Hang him when he is not there is the first release by Brisbane-based independent publisher, Savage Motif, who provided a copy of the book for this review.
Hang him when he is not there, Nicholas John Turner’s debut fiction collection (Savage Motif 2016), challenges and intrigues the reader from its very opening, ‘Prologue’. Is this a prologue to the collection as a whole, a story titled ‘Prologue’, a bit of both, or something else entirely? The conversational tone, a first-person direct address to the second-person reader, exemplifies much of the writing that is to follow, while also hinting at some of the themes the collection explores as a whole—most particularly old age, death, and the transitory places where we are cared for as we wait to die. That ‘last room’, as the prologue’s narrator describes it.
But of course the very idea of “the second-person reader” is a simplification that masks the smart and playful voyage we’ve begun, since the narrative ‘you’ actually implies multiple readers—a fictional addressee in addition to our readerly self—and the question of whether these are intended to be distinct. Later in the book, in the final story ‘All That Remains’, this mode of address returns in a series of passages that are signed-off as letters, and questions of perspective and identity are posed and investigated more directly, which for me brought to mind another literary collection released in 2016, Michelle Cahill’s wonderful Letter to Pessoa.