Five Short Stories to Savour

by Daniel Pembrey’ve just published a new short story, and it prompted to think back over the many short stories that I’ve both savoured as a reader and learned from as a writer. My new one – The Lion Hunter – is set in Tanzania, so it’s hard for me not to think of Hemingway, who wrote about Africa so vividly in the likes of Snows of Kilimanjaro. Still, in what follows, I’ll try to pick some less obvious titles, hoping that you might share some of the inspiration and excitement that came from these discoveries:

1. DH Lawrence – Odour of Chrysanthemums
Lawrence hailed from Nottinghamshire, and in this short story – one of his earliest – he writes about the coal mining communities there that he knew so well. The writing bears an almost forensic level of social insight, telling the story of a pregnant woman waiting for her husband to come home from the pit, or perhaps it’s the pub … In fact, the husband’s fate turns out to have been altogether different. Available here.

2. Roald Dahl – Lamb to the Slaughter
Who can forget the haunting theme tune to Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected once heard on TV? Here is another short tale about a woman suffering through her husband’s return from work one evening … only this time, the husband’s fate is fixed in a most ingenious way. No spoilers, but let me credit SJI Holliday for reminding me of this one in her recent BritCrime blog post. Lamb to the Slaughter is available here.

3. Luca Veste and Paul D. Brazill (editors) – Off The Record 2 - At The Movies
While on the subject of BritCrime authors, what could be better than an anthology of stories inspired by classic films? Strictly speaking it’s not one short story, rather 47 … but who’s complaining when the authors include Eva Dolan, Chris Ewan, Helen FitzGerald, SJI Holliday, Steve Mosby, Nick Quantrill, Mel Sherratt and Luca Veste? What’s more, the proceeds go to two great literacy-related charities. Available here.

4. Stephen King – The Gingerbread Girl
There’s nothing quite like a riveting pursuit story, and they don’t come much more riveting than this one. This pulse quickening story type, utilised in such classics as Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male, is somehow compressed into 80 pages here. It’s set in the part of Florida that Stephen King calls home for several months of the year, and that seasonal theme turns out to be a key plot point. Available in King’s story collection Just After Sunset, here.

5. Dorothy L Sayers – Suspicion
Suspicion was picked as one of the dozen best short detective stories ever written by a panel including Anthony Boucher and John Dickson Carr. Dorothy Sayers, an active member of the Detection Club, abides by the rule of playing fair with her readers in terms of the clues given out – in this case, about a poisoner at large in an English household. The clever use of main character Mr Mummery, and his increasingly suspicious point of view, will keep you guessing. Available in this collection, here.

And finally, which are your favourite short stories? Which ones have had the biggest affect on you? Do let us know!

Daniel Pembrey’s The Lion Hunter: A Short Adventure Story is available here if you live in the UK or here if you’re in the US.

♠ Daniel is active on Twitter,, and also present on Facebook, His website is


  1. I remember Odour of Chrysanthemums from O Level English ( showing my age there!) My favourite short story is The Lumber Room by Saki.

  2. Thanks, Denise.

    There's a link to The Lumber Room here:

  3. One that had the greatest impact recently was Sarah Hall's 'Butcher's Perfume' in 'The Beautiful Indifference' collection.