Short Stories

Backstories – Simon Van der Velde

11 April 2021
Backstories Book Cover Backstories
Simon Van der Velde
Short Stories
Smoke and Mirrors Press
25 March 2020

Dreamers, singers, heroes and killers, they can dazzle with their beauty or their talent or their unmitigated evil, yet inside themselves, they are as frail and desperate as the rest of us. But can you see them? Can you unravel the truth?

This book is dedicated to the victims of violent crime, the struggle against discrimination in all its forms and making the world a better place for our children. That is why 30% of all profits will be shared between Stop Hate UK, The North East Autism Society and Friends of the Earth.

Backstories is published by Smoke & Mirrors Press.


“Whatever happened to, all of the heroes?” The Stranglers 1977

I was twelve years old when I first heard this song and although there was something in the feral tone that grabbed me, I didn’t really understand it. I do now. I get the angst and the loss and the emptiness, which is why, in Backstories, I aim to answer the question.

I’m not interested in simplistic tabloid truths. They clung on too long, drank too much, lost their looks and their charm and generally reminded us that we’re all getting older. That’s not what I want from my heroes.

What I want is to find the spark, to dig down into their pain, their passions and their imperfections, and show you our heroes as they truly are.

So join me on my quest. Let’s bypass the obvious, the tedious,and the dull. Brave the deeper, darker paths where the treasures can be found, and together we’ll uncover the fears and doubts that made our heroes what they were and perhaps catch a glimpse of ourselves along the way.

Whatever happened to all of the heroes?

They turned out to be human beings, in all their diverse glory.


I have previously affirmed my love for short stories and my expanding appreciation of flash fiction. When the composition is tight and expressive, it is typically poetic with a spotlight into a moment of glorious imagination. What is even more captivating, is a book of short stories that weave a common thread and enable a fascination with the multiple perspectives of a prevailing theme.

Backstories is a collection of fourteen tales of humankind in a pivotal moment that famous and infamous people throughout history have faced, before their rise to notoriety. Simon Van der Velde illustrates tremendous ability to draw a recognisable and poignant situation that each of these characters encountered. The tantalising feature of the book is that each personality remains unnamed, and the backdrop and dialogue are our only means of deciphering their identity. Among many other things, Backstories is a collection of puzzles that excite our inquisitive minds into solving these enigmas.

The pace is sharp, which is needed to deliver the content in precise narratives bites. The dialogue is authentic and flows with an ease that is clever and instinctive, which presents us with the realisation that regardless of fame or infamy, that the characters are normal people enduring many of the societal issues and pressures as the rest of the population, but with fate having a distinct outcome. Are these flashes, the life-defining moments that certain people hold onto with a compulsive determination to deliver good or evil to the world?

There isn’t too much that can be said about any of the stories because that would jeopardise the opportunity to solve these cryptic tales. Simon van der Velde shows great skill at marshalling the multiple layers and strands of this carefully crafted collection of stories. I would suggest a moment of reflection between each story although it is difficult to put the book down. The experience of finishing this unique compilation can be felt at various levels – through an emotional impact, an appreciated recognition of human nature, enjoyment of great writing, and our analytical triumph in solving the mysteries.

I would highly recommend this book and I would like to thank the author, Simon van der Velde, for providing me with a copy of his book in return for an honest review.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley

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