The Teesside region of the United Kingdom is in northeastern England, north of York and south of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Traditionally, it was a heavily industrial area, home to steel and chemical manufacturers. That era has long passed; today it has a more high-tech, science, and services-based economy. But the dislocations and loss of traditional manufacturing jobs have left their impact, not unlike large parts of the American Midwest.
It is here that British author Glenn McGoldrick sets his stories, both those in the Dark Teesside series as well as others – although all of the stories tend to lean to the dark side. We find people struggling to cope with loss – a loved one, employment, a sense of self – at a time when the big growth industry is casino gambling (this sounds a lot like the American Midwest). You read these stories, and you gain an understanding of part of what fueled Brexit, even though Britain’s divorce from the European Union is never mentioned.
In Thornaby Accident & other Dark Teesside stories, three stories chronicle people who’ve lost hope or face increasingly difficult situations. In “Darling Wife,” the husband of a straying wife considers what options he has before him. She blames him for their childlessness, and he’s thinking about what to do about it. None of the possibilities are good. In “Thornaby Accident,” the live-in partner of an attorney has begun to hear voices, and they seem to be coming from the radio, even when it’s unplugged. Worse still, the voices are actually one voice – the attorney’s former partner who died accidentally from a fall in the kitchen. “Losing It” tells the story of an aging man, mourning the loss of his wife, and seemingly struggling with the onset of memory loss or dementia.
“Rosebery Topping” is a short story about a young man who loses his wife in an accidental fall. He blames himself, and his parents are worried about his state of mind, especially after he quits his job. Now he’s trying to figure out how to make amends.
Nightmare Waiting & other dark stories is comprised of 10 stories. A serial killer is waiting for his next victim. A woman dies in a kayaking accident, and her husband believes he killed her. Two thugs are waiting to pick out just the right victim to rob. Someone is killing cats in the area, and woman is determined to find the culprit; in another story, someone is poisoning ducks in a pond, and perhaps more than ducks. An old man dies accidentally when trying to board a boat to take him to an offshore casino, but what kind of accident was it, actually? A woman gets a terminal cancer prognosis, and she and her husband decide what to do about it. A man finds the son of his former partner washing clothes to remove the blood on them. And in the title story, a man knows he owes a debt, even if he’s not quite sure what the debt is for.
McGoldrick specializes in short stories, which he’s been writing since 2013. He worked for both land-based casinos and cruise ships for a time, using those experiences for many of his stories. He currently lives in northeastern England.
His stories are dark, gritty, often involve a twist, and inevitably open insights into the human psyche.