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Book Review

Book Cover

Another Santana Morning


Author: Mike Dolan
Elastic Press
RRP: £5.99, US $12.50
ISBN: 978 0 9553181 5 3
Available 01 May 2008

Unless you are a fan of obscure writers, and even more obscure publishing companies, then it is unlikely that you have even had the chance to read the stories contained in Another Santana Morning by Mike Dolan.

The original 1970 print of this book never really saw its targetted market. This was mainly due to the unfortunate circumstances of being placed with a publisher whose books could normally be found in the seedier parts of town lodged somewhere between the peep shows and the sexual aids. As Dolan himself reflects, few people go to such places in search of science fiction and those that do may be left bemused by the book's contents. When the publisher went bankrupt the majority of the first print - Santana Morning - was turned into landfill.

Elastic Press has seen fit to reprint the book here with a number of changes. Stories have been reworked or dumped and new stories inserted, though how they discovered Dolan remains a mystery.

Given the age range at which Dolan wrote the stories, the quality of some of the nineteen tales collected here, can be a little variable. Some of his strongest, like the opening story, The Street of Storytellers - wherein a young man goes out into the world to make money as a story teller only to discover that the competition is harsh - is obviously autobiographical in nature. As is The Old Man of San Blas, which is less about story telling than the craft of writing. Others, like Intruder - which is a reconstruction of a story written when he was fifteen - frankly reads like it was written by a fifteen-year-old. Nice historical document if you’re a fan of Dolan’s, otherwise it is most probably one of the weakest stories in the anthologies along side the title story Santana Morning, about a hermit's fear of commitment.

That is not to say that there are not strong stories in the collection, even excusing his occasional thematic forays into women, sex and love.  I particularly enjoyed Memory for its strong central premise and successful conclusion, the portion of a short story which is often an authors downfall. I also enjoyed The City, Morning Rain and The Segmented Key, as they are so obviously products of a mind steeped in fifties and sixties science fiction and made me feel quite at home.

Ultimately this is an uneven set of work, but then it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is: the collected works of one man whose shot at fame ended next to a peep show. In my book that’s worth a look, if only for the bohemian way his fledgling science fiction career was squashed.

Dolan in not a great writer, but in many of the stories he is a good writer and given the cost of the book Another Santana Morning is well worth a look if for nothing else than for that sixties glow.


Charles Packer

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