Chosen by Chris Greenhalgh.
Sansom’s story holds out the possibility of a perfect encounter on a romantic night in the streets of Rome. And everything seems to be going well for the narrator from its fairy tale opening – all too well, of course – until the final twist. The story is a bit of fun, but it is also a work of perfect scale, swiftly dispatched with a gut punch in just under two pages. Something of Hitchcock, Roald Dahl, with the compression of Kafka, or even Nabokov in gothic mode.
First published in A Contest of Ladies and Other Stories, London: Hogarth Press, 1956. Available to read online here
Chris Greenhalgh is the recipient of an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors. He has published three volumes of poetry, two novels, and wrote the screenplay for Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky. You can read his full Personal Anthology here.