Chris McQueer – Hings (4 stars)

Chris McQueer – Hings

Weird and absurd stories from a writer who is his own man

You'll be hard pressed to find a short story collection that starts with more of a bang than Chris McQueer's Hings. 'Sammy's Bag of Whelks' is one of the shorter tales in the book, but it sets the jarring, surreal tone for the remainder: don't assume you know where any story is going, because you don't.

McQueer is painted, according to the cover blurb, as 'Limmy meets Irvine Welsh', and there are definitely shades of both in his writing. The snaking courses his stories follow obviously take inspiration from the former's Daft Wee Stories, while his depictions of working class people and places do for Glasgow what Welsh does for Edinburgh. But McQueer is entirely his own storyteller. He'd been writing for a while before he was encouraged to share his work on Medium, then took to the spoken word circuit, where his droll and dark stories thrive. As a collection, Hings reads like a TV series, exhibiting snapshots of absurd and ludicrous lives. We return to Sammy again and again like a weird commercial break, and follow a murderous pair of lawn bowl fans like a soap opera.

While the spotlight is on oddballs and outsiders – and the equally freakish things that happen to them, often of their own accord – McQueer deals strongly in social commentary when he's not inventing half-human, half-sea creature stalkers. Toxic masculinity and misogyny is explored in 'Bowls', the non-linear spectrum of sexuality in 'Lads', while in 'Is it Art?' the snobs and civilians of the art world are exposed.

The comparisons to such big names in the writing and comedy worlds could have led to Hings being unable to live up to such luminaries. Luckily, McQueer is talented enough to hold his own, and this first collection is hopefully the start of something really weird.

Out now on 404 Ink.