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The Snow Cow: Martin Kochanski

April 1, 2010

Ghost Stories for Skiers

That chill running down your spine—is it just the melting snow?

The thirteen stories in The Snow Cow tell of love and death, terror and joy, mixing ancient myths with modern legends. They are stories to be shared in the firelight after a long day’s skiing.

The skier who leaves tracks on inaccessible mountain faces—is he dead or alive?

Your chalet girl—could she be a mass murderer?

A woman on her wedding night, a promise made to the devil—how can she escape?

Experience impossible love inNot This Time. Ski with a ghost in The Long Man. Discover a new twist to an old legend in The Passport of Dorian Gray. And be haunted by the terrifying tale of The Snow Cow herself!

After you have read this book, skiing will never be the same again.

Short story collections are notoriously difficult to sell: if you manage to find a publisher willing to take them on, that publisher is going to struggle to find readers to buy your book (unless you are already a major name). If you then announce that your short story collection is intended for a specific niche market you’re narrowing your market even further. Which is why, if I were Martin Kochanski, I’d remove the tag-line “Ghost Stories for Skiers” from the cover of The Snow Cow: Ghost Stories for Skiers. I don’t think it adds much value, and I’m concerned that it will lose him sales despite his fabulous cover, which I thought delightful.

As for his stories: they’re not in the same class as the blisteringly good collections I’ve read from Salt Publishing, but then Martin doesn’t pretend to write literary fiction: these are more mainstream, and somewhat laddish. They are mostly competent, clear and amusing and consequently, I mostly enjoyed them.

I did find several of the stories just a little unsatisfying. They were at times trite, obvious, or too neatly tied up: a couple of the stories seemed to run out of steam and ended more from apathy than anything else. I don’t think that’s due to a lack of ability on Kochanski’s part: I suspect it has more to do with his experience (or lack of it) as a writer. The Snow Cow is his first publication, and he’s probably too new to the form to have fully got to grips with its conventions and requirements. With a good few thousand words more to his credit he’s going to be a much better writer (I’d advise him to read widely in the form, to): as it is, The Snow Cow is an entertaining but not a challenging or life-changing read, and I expect Martin Kochanski will improve greatly in the future. I read it all and do think that he’s off to a good start: but despite that I feel that this collection lacks that significant quality which transforms our writing from pedestrian to compelling. Give him time.

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