Friday, 30 September 2011


Last year I went along to a tremendous, free event at the Portobello Book Festival and I've just picked these snippets from Criminal-E:

DOUG JOHNSTONE, writer, musician and journalist, talks to Allan Guthrie about his new novel Smokeheads. This event includes a whisky tasting in collaboration with the Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Join MARIANNE PAGET, new writer; FRANCIS BICKMORE, Senior Editor Canongate Books; and ALLAN GUTHRIE, Literary Agent, author and editor, in a workshop about getting published.

You won't do much better for entertainment next weekend, I can promise you that.  I'm just hoping there are tickets left.

And here's today's interview, please welcome James Everington.
Hi James
Hi, uh, James
This is weird isn't it, interviewing yourself?
Yeah. Solipsistic. But don't you mean 'interviewing myself'?

Don't you mean 'Don't I mean...'

Oh piss off.
Looks let's just start again shall we?
Okay, so you've written some books have...
Wait, aren't I supposed to be asking the questions?
I am.
No I mean, the me in bold?
Shit. Okay, let's start again shall we?
Fine. So you've written some books have you?
Who me?
Only kidding. Yes, I published my first collection of short stories, The Other Room, earlier this year.
[whispering] I think you're supposed to sell it a bit more... Like maybe mention you can get it in the US too?
[whispering] Well ask me some good questions about it then!
Uh. What's it about?
Jesus. Well, okay, it's a collection of horror short stories. Influenced by writers such as Ramsey Campbell, Shirley Jackson, and Robert Aickman these tales, like all good horror stories, are as much about the psychology of the protagonist as the fate that awaits them.
That's was quite good.
Was it?
Yeah, the bit about psychology and,um...
You weren't even listening were you?
Well, let's face it, I've heard you doing your self-promotional spiel so many times now. Do you know how bored I get of the same old bumpf?
Think of the poor readers. I bet they're sick of hearing about The Other Room on every damn forum and blog they visit. Yeah, yeah it's got lots of good reviews. Yeah, yeah some pretty talented authors seem to like it too... Boring!
Hey, they might not know about your new book though.
What The Shelter you mean?
Yeah [cough US too cough]
It's a novella you know. People don't like novellas.
Well why the hell did you write one then?
It just came out that way. 15.5k words is the right length for this story. I wasn't going to artificially inflate the length just to please some namby-pamby readers.
[whispering] They can hear you, you know. So, uh, what's it about?
It's another horror story, about a group of boys in the 1980s, trying to find and break into an abandoned WW2 air raid shelter. I doubt it will spoil it for anyone if I say that things don't go too well when they do. [whispering] Was that okay?
So what do you think you're strengths as a writer are?
Well, uh, I think I'm quite good at atmosphere, at building up that feeling of unease that something, somewhere, has gone wrong. I'm very much influenced by Poe's idea that everything in a short story should work to the same end and... Wait, shouldn't I be asking the questions?
Look, let's just start again shall we?
Fine. So you've written these books and...
James Everington (both of him) blogs at Scattershot Writing. Join him there for even more of this kind of narcissistic nonsense.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Dancing With Myself: DARREN SANT interviews DARREN SANT – The Lamb Shank Redemption

Time's really moving quickly.  Keeps things interesting.

Did you see the news on the possibility that there are particles which move faster than the speed of light?  Apparently that means Einstein would be wrong.  Me, I reckon the readings were inaccurate - it's not that I understand the first thing about physics, I just like Mr Einstein and his lovely quotes.  It's also great to have a dyslexic guy at the top of the tree.  I hope he stays there.

This one's a big surprise for me.  My story Into Thin Air is now number 2 in the Waterstone's e-book short story chart.  Any support you feel like offering in helping me topple 'Three Breasts And A Little Lady' from the number one position would make me very happy.

Other news to make us happy is the release of Pulp Modern.  The list of contributors in the first volume is absolutely delicious, and there's even a piece by the master himself, Lawrence Block.

It looks like the real deal, so go check it out.

And talking about the speed of light, Darren Sant's got all the moves of George Best without having the figure.  He's hit the scene running and he's not stopped since. 

A very big welcome for the most excellent Darren Sant:

 The Lamb Shank Redemption

Confirm your name, age and address for the tape.

Darren Sant. Aged 41. I live in Hull.

Mr. Sant we have found evidence of criminal acts on your hard drive. What do you have to say?

I keep telling you they are short stories. I want my bloody lawyer!


