When our own darkness is mirrored in multi-faceted characters, do we look away in disgust or find the humanity within them and, by extension, ourselves? In his debut short fiction collection, John Mavin has slyly exposed hidden themes to the world with breathtaking potency, eloquence, and wit.
Rage follows a loosely interwoven group of people from the fictional town of Dolsens, Ontario. Archaeologists, mountain climbers, priests, musicians, psychics, soldiers, and teens all confront the rage and sorrow of lives based on lies and abuse as they struggle to gain their independence, their dignity, and in some cases, revenge. When such content becomes overpowering, Mavin’s lyrical and controlled writing keeps the reader so enmeshed that we cannot look away. These are the stories that hold us close with their suspenseful conflicts and a nagging uncertainty of what a desperate or angry person might do. They are often as dark as they are enlightening.
John Mavin has taught creative writing at Capilano University, Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia, with New Shoots (through the Vancouver School Board), and at the Learning Exchange in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. He is a graduate of SFU’s The Writer’s Studio and also holds an MFA in creative writing from UBC. A past nominee for both the Aurora Award and the Journey Prize, his short fiction has been translated, studied, and published internationally. If you’d like to learn more, he invites you to visit
The girl turns off the water and reaches for a towel. Finding the rack empty, she steps out of the tub and bends to open the cabinet. As she pulls a folded towel from the top of the stack, an oversized hardcover book wedged within falls to the floor. The book is Intimate Photography. Its cover is a shadowed and entwined nude couple, presented in black and white. The girl opens the toilet tank and drops the book inside. Displaced water sloshes over the porcelain.
From “A Flock of Crows is Called a Murder”
Gary fires. His shot grazes the trunk a foot below the crows. Bark flakes off and rains on the windshield.
The crows flex their wings.
Aunt Sylvia gasps. “Did your father buy you that?”
I estimate the distance for Gary. “Nine yards.” Well within range. I wet a finger and test the wind. “Slight breeze from the west.”
Aunt Sylvia stares at me, open-mouthed.
“Thanks.” Gary sights carefully and fires again. A direct hit on a back leg.
The stricken crow squawks and drops from its branch. Halfway to the ground, it beats its wings to slow its descent, then lands on Dad’s Sixty Special, right over the passenger window. It tells Gary off in a harsh voice.
Aunt Sylvia’s face pales. “Oh my God.”
“Don’t you dare.” Aunt Sylvia steps forward.
Gary fires. He hits the crow square in the chest.
With a gutter cry, the crow leaps into the air and flies right at us, pumping its wings hard. Its eyes are black marbles.