Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Scarborough Fair and Other Stories (Five Star, 2003)

Scarborough Fair and Other Stories is a collection of eleven stories, all of which have previously been published in anthologies. They have several common themes: cats, the psychological damage suffered by many Viet Nam veterans, humour, middle age. All have happy endings. Coming from a family cursed by depression, I appreciate happy endings.

"Mummies of the Motorway" and "Worse Than the Curse" are just plain funny. "Don't Go Out in Holy Underwear or Victoria's Secret or Space Panties!!!" is funny, too, but it's a different brand of humour. It reminded me strongly of Isaac Asimov, for it is one extended feghoot. (For more on feghoots, look here.)

"Boon Companion" and "Whirlwinds" are the darkest stories in the book. The former shows how families destroy each other, the latter deals with the mistreatment of the Native peoples in the American southwest. "Long Time Coming Home" and "A Rare Breed" are both about the aftermath of Viet Nam. They also both have unusual views of the afterlife. They're not exactly "Old soldiers never die, they just fade away," but they aren't quite conventional either.

"Final Vows" is a murder mystery. I don't know why I didn't see the punchline coming, unless I was too busy solving the mystery. One of its main characters also appears in "Mu Mao and the Court Oracle," which is both a love story and a political thriller.

"Long Time Coming Home," "Scarborough Fair," "The Invisible Woman's Clever Disguise" and "Worse Than the Curse" are romances. The first two are about couples separated by war (Viet Nam in the first case, World War II in the second). In "The Invisible Woman's Clever Disguise," the heroine loses everything she has, yet that very loss allows her to find everything she never had. "Worse Than the Curse" has all the stock characteristics of a fairy tale without the stock reactions.

Cats are the heroes of "Final Vows," "Boon Companion" and "Mu Mao and the Court Oracle," and they figure prominently in "Mummies of the Motorway."

I found myself reading Scarborough Fair and Other Stories instead of eating breakfast. The stories were just the right length take me past the last possible minute when I could get something to eat without making me late for work.

The only illustration in Scarborough Fair and Other Stories is the cover painting by Ursula Vernon of a pensive feline in medieval garb strumming some sort of lute (presumably not one strung with catgut).

Elizabeth Ann Scarborough has written over twenty novels, including The Healer's War which won a Nebula Award in 1989, and many short stories. She collaborates with Anne McCaffrey on the Acorna series, and she has edited several anthologies. She was a nurse in the U.S. Army, serving in Viet Nam and Alaska. She also worked with the Indian Health Service in New Mexico before returning to Alaska. Now she lives on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. As well as being a writer, Scarborough designs beadwork patterns, many of which are of fantasy themes, cats or fantastical cats.

[Faith J. Cormier]

Visit Elizabeth Ann Scarborough's Web site. Her beading patterns can be found at www.crafting-patterns.com.