Don’t get cocky with me sunshine. Tell me about the drugs and the car stereos.

Ouch. That’s brutality that is! There were no drugs. It was just a story called A Good Day. I don’t have a “stash” and I haven’t nicked any stereos.

So you are a “writer” are you?


I try to be…

You don’t sound very sure Mr. Sant. Perhaps you could tell me where you hid the Glock .45?

Do I look like the kind of guy who would know how to use a gun? That story was even published online at the Flash Fiction Offensive. You can check it was called Revenge is A Warm 45.

I meet all sorts in my line of work mate you’d be surprised. You’ve got shifty eyes and a slap head. Ever thought of being a Harry Hill impressionist?

F*ck you!


Oh, dear you’ve fallen off your chair. Tell me about the budgie you had killed and all those hits on your PC to Shotgun Honey and Dirty Noir.  Are you some kind of pervert Mr Sant?

It’s just fiction…

So tell us about your writing Mr. Sant?

I write short fiction. Sometimes I write very short flash fiction. My stories are usually set in urban environments that would be familiar to most people. Often it's a story up to five thousand words. They feature dark deeds, revenge, and murder. Sometimes they have a happy ending but more often they don't.

Please speak up for the benefit of the tape. Is it your own criminal acts that inspire these stories?

NO! Life inspires me. People inspire me. The shades of grey between the black and white. Motivation and morality inspire me. The two words "what if" inspire me.


Methinks he doth protest too much eh? Tell us what genre you write in?

I try not to think in those terms.  If a story idea takes hold of me it isn’t necessarily in a specific genre.  For example I’ve just written a story for an anthology that had to be inspired by a song title.  The song I chose had a title that lent itself to sci-fi.  Whilst I don’t consider Sci-fi “my thing” I couldn’t see it coming out any other way so I wrote and it flowed and came out good – I hope. That’s for others to judge.

Having just said that about genres I particularly enjoy writing urban tales and they often feature criminal acts.

Bloody hell fatty you do rattle on don’t you? I didn’t ask for your life story.  Tell me what is your modus operandi is…I erm…mean trademark writing style and speak up for the tape.

Well that could perhaps be best articulated by someone else looking at my writing from an outside perspective. However, I’ll have a go at answering it. I like my stories to have a twist.  The twist can be a be good or bad thing for the characters involved.

I also like to try to include elements of humour even in the darkest of my stories.  Who wants a dark grey tale with no element of colour, no bright spark?  That is my humour.  I have an unfortunate habit, that some like, of having a moral or philosophical slant to some of my stories.  No matter how hard I try this tends to weave itself into the story. I seem to subconsciously almost want to make a point and it’s not always a positive one. I just let this be now it’s part of my style I’ve accepted it.

What crimes…em…projects are you working on?

Far too many projects.  I’ve literally just finished a story called Dope on A Rope that will be featured in an exciting new anthology soon.  This story is one of my more playful humorous efforts. 

In addition to that I am writing the next instalment in my series of urban stories that I call Tales from the Longcroft Estate. I am working on two collaborative short stories with writers from my publisher Trestle Press. Busy times!

Ok boys that’s all we need. Take this scumbag away and throw away the key.  I’ll be down later Mr. Sant with a bucket of taramasalata and an excited llama. You’re for it laddo.


Darren Sant was born in Stoke-on-Trent but has lived in Hull with his wife Julie for over a decade. He is an avid reader that was inspired by a friend to join a creative writing course. The rest is history.  His stories have appeared in Byker Books' excellent Radgepacket series and online at: The Flash FictionOffensive, Shotgun Honey, Pulp Metal and Thrillers, Killers ‘N’ Chillers.

His publishing credits include

Stories in Byker Books Radgepacket volumes 4 and 5.

A collaborative story with Nick Boldock called Firestorm in an anthology called ePocalypse: emails at the end by Pill Hill Press.

His catalogue of work with Trestle Press continues to grow but currently includes:


Saturday, 24 September 2011

Unfinished Business

I had a lovely day yesterday. I was delighted to see a wonderful for Beat On The Brat over at Psycho Noir to follow on from a lovely piece by Elisabeth White earlier in the week.  It's great to see such feedback and it really boost my energy levels hugely. 

I was also honoured to have a piece at one of my favourite fiction sites, Shotgun Honey.  

The story is about riots, the seed of which was planted in me over 25 years ago when watching police on wasteland throwing rocks at each other to prepare for what was to come.  If I write this properly, you'll see the significance of that later.

