‘Compo Proc’ by Jack Reynolds

One of the things that has become quite clear to me, while reading people’s choices in A Personal Anthology each week, is that, as far as short stories are concerned, I am not particularly well-read. By which I mean, despite, um, co-editing a literary journal that specialises in them, my own relationship with the short story has been quite fractured, unfocused. Others seem so committed, have worked through whole collections by acknowledged exponents of the form. Whereas, I have tended to chance across the stories that have stuck with me, more often than not finding them in magazines and in online journals. Fiction flotsam.

I bought this issue of Lighthouse to read a new story by Lara Williams but it was this story that shook me. ‘Compo Proc’ is one of the few stories I can remember reading that takes as its narrative impetus the mindless minutiae of work: in this instance, a young rail worker named Wesley who has worked out how to game his employer’s compensation procedure to his own benefit. Until, that is, a rule change threatens to scupper his artful plan. It is exceptionally well told — feverish and breakneck. It’s the short story equivalent of that classic, breathless movie scene where our hero is searching a desk or an office while we know that the antagonist has made an unexpected return. I’d love to be proved wrong, but all manner of searching suggests that Reynolds has not published since, which is a terrible shame. (GK)

[Editorial note from Jonathan: As it happens, I studied with Jack Reynolds on the MA Creative Writing at UEA, back in the day. I’ve emailed with Jack and can confirm that although he hasn’t published since ‘Compo Proc’ he is hard at work on a novel, that is coming along “very nicely”.]

Published in Lighthouse 4, Winter 2013/14

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