13 APRIL 1956, Page 34

Silver Bullets

THE BLACK PRINCE AND OTHER STORIES. By Shirley Ann Grau. (Heinemann, 12s. 6d.) THE joyous reviews of The Black Prince in America last year encouraged one to expect a storywriter's debut of the, order of Eudora Welty's A Curtain of Green or J. F. Powers's Prince of Darkness. Miss Shirley Ann Grau is not that good yet. Her stories, largely about Negroes in Louisiana, move too hesitantly; almost all of them could stand tightening up. (The Girl With the Flaxen Flair' is a bright exception.) There is seldom any pressure of wit in the sober prose, which is dense and netgral. But there are scenes that stick in the mind—the southern funeral in 'One Summer,' the swamp fishermen in 'Joshua' huddled together under a sombre rain and the threat, as of a mythical monster, of a German submarine out in the Gulf. In 'Fever Flower,' perililisi taking a hint from Graham Greene's `The Basement Room,' MI5) Grau ingeniously reverses the flashback device, injecting flasi.Zf of the future into her account of a young divorcee's day. .91!c black prince and his girl, in the title story, move from a realis,' world of honky-tonks and razor fights into a realm of ballad,' where even silver bullets can't stop them. All of Miss Grau's are fresh and arresting. If she overcomes her diffuseness OIW, breaks out of her present poker-faced style, she will write soot' of the best American stories of the next few years. There is tale' plenty of it, in this first book. Mr. T. 0. Beachcroft is an honourable older craftsman, whose work is new to me. Aunt Hester, of the title story, is the first °I several outwardly quiet people who pace rancid secret cages °J envy or pride or fear. In the middle of the book, relief is provide, by 'Tea in the Front Room,' a sequence of six tales told by al engaging gossip named Mrs. Jolliffe; she is very entertaining• u the sterner stories those in which a chafing relationship comes tc, a violent end, like the title story of The Sheep Bell,' are not .3 convincing as `One of Her Moods,' in which no more decoy,'] action occurs than the unsuccessful poisoning of a cat, and Yet, sickly atmosphere of menace, arising out of domestic holds the reader captive. The range of feeling in these low-keYe'i stories is not wide; but they have a tart flavour of their own, an `One of Her Moods' is recommended to any anthologist.