On Thursday night I was thoroughly entertained by Allan Guthrie and Len Wanner at an even they held in Edinburgh.

Len has recently put out a collection of interviews with Scottish crime-writers which would seem to have a depth and curiosity in them that digs deeply into the authors and their craft.  It looks rather good.

Among the things discussed on Thursday was revisiting e-books to have improved copies available.

It's not something I've given much thought to.

Len, possibly as devil's advocate, was suggesting that a piece of art such as a novel might be best left in a 'final' perfect state.

Allan, on the other hand, holds a strong position on this.  If it can be improved, it should be and that every book can be improved in some way.

He talked about alterations made to Slammer (one of my favourites) as he moved it from a tree-novel to an e-book (UK only, I think).  I makes sense that there was a little ironing and snipping here and there.  Why not?

As he said, if the work is improved, the people who benefit are the readers.

Which took us to the subject of editing.

I think of Allan as the man who opened the curtains for British Crime fiction as it currently stands.  A genius, without doubt, talented in spades and generous to a fault.

With no false humility, he explained how his books might well have other names on his covers as shared credits.  His point, I think, was that no matter how good a book might be when a writer finishes, it will normally take a fresh look from experienced eyes to point out what works and what doesn't and how things might be changed.

Criticism, then, is a vital part of the process.  Few of us, the Great Guthrie included, can get away from that.

Allan suggested that Slammer could have the names Ray Banks, Stacia Decker and Stuart MacBride as assists or even as co-authors.  Imagine having those guys in your corner.  Bam.

Which brings me back to those police throwing stones.

My story started with this, a long intro where I re-lived this powerful moment of my youth.  I loved it.  It felt like the most important section for me.  I sent it in to the excellent Crimeficwriters and got the usual excellent pointers.

And then in stepped AJ Hayes.  The guys a master.  Honestly.

I trust his opinion absolutely.

I wanted to hear the 'it's pure genius and don't you dare touch a hair on its head' stuff, but I got a thought about rearranging the whole thing.   It would involve amputation.  Removal of the heart and lungs.  Getting rid of the cornerstone.

That was the next part. 

There's not point in asking for advice and then dismissing it out of hand.

I thought about it.  Thought about it some more.  Waited until the penny dropped and out came the saw.

You can't judge, but I can guarantee you that the story is twice as good now as it was.  AJ deserves a co-editor assist on Stones In Me Pockets.  Big thanks. 

Big thanks to R Thomas Brown for offering his thoughts.

This is especially relevant to me on the day I finish my first re-read of my novel.  It's now as I'd like it.  Feels good.  Ticks all of my boxes.  I think it's great. 

Now I'm off to send it to my trusted readers so they can tell me the truth of it all.  'See those woods there?  That's an oak, fool.  And next to it is an horse-chestnut.  Where the hell are your glasses, man?'


Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Dancing With Myself – David Barber Interviewed by The Two Blokes

Dancing With Myself – David Barber Interviewed by The Two Blokes.

“So, what are we doing here?”

“We’ve come to meet our maker.”

“What? Meet our who?”

“We’ve come to see our “creator” and interview him.”

“We’re going to interview God?”

“No, you daft sod.  We’re here to interview David Barber, the bloke who created us.”

“Oh right, the hairdresser from down the road.”


“David, the barber from down the road.”

 “Oh, give me strength. His name is David Barber, and…oh, shit…never mind, he’s here. Hello, David. Take a seat and we can get this over and done with. For the purpose of this interview, I’ve devised a key. I’m sure you could work it out, but here it is:  DB = David Barber, TB1 = Two Blokes 1, TB2 = Two Blokes 2 (the dim one).”

TB2:  I’m not dim!

TB1:  Yes you are! Now shut up and let me get on with it. OK, the following interview is with David Barber. He’s a writer (so he tells us) and the editor of the fantastic webzine, The…oh come on, David. You can’t make us say stuff li… 

DB:  Just read what you’ve been given. OK?

TB1:  …and the editor of the fantastic webzine, The Flash Fiction Offensive.

DB:  Hello.

TB1:  Yeah, whatever. So, name?

DB:  What? You’ve just said who I am.

TB1:  No, you told me to say who you are by writing it down. I’ve got my own questions, if you don’t mind. Apparently, so has he, but my first question is name?

DB:  OK. You already know my name. I’m your creator.

