Soaking in Strange Hours is a short story full of grit and shadow penned by Erik Hofstatter and published by Next Chapter.
Erik Hofstatter is a dark fiction writer, born in the Czech Republic but now living in Kent, England. He studied creative writing at the London School of Journalism and his work has appeared in various magazines and podcasts around the world such as Morpheus Tales, Crystal Lake Publishing, The Literary Hatchet, Sanitarium Magazine, Wicked Library, Manor House Show, and The Black Room Manuscripts Volume IV..
Other works include Katerina, The Crabian Heart, The Pariahs and Rare Breeds to name just a few.
Tristan Grieves is an unwashed soul, in a city the colour of gargoyles. Liene, a girl with eyes that drank from every ocean asks for help to find Boomerang—a boy she throws away but who always returns. Until he vanishes.
They search together, but where is she leading him?
I am going in to this very blind having shamefully not yet read any of Erik Hofstatter’s works, especially one so local who resides in my own home county of Kent, England. I do not know who Tristan Grieves is and a little light digging around Erik Hofstatter’s other works hasn’t cleared that up for me. Often, with short stories, or fragments like this, it is to expand on a character already met elsewhere. Perhaps I need to dig further, perhaps this is an introduction to him? I can honestly say that having read Soaking in Strange Hours, I am no clearer as to who Tristan Grieves is.
Soaking in Strange Hours is a very apt title. I left the story feeling drenched in language, foggy but also excited. The plot is simple enough at the highest level as we gain visual of a dark, gritty cityscape and meet Tristan. A self confessed undesirable with an addiction to alcohol and red heads. He is approached by the cryptic Liene with a request to seek out a person she calls Boomerang. Known so due to being somewhat a plaything Liene uses, abuses, throws away but one that always returns. Until they didn’t.
Tristan knows every street and alley of the cities underbelly and takes on the request, setting out for a hunt while being unaware he may also be the hunted.
And so the story unfolds in short form but with real impact driven mainly by Erik Hofstatter’s use of language. To say this story is heavy in metaphors, adjectives and adverbs is a massive understatement. This is complex poetry and that can be both a blessing and a curse. It really will be a matter of personal taste and I find it hard to imagine there being too many people who sit on the fence. This is marmite writing, not for the faint hearted and impossible to fully understand and appreciate in a single read through. At least for my little mind.
At the risk of seeming foolish, I didn’t fully appreciate it on a first read. I finished the story, marvelled at some of the language use and then realised I had no clue what had actually gone on in the story as I spent way too much time actually reading, re-reading and analysing metaphors to understand the context of what was happening around them. In a way, my first read through became accidentally like research. I broke down the metaphors, understood the visuals and then, on a second read through broke through to the story and thoroughly enjoyed it’s shadowy grime and grittiness.
I fear that stopping to re-read most sentences to fully understand and appreciate them hurts the flow and pace of the story at times. Sometimes, it feels a little overly ornate and a statement that could be made clear and with intent becomes very elaborate. As an example, during a conversation Tristan feels frustrated by the sound of sirens in the background. While the frustration and the sirens is important to the overall visual you gain of the surroundings, Tristan’s internal monologue states:
“More sirens punched through midnight wind. That noise was a vaccine against sympathy. I wanted to be the stamp on a postcard from hell. Let them die for once”
You see? It is wonderful, visceral and imaginative writing but, while breaking it down and enjoying the language, I completely forgot what Tristan was in conversation about. This may all sound a little negative but I don’t necessarily mean it to be. I personally found the use of language, and the story to be immensely pleasurable. The way it flows, poetically was something that really caught my imagination at times. I adored breaking down the language and gaining clear visuals from them. I enjoyed the story and found Tristan to be a very interesting character worth further exploration. Though I am just also very aware that not everyone is willing to give books and stories the time and thought they so often deserve.
Because of that, I do feel that there will be a great many people who will read it once, not dedicate the time and thought Soaking in Strange Hours requires and mark it down as too complex or indulgent. For me though, while not always an easy read, it challenged me in good ways and left a lasting mark. Soaking in Strange Hours is a story that drips in grit, grime and intrigue from an author who oozes quality and has clearly mastered the English language in ways very few will ever hope to.
Grab a copy of Soaking in Strange Hours from Amazon, here.
Erik Hofstatter Links
Soaking in Strange Hours (A Tristan Grieves Fragment) by Erik Hofstatter
The Final Score - 8/10