bottles – stories about the comedies, tragedies, pleasures, pains and horrors of alcohol – all of which can be downed like (and perhaps with) a glass of vodka.

Edited with an introduction by Karen Stevens and Jonathan Taylor, contributors include some of the best short story writers in the UK today: Judith Allnatt, Jenn Ashworth, Desmond Barry, Laurie Cusack, Louis de Bernières, Jane Feaver, Cathy Galvin, Alison Moore, Kate North, Bethan Roberts, Jane Roberts, Hannah Stevens, Michael Stewart, David Swann, Melanie Whipman and Sue Wilsea.

“An intoxicating cocktail of stories. Drink deep, but be warned: there is darkness in the cup” (Will Buckingham).

“A marvellous collection that springs from life as it’s lived – on the pulse, in the street, and in our dreams. Its stories are, by turns, poignant, tough, funny, lyrical. Above all, they capture the emboldening and destructive force of alcohol as its characters search, stumble, love, stagger and rise above” (Alison MacLeod).

“Heartbreaking, dark, beautiful and funny. You want to reach into this book and take so many of these characters home. An absolute joy” (Deborah Morgan).

“… the perfect mix of humour and unease” (Lucie McKnight Hardie, in The Lonely Crowd). Named as one of The Lonely Crowd‘s Best Books of 2018.

“These are stories with surprise twists, slapstick endings, or with settings that can hit you like a punch to the gut … stories [with] … the capacity to uplift and make you think” (Caroline Hardaker). Named as one of Caroline Hardaker’s Six Recommended Christmas Reads for 2018.

“This collection of contemporary stories is full of both the pleasure and pain of drinking …. There are many compelling stories in this collection …. In all of these stories … readers are invited on journeys with characters who are bewildered, disillusioned, enraged and inspired, each of them emboldened along the way by the intoxication of alcohol” (Nicole Mansour, The Word Factory). 

“Really clever idea … includes … darkly comic stories, painfully real stories … Every [story] … has a different feel to it … culminates beautifully” (Victoria Pickup). One of Victoria Pickup’s recommended books of the week on BBC Radio Berkshire.

“It’s a good title, and a pretty good description of the contents. This is a booze-soaked collection of … short stories united around drinking, pubs and the time-honoured tradition of getting royally sloshed …. They offer comedy, tragedy, pleasure, pain and horror, generally seen through the bottom of a bottle …. All of these stories have real human dramas and concerns at their heart” (Richard T. Watson, Sabotage Reviews). 

“A bloody marvellous collection of stories, with a stonking introduction … I could rattle on about the virtues of every story in this book – and there wasn’t a one I disliked, or that wasn’t engagingly and convincingly written … Buy this book, crack open a bottle something tasty, … as you knock back story after story … in this 100% proof anthology” (Mark Mayes, Lines from a Room).

“I was particularly delighted that the collection … is prefaced by an especially interesting and thoughtful essay by the two editors about the relationship between drink and the creative impulse … so the short stories that follow the introduction are set on an excellent base and many of them capitalise on these complex and sophisticated ideas. There’s a really broad range of stories here … It’s a fascinating collection” (Terry Potter, The Letter Press Project). 

High Spirits … won the 2019 Saboteur Awards for Best Anthology, and for good reason …. Each story connects the ways that we interact with alcohol with the cultural triggers for its enjoyment or abuse …. Each story contains some act of submission to drink and relinquishing the self” (C. J. Eggett, Etch to their Own).

“The eighteen stories … made me laugh, cry, cringe and reflect on alcohol’s power to alter us … I’d definitely recommend this book for established short story fans and newbies alike. Enjoy, and cheers!” (Karen Rust, Blooming Late).

You can read a short article about the anthology here.

You can order the book here.

Overheard: Stories to Read Aloud

“The stories in Overheard cast a powerful spell. They take us into worlds that are as intimate as they are universal; as timeless as they are timely. Whether spoken, shouted, sung or murmured, here are stories that compel us to sit up and listen” (Alison MacLeod).

Winner of the Saboteur Award 2013 for Best Fiction Anthology.

Recommended anthology for National Short Story Week 2012.

As featured on BBC Radio 3’s The Verb.

From village storytellers to nineteenth-century serialisations, from pub anecdotes to dramatic monologues, storytelling is an enduring and ever-popular art form. This collection of stories reconnects storytelling with its oral roots — each story is designed to be read aloud. It includes work by some of today’s most influential story-tellers, including Louis De Bernières, Blake Morrison, Kate Pullinger, Adele Parks, Michelene Wandor, Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, Hanif Kureishi, and over 30 others.

You can see more details about Overheard, and order it on Salt’s website here.

Here is the full list of contributors to Overheard: Judith Allnatt, Jo Baker, Claire Baldwin, David Belbin, Kathleen Bell, Will Buckingham, P. J. Carnehan, Ailsa Cox, Katy Darby, Louis De Bernières, Vanessa Gebbie, Denise Hayes, Tania Hershman, Jane Holland, Panos Karnezis, Hanif Kureishi, Joel Lane, Emma J. Lannie, Ian McEwan, Blake Morrison, Adele Parks, Simon Perril, Alexandros Plasatis, Kate Pullinger, Adam Roberts, Catherine Rogers, Lee Rourke, Salman Rushdie, Gemma Seltzer, Robert Shearman, Felicity Skelton, Karen Stevens, Maria Taylor, Sara-Mae Tuson, Deborah Tyler-Bennett, Michelene Wandor, Aimee Wilkinson – and myself.

Some reviews of Overheard: Stories to Read Aloud:

“As with all good stories, these are ones you’ll want to share” (Ian Skillicorn, founder of National Short Story Week and Short Story Radio).

“A fantastic collection” (Alexa Radcliffe-Hart). Also named as a “Must Read” for 2012-13 by Alexa Radcliffe-Hart on her blog Services to Literature.

Overheard offers a punchy read, with a lot of short, sharp stories from some writers who’re on top of their game …. With such a strong line-up of writers assembled, a mix of well-known and less-well-known names, Taylor presents a quality anthology” (Richard T. Watson, Sabotage Reviews).

“Capturing the essence of modern prose writing, this … compilation … takes the reader on a different … journey …. Experience the joy of the spoken word anew!” (Kent Life and The Villager Magazine).