Thursday, December 19, 2013

Charlie's Top 7 Short Stories

I like short stories. Hey, what a coincidence... I have a new short story out! It is called LOVE WILL TEAR US APART and is a cautionary tale about what happens when zombies and romance get mixed up. Seriously. But there's one catch: it's only available for Kindle. Sorry. I know how much you love paper. But hey, this is the way things are going.

To commemorate this event, please accept a list of my all time top 7 favourite (at time of writing) short stories:

In the Hills, the Cities - Clive Barker
Ostensibly horror on account of its inclusion in Barker's Books of Blood, this one starts as an Eastern Euro weird tale and ends up just blowing your mind. With horror 
The Lottery - Shirley Jackson
I think all small communities should read this. Then lay down their stones 
The Swimmer - John Cheever
Has there ever been such a brilliant example of starting in one place and ending up somewhere so utterly different? But really, when you think about it, not going anywhere 
Savannah River Payday - Erskine Caldwell
No short story has hit me with the savagery of casual violence as much as this one from the master of the Deep South 
The Pattern - Ramsey Campbell
Similar to the above by Caldwell, the explosion of violence is both eye-watering and somehow inevitable 
City Fishing - Steve Rasnic Tem
Sometimes you just know things are going to end badly. Especially when there is a dead crow flopping around in the footwell of your car 
The Last Great Paladin of Idle Conceit - Paul Meloy
Meloy proves himself a virtuoso at taking a real life (dead) character and turning it to his own ends (Lenny Bruce). And simultaneously honouring him

If you're going to check out LOVE WILL TEAR US APART (UK, US, Can), please, whatever you do, read it BEFORE any of the above. Thanks.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Author Culpa

Just read on a blog that someone read one of my books and got lost at the end. In other words, he or she does not know how it ended, after investing all that time in reading it. The blogger also adds that he is sure that this is his fault, not mine.

I beg to differ.

Even though a book could only have ended one way. Even though I believed it to be the perfect ending, foreshadowed in several places (including the first line of the book) and summing up a lot of things about how this protagonist's life has gone. Even though my editor loved that ending, recognised its potential ambiguity and worked with me to make it clearer. Even though [insert excuse here]... is not that blogger's fault.

It is the author's fault, every time.

Every time a reader gets lost at the end of a book. Every time they yawn and put it down, switch on the TV instead. Every time they throw it across the room a little too hard, inadvertently hitting that goldfish bowl and causing the poor fish undue mental trauma while it thrashes helplessly on the chic, exposed floorboards. Every time they read the book, like it enough, put it back on the shelf and immediately forget all about it.

Each time one of these little failures happens it is my fault.

If you are a writer and you don't agree, just think of the way books are these days. This isn't the fifties. We don't have a pulp fiction stand on every intersection of every main street of every city. We don't have half the punters on the train to work with their nose in a book (or if we do, it's the same book). We don't have the written page as the premier format of storytelling. We don't have shit, dear author. Least of all a fair chance of making a living out of this gig.

So what do we have?

One opportunity to grab a reader's attention, every time we are lucky enough to have someone pick up our book.

Use it.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Meet the Deadfolk: Fenton on Fenton

To the untrained eye, Mangel is a soft touch of a place. And Fenton's eye is most definitely untrained. Were he to train it, he might notice that the people of Mangel, though unsophisticated, are bastards. They don't trust you, outsider, but will ride you for all you are worth. And you are worth a lot, right? Waltzing into town in your flash motor, buying up the town's premier piss house in cash. But there's something else you have, isn't there? Something you are hiding. Something they want. But enough about the people of Mangel, let's here from the man himself, "Mr" Fenton...

Club owner
Fave film:
Catch Me if You Can

“Sometimes I wonder how I ended up in such a hellhole. But then I relax, sit back and remember: This is meant to be exile, not a holiday camp. A necessary solution, engineered to cut myself off from my past and live in safety. NO ONE will find me here. That’s the whole point – Mangel is the arse hole of the universe, a tiny little corner that doesn’t even show on the map. OK, so I could have fled to Spain, Thailand, Rio. But something brought me here. And when I saw Hoppers – a fire-damaged shell of a building at the time – I knew. Hoppers is my project. I’m king here, ruling over all these little people who just want to fuck, fight and get drunk. This is my kingdom. As long as my past doesn’t catch up with me.”