TB2:  Eh?  You’re God?  I thought you were David Bar

TB1:  Holy shit, we’ve already been through that, dopey.

DB:  No, I’m not God. I’m David Barber. I just created you, The Two Blokes.

TB2:  Oh right. And you’re not the barber from down the road?

TB1:  Just try and ignore him, he’s a bit slow.

DB:  Yes, don’t worry. Ok, I’ve got a question for you two.  What are your names?

TB1:  Sorry, that’s a strictly need-to-know basis.

DB:  Well, I could just give you names, seeing as I cr…

TB1:  Sorry for stopping you there, David, but we have some questions and, look…..see, people are already getting bored. God only knows why they want to know about you anyway. OK, a little background please.

DB:  Well, I started writing when…

TB2:  Hmm…hmm, hmm, hmm…hmm…hmm, la-la-la…da-da-da…

TB1:  What the hell are you doing?

TB2:  You said background noise.

TB1:  Background PLEASE, not noise! About David, you daft sod!

DB:  You’re a bit harsh on him, you know.

TB1:  Come on, you’ve heard him, right? Dim as a two watt light bulb.

DB:  You know, I don’t actually think he’s as dim as you think he is.

TB1:  Yeah, right! Anyway, as you were saying…

DB:  OK. I started writing when I was around 19-20. I read a book and thought, I could do that. How little I knew back then. I dabbled in short stories and started a novel, but I eventually fell out of love with it. 

Things happened in my life: I got injured and finished from the fire service, we had kids and moved up to Scotland.  It was then that a good mate, Col Bury, asked me to submit a story to a magazine that he was co-editing with author, MattHilton. I sent a six sentence story called ‘Sorry, Love,’ off to Thrillers,Killers ‘n’ Chillers, which went on to get a 2nd place Bullet Award. My love for writing was rekindled.

TB1:  Great. OK, your question.

TB2:  Eh? Oh, right. I’m having a new kitchen and was wondering if I should have free standing appliances or interrogated. Your thoughts, please.

DB:  What the f**k!

TB1:  It’s integrated, and that wasn’t a writing question.


TB1:  Told you. He’s a dimwit! Apparently, you’re the editor of an online magazine. How did that happen?

DB:  Long story short. I emailed a friend – and a great writer – Glenn G Gray, about his writing and if he had any new stories coming out, etc. After a bit of email tennis, he told me he’d recommended me to his pal, Matt Louis, who runs Gutter Book Publishers and Out Of The Gutter magazine. Matt was looking for someone to take the reigns over at The Flash Fiction Offensive. The rest, as they say, is history.

TB2:  Who?

TB1:  What are you on about?

TB2:  David just said that ‘they’ said it’s history.

TB1:  God help us!

DB:  Nobody said it. It’s just a saying.


TB1:  Tell us about your writing. Where do your stories come from and what’s your favourite genre?

DB:  Wow. Erm, my stories come from…well, you know I’m not sure. I used to write a lot for challenges, where you were given a starter sentence or a photo prompt or a series of words. I’d sit down and a story would just develop. I get ideas a lot of while I’m working. I’ll be tiling at an old house, go outside for a break, look up at a window and in my mind I’d see the face of a troubled child, a terrified woman or a crazed man. Then a news headline would stir the creative juices. An old man stood in a queue at a cash machine. They can come from anywhere and everywhere.

My favourite genre? I started off writing horror stories when I was younger, and then more recently I’ve been writing crime. I don’t think I have a favourite though. I just love words.

TB1:  Good answer.

DB:  Thanks.

TB1:  Don’t thank me, you wrote the question. What are you working on at the minute?

DB:  I’m working on a novel with a working title of The Court. I’m hoping to have that finished by my next birthday, 5th Jan 2012. There’s a good chance that it could turn into a series involving the same characters. I’ve got another couple of ideas for novels with working titles of The Wrong Coat and In Search Of Perfection.

I’m also working on a couple of stories for anthologies I’ve been invited into and a few short stories which I intend on sending out to magazines.

TB2:  Why don’t you just publish your own stories if you run a magazine? Ouch!

TB1:  See what I mean? He comes out with something intelligent and it hurts him.

TB2:  I banged my knee on the table leg!


DB:  OK, guys. Calm down. Simple answer to your question about publishing my own work is all about honesty. I don’t think I’d get honest feedback if I published myself. People could see it as a bit of an ego trip. Just because I’m the editor of the magazine, then I think I’m a great writer and should automatically be published. 

