I decided that in aid of the holiday a season and people needing stuff to read on planes/in the park (the weather in Glasgow right now is crazy beautiful, very unexpected) that I would give away free downloads of my books this week, Mon 28 May – Fri 1 June.
On each day of the giveaway I wanted to right a short blog post about each of the books in turn, starting today with Beaten to a Pulp!
This was my first foray into self-publishing, essentially an experiment to see how it all worked. It’s a collection of short stories, most of which I’d written in that past year (2015/16), some of which had already been picked up and published by webzines and journals. That said, it does contain some stories I wrote way back in university for various assignments (I got firsts for all of them, if you were interested… probably not.)
All the stories I selected were ‘genre’ pieces. I wanted to create something that would be fun and sometimes gruesome, and so I modelled the collection after cheap paperback pulps, hence the punny title.
There’s some stories in there I feel are important to me. ‘The Mule and the Samurai’ was the first time I attempted writing something non-literary, something that was all just plot and action, and it turned out to be a lot more fun to write than my attempts at faux-profound noodling. Also, it was the first time I decided to use a setting that wasn’t overly familiar to me – I had just been on a holiday to Japan and it struck me that it would be cool to try and write some stories about it. I used bits and pieces of Tokyo that I’d seen for myself and filled in gaps in my knowledge through reading.
‘Year of the Money Lender’ was also important because it led me on to something much bigger (more on that later).
‘MS Found on a Recovered Hard Drive’ is a pastiche of Edgar Allen Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue. I’d been reading Poe’s short stories and Kazuo Ishiguro at the time, that story is the result.
‘Hadrian’s Wall’ [excerpt below] is the best story in the collection, in my own, totally objective, opinion. It worked through some lingering post-indy ref blues for me, and I think its themes are still as current now as they were when I wrote it a couple of years ago. Borders are becoming an increasingly bigger part of world politics, now we live in a Brexit/Trump world.
That’s a sad point to end on…
Anyways, Beaten to a Pulp! is free for the week so go on and give it a try!
P.S. I made the ‘ransom note’ cover myself the old-fashioned way with scissors, glue, and a stack of junk mail. It was oddly satisfying – modern maniacs who make their death threats through Twitter are totally missing out.
The traffic slowed up, splitting into five queues each over a mile long. They’d reached the border. The car rolled to a stop behind a family sedan and Andy yanked the handbrake on, quickly putting his hand back on the steering wheel. He adjusted his clammy grip at ten and two. The hot, sticky afternoon had little to do with his sweaty palms.
Through open car windows came the impatient noise of boxed-in traffic and trapped children. Over it all was a constant electric buzz.
“Drones,” said Andy.
Colin scanned the clear blue sky from the passenger’s side. Even at the border the weather was better than back home. He lifted his sunglasses and squinted at what looked like a bird – a jet black slash against impossibly idyllic baby blue. Its movement was unnaturally slow and steady.
“What good do drones do them?” Colin asked. “Make sure nobody gets out to take a leak?”
Colin chuckled and Andy smiled in spite of himself. He twisted the knob of the air conditioner up to full, as if it could blow away the tension along with the dead summer air.
“Looking for heat signatures,” Andy explained. “Bodies.”
“Aren’t they cold?”
“Live bodies, you eejit; people being smuggled into the country.”
“Ease up, Andy boy, I’m just messing. I’m sure they demand a higher grade of meat for their pies. Welshman or better.” Colin flashed a broad grin that made Andy wonder if Colin really did believe they were going on a lad’s holiday. His t-shirt said “toss my caber” across the front and he was wearing flip-flops.
However, Andy knew it would be his nervousness, his own shifting unease, which would be more likely to get them caught. This made Colin’s boys-on-tour act (if it was an act) all the more irritating.
They crawled forwards an inch at a time and after half an hour the checkpoint came into view. At the head of each queue there was a toll booth and accompanying barrier. A UKBA agent in black armour and traffic-cop glasses stood at the front of each line poking their heads through windows, checking passports and registrations. Machine guns hung from their shoulders like purses.