I am a writer. I live on Scotland’s west coast.
Summertime, I like open water swimming. I’m a member of a team who swim in lochs and rivers and the sea.
I like cycling. I have a tourer bicycle. There are mornings I load the panniers and tail the coastline. Pass the day on the bike. Fat miles. I’ve done my share of 100 milers. Cycling is a favourite spring/summer passtime.
Wintertime I write and read and play chess and swim at a health club.
My parents and grandparents were readers. They read the big novels.
Mother read the Russian and Asian and North American and South American authors. She read Scots and English and Welsh and Irish authors. And the poets. She cherished James Joyce and Joan Didion and Carol Shields and Dorothy Parker and Leo Tolstoy.
Grandpa championed Joseph Conrad and Samuel Beckett and Ernest Hemingway and Saul Bellow.
Gran loved Katherine Mansfield.
They rated other authors too, but special liked these ones.
Grandpa was my pal. I grew up close to him. Not ‘living near him’ close. Spirit close. He took me places. Up the town walks. Museum visits. Library trips to swap gran’s novels. We hiked woodlands and hills and fished lochs and burns and streams. He was funny and chatty and warm. A storyteller. And a joketeller. Here’s a typical him and me day…
Grandpa and me fishing. I’m nine…
Me: ‘I’m bored.’
Grandpa: ‘Wheesht, Mike. The fish’ll hear.’
‘It’s been ages. Nothing’s biting.’
‘There, you spooked it. A moby dickler. Set to gob my worm.’
‘So it was.’
‘Me too. Cod you pass me a sandwich?’
Here’s another time. Grandpa and me hiking. I’m seven…
Me: ‘Wow. See that bee?’
Grandpa: ‘Big buzzer, eh. See the warrior on its back? Waving his axe.’
‘Ha ha ha. No there wasn’t.’
‘Knock knock, Mike.’
‘Beezer black and yellow.’
That’s my grandpa. One day he quiet left me. I carried his coffin. He is my ever friend.
My mother. A steel honest woman. Witty and kind and sillyish and smart. A crossword solver. Cryptic specialist. My infanthhood I felt safe with her. Small hour nighttime, when I woke feary, her lamplight came in my open door. I heard her breathe. Heard her page turn. I liked hearing her read when the house was groany and dark. I easy fell asleep to her breath.
I see her at the stove, open book in hand, pot stirring, away with the words.
Boyhood, I liked folklore stories. The dark ones. Black deeds of connivers, pot stirrers, forest peddlers and child-hater witches.
I also liked Science Fiction stories. And ghost stories.
Memorable childhood books –
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken.
The Death of Grass by John Christopher.
Ghost Stories by M. R. James.
The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Keatley Snyder.
The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick.
The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guen.
Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
Child of God by Cormac McCarthy. (Early me read it).
The Brothers Grimm Tales.
On my tenth birthday, grandpa’s gift was a Jack London anthology.
Jack London WOWED me. That raw world.
Bedtime, I lived Alaska. I heard midnight wolves sing to the moon lonely. I saw the moon huge. Silver sad above the wolves. I loved and feared the gold prospectors, the good and blackhearted. Men grizzly as the bears. I saw many beaten gibbery in the white wild.
Reading Jack London, my want to write happened. Within a month of reading him I had written a notebook of stories.
Aged 14, I wrote a short novel. Schoolpals and teachers passed it around. They were in it.
I have since written many stories. Enough to fill a dozen books. And perhaps a dozen stories that would make one good book.
Up the lane I joined a writers group. I read more books. Past and contemporary authors. After a learny time I left the group.
I read and read and reread.
In 2011, I was shortlisted for the Bridport Short Story Prize. And The Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award.
December 2012, my short story – Bone Dirt – was a Top 25 Finalist in Glimmer Train’s Fiction Open Prize.
I was happy.
Glimmer Train is a world regal literary journal .
The Fiction Open is Glimmer Train’s top prize. Unpublished writers take on established published authors.
My short story ‘Gomorrah Shade’ was a winner in the Fish Short Story Prize. The story is in the Fish Anthology 2014. I’m delighted and honoured. The Fish Anthology is worldwide revered.
My novel EDEN DUST is written. Four years work.
My story combines naturalism – the way people talk and behave – and big unnatural, dehumanising situations.
How I describe my novel – Think esoteric Twin Peaks. But adulter.
There is grief and cowardice and perversion and loneliness and spite. There is pure love. And grey humour. And death. There are five characters. One is the earthscape.
An extract from my novel is published in Unthology 4 by Unthank Books. A prestigious short story collection. It was an exciting day for me when the piece was selected by the editors in Cambridge. I share pages with some of Britain’s finest authors. I read at the book launch in November 2013.
Two reviews of Unthology 4 are posted on my blog.
I’m near done with editing the novel.
As things stand, my MS will sail to four agents and two editors. London and New York.
Unthank Books editor, Ashley Stokes, is a fine author of literary fiction. I recommend his short story collection The Syllabus of Errors.
I have big respect for author David Rose. His short story collection Posthumous Stories is a book I’ve read and reread.
There are authors I return to. Rereading them I remember the first time I read them. My age and place and feelings when I found them.
I like many authors, from many countries, past and contemporary authors. Recently I read the African authors. I have a sunshine spot for Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi.
My top twelve novelists in random order are…
Flannery O’Connor; Carson McCullers; John McNeillie; Charles Frazier; Saul Bellow; Christina Stead; Carol Shields; William Gay; Marilynne Robinson; Kent Haruf; John Banville; Cormac McCarthy.
My top twelve short story authors in random order are…
Katherine Mansfield; Jack London; Flannery O’Connor; J. G. Borges; Edna O’Brien; Shirley Jackson; Franz Kafka; Sherwood Anderson; Frank O’Connor; Ernest Hemingway; Agnes Owens; Denis Johnson.
Hemingway was a bull novelist. But I think his master work is his Nick Adams short stories. And I’d say The Old Man and the Sea is a fat short story.
A cosy-thinky fireside treat is J. G. Ballard short stories.
Poets I reread: Emily Dickinson; Elizabeth Bishop; Robert Frost; Robert Tannahill; Robert Burns; Sorley MacLean; Alastair Mackie; Seamus Heaney; Galway Kinnell; Bryant Voigt; Betty Adcock; Mark Strand; Claudia Emerson.
My hallowed most writer is Cormac McCarthy. I think his novel Suttree is a masterpiece.
Claudia Emerson’s poetry collection Late Wife is a precious read. A bedside stay. I reread pages every other day.
Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio is glory work.
Oftentime books I dip into…
Selected Letters of William Styron.
James Ellroy’s memoir, My Dark Places.
I like John Fante. I recommend his book, Ask the Dust.
Presently discovering William Faulkner.