For me it doesn’t work like that. I prefer to keep my writing and the magazine separate. I’d rather send my work out to other magazines to find out if my stories are good enough. After all, I have my own blog to publish my own work.

TB2:  Is there a toilet in here?

DB:  Just down the hallway, last door on the left.

TB1:  Right, while he’s gone, we need to talk. Is there any chance you could…like…kill him off or something? You know, give me a more intelligent mate?

DB:  Let’s get one thing straight, buddy. If it wasn’t for him, there wouldn’t be a YOU! Live with it.

TB1:  Ok, Ok. Maybe that was a bit harsh. I apologise. 

DB:  No worries.

TB1:  Where did The Two Blokes, us two, come from? That’s a weird question for me to ask!

DB:  One of the writing challenges I spoke of earlier. I’d left it until the last minute to write something for it and the four words to be used just seemed perfect for a conversation. So, you two just appeared, sat at the bar of a pub. The thing is: now you just won’t go away.

TB1:  We aim to…annoy! Ha!

TB2:  Phew! Sorry guys, but if you need the toilet you’d better give it 15, maybe 20 minutes. Woo!

TB1:  Way too much info. To wrap it up then, have you got a question for David?

TB2:  Oh, right. Err, yes, actually I have. When I have my kitchen done, and seeing as you’re a self-employed tiler, is there any chance you could do the tiling for me? You know, on the cheap. Mates rates?

DB:  F**k off!  Three beers please, mate!



David Barber was born and bred in Manchester, England, but now lives in Crieff, Scotland with his wife, Lisa, and their two daughters.  He wrote some years ago but was inspired to write again by an old friend and the beauty that surrounds him.  He has been published on numerous e-zines, including Thriller, Killers ‘n’ Chillers, A Twist of Noir, The New Flesh and Blink Ink.  He also has a couple of pieces of writing appearing in two anthologies.  He is currently working on a few projects including a novel.  He can be found lurking at

Thanks David for an excellent approach - loved it.  And good luck with all those pies your fingers are in.

Other news:
If you're in Scotland, or you plan to be here tomorrow, here's the place to be:


Thursday, 22nd Sept.
University of Edinburgh
Ground Floor Lecture Theatre
Hugh Robson Building
George Square
Thu 22nd Sept, 6.30pm-7.45pm

Join Allan Guthrie and Len Wanner in what promises to be a fun, eventful and informative evening in celebration of Scottish crime fiction as Len discusses his highly acclaimed collection of in-depth interviews with some of Tartan Noir's finest exponents, DEAD SHARP: SCOTTISH CRIME WRITERS ON COUNTRY AND CRAFT, with digital publisher, literary agent and award-winning crime novelist, Allan Guthrie.

I'll be going straight from the hospital from my therapy group.

And if I ever knew that AA Milne wrote crime fiction, I'd forgotten.  I picked up on it yesterday at Crime Fiction Lover.  Not only did they tell me about it, they told me where I could download it to my Kindle for free.  Check that out.

PULP FICTION received a welcome shot of enthusiasm from the wonderful Elizabeth White who said in her introduction:

'Edited by Nigel Bird and Chris Rhatigan, Pulp Ink is a blistering collection of 24 deliciously dark tales, each based on a song from the Pulp Fiction movie soundtrack. Murder and madness, sex and seduction, revenge and redemption, Pulp Ink has a little bit of everything going on.'

Into Thin Air, amazingly enough, was in the top ten e-book short stories at Waterstones this weekend, the first nine places being held by erotic fiction.  I don't publicise this too much as it feels expensive for a short story at £1:12, but then it's only the price of two Mars Bars and has none of the calories.  Imagine.

Shotgun Honey have had some great stories up (as usual) and have also had a really good interview with John Rector which is well worth checking out.

Cash Laramie still tops the Western Charts at Amazon while Keith Rawson doesn't (but then it's not a Western collection).

And here we have Two Blokes.  Watch out for the sparks.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

WHERE THE WILD THINGS WERE - the bird brothers are back

So then, where were we?

Oh, that's right... after producing eight volumes of 'The Rue Bella' collections, as well as three volumes by individual poets, both of us Bird brothers were pulled under by the demands of growing families compounded by the fatigue that sets in once you've put some serious miles on the small press poetry clock.

