2022 - Winner
Sharp and funny, with confronting twists of a sometimes malevolent zeitgeist, the 17 short stories in Hold Your Fire are as immediate as urban myths and as desirable as the best gossip: about faecal transplants, bat bites, loose leopards and body parts washed up on beaches. Chloe Wilson navigates with panache the gulf between social appearance and private thought. From a privileged viewpoint inside her characters’ heads, readers are treated to merciless perceptions (of bodies and motives and truthfulness) and often savage insights into the worlds of art, sport, law, medicine or wellness that her stories evoke.
Hold Your Fire ranges from surreal flash fiction to more realist longer pieces, guided always by Wilson’s incisive eye and poet’s ear for language. Her descriptions are direct and imagistic rather than metaphorical, while the dialogue is understated and resonates with what is unsaid or euphemised. Confident and often darkly satirical, these stories are memorable and compelling.
The interplay of longer stories cut with micro-fiction gives this collection its rhythmic force, drawing readers into acutely observed and convincingly voiced worlds which are fully developed (if never predictable), or flash past as tantalisingly as thought. Each story is unique, its pairings of sisters, couples, parents-and-children, not quite sympatico neighbours or workmates rendered with wit, insight and a deliciously vicious daring. This work cuts to a dark heart of contemporary existence and introduces a dazzling new voice in Australian fiction.