A Stroke of the Pen: The Lost Stories

Harper. Oct. 2023. 240p. ISBN 9780063376199. $26.99. FANTASY
This book is a short and slightly bittersweet portrait of Pratchett (1948–2015) as a young writer, as seen through this collection of long-lost and forgotten short stories, originally published in the Western Daily Press newspaper in the 1970s and ’80s under a pseudonym. They reflect an author in search of his craft, but there are hints of the Discworld to come in the Blackbury stories, which revolve around a precursor of Unseen University, and particularly in the standout story in the collection, “The Quest for the Keys,” about a proto-Rincewind facing a younger but still savvy version of Cohen the Barbarian set in a Morpork that has not yet annexed its Ankh. The stories are very short indeed and don’t quite reflect the writer Pratchett became during the magnificently long run of the “Discworld” series, but the development of his authorial voice and the earliest seeds of what later became Discworld are there for readers who still miss his inimitable style.
VERDICT Fans of Pratchett (The Shepherd’s Crown) will love questing through these stories for bits of Ankh-Morpork.
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