It's no exaggeration to say that things have changed enormously in the meantime in the world we left behind; where once there were hours spent building websites out of bits of twine and pritt-stick, and getting books published by printers who normally dealt with laminating curry-house menus because they were the cheapest - now there are all the benefits of a mature e-publishing world. No longer does visibilty depend on the cash-strapped poetry buyers in the high street, and lugging boxes of books from the backdoor of the printer's is a thing of the past.

Yes, there is a nostalgia that inevitably goes along with recalling those days, but there's also a sense of jubilation about the possibilities that have now opened up, allowing not just ourselves to produce this first 'best of' collection without breaking our backs, but also to those thousands of younger folk out there who might want to start up their own press. There's really nothing stopping you - and if you're reading this, now, wondering whether you should - then stop thinking and get doing. We may be a few years down the track and a few years none the wiser, but what time does allow you to appreciate is just how valuable certain endeavours really were in your younger days. For both of us The Rue Bella remains one of our proudest achievements - not just in the quality of the poetry (though it's gratifying to see just how much has, we think, stood the test of time so well), but because we simply did it and have the line of books on the shelves to prove it. Virtue, said Carols Williams, is in the effort. If Rue Bella were a piece of rock, those would be the words running all the way down the middle. We sincerely hope you think the effort was worth it.

The cover for this collection comes, as so often in our earlier volumes, from the lens of our dear friend Greg Piggot.

The passage of time was never required to appreciate either his talent or his warm embrace of life . Here's to you, sir.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Things Change

Things change.

Did you ever see the Don Amichi movie of that title? It’s fantastic. I guess I should add it to my Love Film list while I remember.

It’s true that they do. Nothing stays the same.

I reread a short story this week, The Necklace by Guy De Maupassant. The way I responded to it this time was very different from my reading the first time round.

When I was a teenager, thirteen or so, I was a very reluctant reader. I’d spend the ‘silent reading’ sessions in English pretending to read and just daydream away. If I could go back and advise that youngster to take in the words, to actually make the effort to engage with the texts we were offered, I would – sadly, the thing about change is that it can’t often be controlled.

Anyway, I did read The Necklace when Bob Kennedy (English teacher and rugby coach) gave out the books and identified the theme for the lesson.

I have no idea why it grabbed my attention so. It’s old-fashioned in many ways, with a high density of description, the time-difference between then and now and a theme relating to a class structure I couldn’t fathom. I guess he just tells a damned good story.

If you want to read it for yourself without having it ruined, stop now. Here’s your spoiler alert.

Mathilde, the main character, is a thing of rare beauty. The unfortunate thing for her is not so much the fact that she marries into the lower middle-class, but that she is so painfully aware of the way the aristocracy and their ilk enjoy the finer things of life in a way that she is unable to.

It comes to pass that her ‘clerk in the Ministry Of Public Instruction’ husband has managed to secure tickets for a grand ball. It should be a dream come true, but Mathilde cries at the prospect of having to attend in ‘rags’.

Her husband agrees to spend all the savings he has, the money set aside for a hunting rifle, on a fine dress of her choosing.

When the dress arrives, Mathilde remains unsatisfied. Yes, it’s beautiful, but without fine jewellery it might as well be a sheet with a hole in the middle to poke her head through.

Hubby again steps in. Suggests she borrows a piece from a friend who has married into riches.

Off she goes to see Madame Forestier and, from the choice of anything in the boxes, she plumps for an exquisite diamond necklace.

Mathilde goes to the ball and, like Cinderella, is the talk of the town. Her husband joins other tired husbands in a side room as they doze and wait for their wives to make the most of the event.

When the couple get home, they discover that something’s wrong – the necklace has disappeared.

The husband retraces all steps and they pursue every possible avenue of explanation, but the necklace is gone forever,

Tracking down the piece in a jeweller’s, they discover it would cost a fortune to replace. They explain to Madame Forestier that the clasp needs fixing and they buy return the replacement only after they’ve taken out loans that far exceed their means (they could have probably bought a large chateau in the country, to help to put the value into perspective).

The couple spend the next ten years working their fingers to the bone in very poor circumstances as pay off their debt.

Mathilde, debt finally paid, is a shadow of her former self, has aged well-beyond the natural alteration ten years would cause.

Wandering by the Seine, she encounters Madame Forestier, who notes how much her friend has changed.

Mathilde explains all. Tells M. Forestier that it’s all down to the losing of the necklace. That she’s been working on menial tasks non-stop since that then.

Here I was, then, aged thirteen and gripped by the story, it suddenly dawning on me that the course of life might be altered completely in a tiny moment or act. And Maupassant has saved the killer blow to the end.

