Straight away, here’s an author I would not instinctively associate with fantasy (though I’ve never previously read a word of Doyle, so that’s based purely on an assumption of mine) — and if the anthology continues to be as good as this, I will be very pleased.

Doyle’s protagonist is a forty-one-year-old man, married with two children, who has hobbies like going down the pub and playing football… There is nothing exceptional about him; he is normal, or so he wishes to tell himself. Yes, he’s an average bloke — with an urge to drink blood.

This leads to a number of farcical situations, as our man tries to hide his desire for blood from those around him; but what makes ‘Blood’ a particularly good story is the way Doyle uses this implied vampirism as a metaphor for general insecurities about one’s place in life and the world. The protagonist fixates on his wife’s offhand comment, ‘You’re such a messer,’ and starts to wonder what must be wrong with him that he’s feeling this way. Yet, surely, nothing’s wrong, because he’s normal, isn’t he?

Doyle writes in an easy, flowing style that suits his tale well — light-hearted to an extent, but with a relentless forward march that mirrors how the protagonist is overtaken by life. I’ll be reading more of Roddy Doyle’s work in the future, no doubt.

Rating: ****