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"Never Stop on the Motorway" and "It Can't Be October Already" by Jeffrey Archer

Some authors have started marketing short stories as ebooks. That practice sometimes makes me wonder whether the stories were turned down by magazine editors, but maybe direct marketing is the wave of the future for authors with substantial name recognition. In the case of the stories reviewed below, however, Jeffrey Archer is selling individul stories that have appeared in his earlier story collections.

Whether it makes sense to pay at least 99 cents for a short story, rather than buying a collection that includes the story, is something each reader will need to decide. With regard to the two stories reviewed here, I can only say that, while I enjoyed them, neither are so substantial that I would read them again. I would probably feel I was getting more value for my dollar if I purchased the collections in which these stories first appeared. On the other hand, the publisher provided me with free digital advance reading copies of the stories, so my concerns about value are only theoretical.

"Never Stop on the Motorway"

Published digitally by St. Martin's Press on July 3, 2017

"Never Stop on the Motorway" is included in at least two Jeffrey Archer story collections: The Collected Short Stories and Twelve Red Herrings.

Heavy traffic gives Diana time to think about her failed marriage, but when she can finally reach highway speed, her euphoria is unsettled by a thump after a small animal darts in front of her car. She stops and, soon thereafter, a vehicle begins to tailgate her. She can’t shake the driver and begins to fear that she will be the next victim of the killer who recently cut a woman’s throat on the same road, prompting police to warn motorists not to stop.

This is a fast-moving story with a mildly surprising ending. It creates tension in a predictable way and develops about as much characterization as could be expected in a relatively brief story. I was hoping for an ending that would be even more surprising, but the ending that Jeffrey Archer provides isn’t one I expected.


"It Can't Be October Already"

Published digitally by St. Martin's Press on June 6, 2017.

"It Can't Be October Already" is included in Cat O'Nine Tales and Other Stories.

A fellow named Pat goes to jail every October. Pat is unfailingly polite to the various officers who arrest him, lock him up, and take him to court, all of whom are familiar with his annual ritual and see him as something of an old friend, or at least a harmless nuisance. Eventually the reader discovers what’s up with Pat, and Pat finally gets to finish telling the joke that everyone has already heard.

“It Can’t Be October Already” is a light, amusing short story. It isn’t particularly substantial, but it doesn’t pretend to be. Pat's joke is more interesting than the plot of the story itself, which leads to an obvious conclusion. I didn't get the impression that Archer put much effort into this one.


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