“Oh, my poor Mathilde! Why the necklace was paste! It was worth, at most, five hundred francs.”

The writer had stolen my breath. Might as well have punched me in the gut (felt like he really had). He made me incredibly sad as I thought how this woman’s life had been ruined by this one careless moment, how a night of fun and Mathilde’s vanity had conspired against her.

It just wasn’t fair.

So, over thirty years on, I had the same response even though I knew what was coming. In fact, I was craving that slap in the face again to see just why it had effortlessly etched itself on my mind.

I wasn’t disappointed either.

But this time, as I sat back to soak in the sadness, I had a different thought. And it was this: Yes, the woman and her husband had slaved away for ten years and had done without all treats that needed paying for, but they now had the chance to get the necklace back and sell it off for the 40 000 francs it was worth. They could buy a place, a nice place, and live without working for the rest of their lives. I think I’d settle for that.

As I say, things change.

The only thing that remains the same is the huge amount of pleasure a few pages of prose was able to give me.

Go try out a collection of his work; I doubt you’ll regret it.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


Busy times and busy lives. 

I'm here to put a few things into a nutshell, put them out there for you to taste to see if you like them.  Hopefully there are a few squirrels tuning in.

OK.  First off is a the SUPER DISCOUNT of the title.  What it means is this.  If you spend your 86p (in the UK) or your $1.40 ish (in the US) on Beat On The Brat (And Other Stories), you'll be able to pick up the already legendary collection PULP INK for the meagre price of only 99c at Smashwords.

The way it works is this.  On the penultimate page of Beat On The Brat is a voucher code.  Make a note of it, mosey on over to Smashwords and get yourself a Pulp Ink bargain.

If you're not convinced about how much of a great deal that is, you'll find both books selected as Best Short Story E-book Collections over at Crime Fiction Lover (with a few other peaches besides).

There have been some other great things worthy of mention recently and I'd like to give voice to a few.

John Kenyon is setting up a new magazine called Grift.  Follow the link to find out what that's all about - it looks very exciting.

Darren Sant is following up his excellent Longcroft Estate story with another - Community Spirit, which has to be worth a few bob of anyone's money.  He's also involved with the recent poetry feasts at Close To The Bone.  It's become a regular Tuesday feature.

Talking of poetry, the readers (the select few) of The Day My Coat Stuck On My Head have given some wonderful feedback, including children (for whom the work's intended).  I'm delighted by that.

I love a piece I read today over at Sabrina Ogden's place by Josh Stallings.  The more I get to know the man, the more I love him.  Well worth a read.

The Kindle store at Byker Books is full of 99p treats and Allan Guthrie has released Slammer as an e-book for the same 99p price in the UK (and that's not to be missed).

And Jen Forbus says lovely things about community - bang on.

Till soon.

Sunday, 11 September 2011


the skyline

tiered up like a wedding cake

till someone came to take a slice

and whipped the cherry from the top

taken from Busted Flat

Friday, 9 September 2011

Dancing With Myself: IAIN ROWAN interviews IAIN ROWAN

Interview started, 11:05am, 3rd September 2011, present one Iain Rowan, and myself, Iain Rowan. Could you please state your full name for the tape.
Iain Rowan.

You claim to be a writer Mr Rowan, is that correct?

Yeah, I guess so.

You guess so? Or you are?

OK, OK, I am.

Do you have any evidence that would support this claim?

Suppose so. I've had thirty short stories published in a variety of places, and I've written a couple of novels. Look, what's this all--

And you consider that this makes you a writer?

Well, I dunno, I'm someone who writes, but --

Someone who writes, you claim? Very interesting. We'll come back to that later on, Mr Rowan. Right now I'd like you to tell us, for the benefit of the tape, what this 'writing' consists of.

Crime fiction, mostly. But also a fair amount of - well, horror never feels the right word. Macabre, chilling, weird, whatever. That.

Can you provide any evidence of this 'writing'. We hear people make all kinds of claims in here.

I pulled together a collection of my crime fiction that had been published in places like Ellery Queen's, Hitchcock's and Hardluck Stories, and I've published it as an ebook called NOWHERE TO GO. There's a special offer on throughout September, it's usually $2.99, but it's down to 99c, also available in the UK.

I don't take kindly to attempts at bribing me, Mr Rowan. Especially when it's recorded on tape. People actually like this 'writing' of yours, do they?

