How? Where has the year gone? I demand it back! (A do-over that is, I’m not wanting to relive the whole pandemic from March again, monkey paw.)
It’s been a while since my last post as I’ve been keeping myself busy on the writing front. I also moved back to Glasgow after a couple of years in the blowy north east. I think I’ve selectively forgotten just how rainy it is here, I need to grow my gills back.
This time last year I was celebrating my fantasy noir novel Burying the Dragon being accepted for publication by Möbius Books – a small press based in the US. This is still in the pipeline but because of the knock-on effect on the publisher’s schedule from delays due to you-know-what it’s looking like it’ll be sometime next year before it’s in print – something to look forward to in 2021, at least.
Sooner rather than later, though, is the release of New Writing Scotland 38: The Last Good Year, which features my short story On the Plate along with work from some incredible writers including Krishan Coupland, Dean Atta, and Shoreline of Infinity poetry editor Russell Jones. I’m really stoked to be in such illustrious company and as NWS is one of the journals I’ve been dying to get into for years I also feel like I’ve hit a personal milestone with this one.
While I’ve not found the time lately for my usual review roundups, I thought I’d include in this update a few titles I’ve enjoyed lately.
First up: Terminal 3 by my Möbius Books stablemate Illimani Ferreira. This is Illimani’s debut and the first of Möbius’s 2020 schedule to finally hit the market – huge congratulations to both of them! Terminal 3 is a humorous sci-fi novel about the staff of an intergalactic spaceport in future LA. It boasts a quirky sense of humour, an absolutely brutal sarcasm, and deep underneath, a warm and hopeful heart. The edge of a whole, strange universe is glimpsed from the windows of the chaotic hub of the terminal, and I hope one day Illimani will take us on another trip out there.
The second issue of new Scottish lit journal Extra Teeth is another beezer, with short stories from Katalina Watt (a fellow Cymera 2020 Brave New Words author), Alice Ash, and Alycia Pirmohamed, ranging from the surreal to the mystical and the worlds in between. My favourites of the collection were Table Manners by Jan Carson (about a woman whose magical touch reverses any food into its original state, i.e. if she touches a leg of fried chicken, it becomes a feathery, clucking, pecking live chicken, along with the flour and milk used to make the batter) and Hair by Isha Karki, which I don’t think I could explain well in so few words so I’ll just say it’s a masterpiece and you should go and read it.
Checkpoint by Joe Donnelly (published by Edinburgh’s “Nasty Women of Publishing”, 404 Ink) is an incredible look at mental health through the lens of video games. Donnelly shares his own painful experiences of depression and anxiety and how playing video games – and sharing space with the online communities that grow around them – has benefitted him over the years, while also shining a light on various projects that aim to improve mental health in the industry and games which make mental health their focus.
I found a lot to relate to here, having some mental health issues of my own, as will many others (suicide is the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK, and no matter how many times I see that statistic written down – whether in this book or anywhere else – it still shocks me). Also, as something of a lapsed gamer, the passion on show really makes me want to pick up the joypad again. Luckily, Donnelly has lots of recommendations to get stuck into.
I also recently picked up The Honjin Murders by Seichi Yokomizo, translated for the first time into English last year by Louise Heal Kawai and published by Pushkin Vertigo. A Japanese mystery classic from the 1970s, it introduces one of the genre’s famous detectives, Kosuke Kindaichi, a boyish, scruffy former drug addict who is more the archetype of a sleuth like Columbo than a haughty, show-off Sherlock Holmes descendent. A classic locked-room mystery, the solution is as complex and contrived as you’d hope and, with a meta-twist that feels both classic and contemporary, the tale of the bride and groom brutally slain on their wedding night is told as a true story by the narrator/author. What’s not to love!?
I’ve also been getting into some of the big hits of the year, including the excellent Blacktop Wasteland by S. A. Cosby and (my current read, which I’m really digging) Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I’m planning to skew my TBR pile towards some of the lauded Scottish books that have come out recently – really keen to read Shuggie Bain (Douglas Stuart), Scabby Queen (Kirsten Innes), and The Young Team (Graeme Armstrong) – so for anyone wanting to get me a birthday or Christmas present…