In 'Death by Art Deco', successful author Andrea Heysham regrets agreeing to judge the 'Untapped Talent Short Story Competition' the very minute that submissions start pouring through her letterbox. After tarnishing most of the manuscripts with red wine and cigarette ash, she finally chooses one, by 17-year old Lily, to be her winner - but her fellow judges disagree and she is out-voted. Outraged and humiliated, Andrea decides to approach the star-struck but vulnerable Lily with a proposition.
In 'The Index of Embarrassment', Freddy visits his Uncle Bob, a misanthropic recluse who has spent decades compiling an 'index of embarrassment' - a collection covering everything from song lyrics to the human body. When Bob's neighbour, Dennis, is found hanged in his apartment, Bob dismisses the tragedy and is more concerned with retrieving the stepladder he had lent to the deceased. Alarmed by this latest display of cold cynicism, Freddy resolves to endure all manner of embarrassment in the name of human kindness, lest he end up like his uncle.
Part of the Storycuts series, these two stories were previously published in the collection The Atmospheric Railway.