Honest, I'm as surprised as you. But they seem to. One of the stories in NOWHERE TO GO won the Derringer Award for best short story, and another was the basis for a novel that was shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger. I got to go to an awards dinner at the Hilton and everything, was very exciting. Apart from James Naughtie's guest of honour speech. That was one of the longest years of my life.

Shortlisted, you say.


That means it didn't win.

Yes. Yes, it does.

I see. Well, I think we better move quickly on. Sources have told us that you 'dislike writing crime fiction with a police protagonist'. Got something against the police, have you?

No, nothing. It just doesn't interest me as much. I'm far more interested in writing about ordinary people who are caught up in things that they can't control, about the edges of society and the people who live there. People with no power, little control over their lives, no resources. I find that much more fertile ground for the kinds of stories that I want to tell than a character who can bring to bear all the power and resources of the state. I much prefer people who have Nowhere To Go. Get it?

Please stop, Mr Rowan, or I will have to arrest you for assaulting a police officer, because my sides will split with laughter. Apparently you also write horror fiction. Bit of a psycho, are you? Like a bit of blood and gore?

What? No! Anyway, I don't like to describe my stuff as horror fiction, because then people do think it's all gore and violence. And there's none of that. It's lower-key, unsettling, chilling. Like with my crime fiction, I've brought my previously published short stories into an ebook collection called ICE AGE. Stories in there were reprinted in the Best New Horror anthology, nominated for the British Fantasy Award and featured in other anthologies nominated for the Stoker and Shirley Jackson awards.

You're mentioning these ebook things quite often. Big fan, are we?

I am. While there are genuine issues about how readers will find their way to the best fiction when, being blunt, the vomiting of the world's slushpiles all over Amazon will mean there is a lot of very poor work out there, I think the democratisation of publishing is a very good thing. I love the idea that there can be a resurgence of fiction that might have previously not seen the light of day because it was commercially unviable, whether that's because it's an awkward length, or because an editor - who actually likes it - simply doesn't think it will sell enough to convince the accountants.

I'm not keen on the evangelical 'ebooks-are-wonderful', 'legacy publishing-is-predatory-dinosaur' polarisation of discussion that is very common at the moment. Trad publishing has found and nurtured and published many amazing writers, and it's stacked full of people who are passionate about books. But it's maybe also true that there's a danger that it encourages certain kinds of fiction, by certain kinds of writers, and I think it's a great development that people can just take another route now, and go off and try and do it for themselves. It's a little bit reminiscent of the diy ethic of indie music back when that phrase actually meant something. As long as you close your eyes and pretend that Amazon isn't a corporate behemoth doing things solely because it coldly calculates that those things are a better way to market dominance.

I do love the idea that short stories that I've had published in magazines that are long off the newsstands can be given a new lease of life, and a new audience, hence the two collections. And I'm really looking forward to more adventures in e-publishing, and I'm playing with some ideas around serial fiction at the moment.

But I'm also still exploring options for print publication, and my novel One of Us (the one which was shortlisted for the Debut Dagger) is out with agents at the moment. At some point though, if that doesn't work out, I'll probably go the ebook route with that, and send my next novel out to agents. I'm an enthusiast for the opportunities that e-publishing brings, but I think there's still a huge amount to be said for print publication, from reaching a wider audience to the simple, egotistic validation of being able to walk into a bookshop and put your books in the most prominent place when the staff aren't looking.

I see. Very revealing. You have one of these internet blogs, don't you Mr Rowan.

I do. It's at .

I'll take your word for it, don't know much about all this double-u double-u double-u dot com dot http dot internet dot facebook dot com business. A reliable source who knows more about these things tells me that you spend a lot of time interviewing co-conspirators in this writing game.

I do, and people have been hugely generous with their time, and come up with some really interesting discussion about their writing careers, the future of publishing, and lots more.

Oh, believe me Mr Rowan, we'll be keeping a very close eye on them all. Now, let me take you back to your previous claim to be a 'writer'. Would you say you write as much as you should do?

Well I think I've done reasonably -

Reasonably? I didn't ask you about reasonably, Mr Rowan, or how you have done. You claim to be a writer, do you write as much as you should do?

I've had over thirty short stories published and -

Answer the question, Mr Rowan.


Answer the question, Mr Rowan.

No, I don't.

Louder, for the tape please.

No, I should be writing more. But to be fair there's reasons, you've got to listen--

Interview terminated at 11:50am. Take him away.