A Call In The Night, by Gabrielle Leimon; Cowboy Genes, by Wes Lee; and Escape Kit, by William Thirsk Gaskill
All published by Grist Books, at £5.99

The Grist writing competition, out of Huddersfield University, has in recent years produced anthologies of poems and short-stories by promising writers without much of a public profile.

Under the editorship of Thornton-based writer Michael Stewart, three slim, well-produced, short-story booklets – the longest is 55 pages – have been published. They will be officially sent out into the world next week, on March 13, as part of the Huddersfield Literary Festival.

I have read them all and can warmly recommend them. I don’t know if they are examples of a particular contemporary literary trend – minimalsim, post-modern minimalism, post-minimalist modernism. I don’t think they are.

Michael Stewart is more interested in starting a literary trend rather than following one, as he said himself: “I started Grist in 2008 because I had students who had written things I wanted to publish and there was no one publishing them.

“These three books are a development of the original Grist philosophy of publishing new writers with something to say. This time we are publishing three single collections in chapbook form. Freed of the burden of having to provide a full-length book, these slim volumes showcase writers at the early point in their careers.”

Of the three books, Escape Kit is a complete story told from four points of view. It starts off like Escape From Colditz with a British prisoner-of-war describing how he’s going to escape from a Nazi prison camp and reach Switzerland by train – via King’s Cross.

He turns out to be a man with a reality disorder who frightens a 14-year-old boy travelling from Pocklington to his grandparents at Stevenage.

Each of the four characters, including the boy’s mum and dad, is escaping from something. By the time the train reaches London things seem to have been resolved – with the help of the boy’s mobile phone.

I know William Thirsk Gaskill as a scientist and an accomplished poet. This delightful 36-page story, comic and touching, did not disappoint.

Gabrielle Leimon, from Scotland, has created what may be considered a fractured metaphor on Scottish separatism. One is a story ostensibly about two Siamese twins who become surgically separated – to the rage of one of them.

Though occupying the same body space for many years, like England and Scotland, they have different outlooks and temperaments. The resolution is both creepy and grisly.

The three other stories in her book, A Call In The Night, demonstrate her ability to startle and surprise without resorting to shock-horror extravaganze. Nor does she appear to be fictionalising her own biography.

Unlike the other two writers, Wes Lee has an established reputation. In 2010 she won the BNZ Katharine Mansfield Literary Award, the foremost award for the short story in New Zealand, where she currently lives.

Of the five stories in her book, Cowboy Genes, three struck me: Diseases From Space, The Gardenia Girls and especially Crash Test Dummies.

If you weary of cheap cynicism being passed off as profundity, you’ll feel great empathy for Victor, the central character in this story, who yearns for things that are life-changing, life-affirming.

The books will be launched on Thursday at Queenie’s Bar, in the courtyard of the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, from 7pm.