Saturday, 21 January 2012

Short Stories

"Clutter", a short story I wrote for the CWA anthology Original Sins, is due to be published shortly in the latest volume of The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime edited by the tireless Maxim Jakubowski. It's one of my darkest stories, it has to be said, very different in tone and subject matter from, say, the Harry Devlin books or the Lake District Mysteries. But the central idea seemed to me well suited to the short form.

A fellow contributor is Nigel Bird, whose Sea Minor blog features on my blogroll, and he kindly invited me to answer a few crisp questions about short stories.

A word about that marvellous short story "The Lottery". By coincidence, this morning I've received from that excellent bookseller Jamie Sturgeon a copy of a book by Shirley Jackson in which she describes the baffled reaction to that amazing story after it first appeared in The New Yorker. She makes many thoughtful comments about both writing and reading that also have a bearing on some current discussions about reviewing on the blogosphere. Fascinating topic,and one I'll return to in future.

8 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Congratulations on your story coming out. And I'd be very interested to learn what Jackson had to say; I'll have to look that book up.

Martin Edwards said...

Margot, the book is called Come Along With Me, and it includes "The Lottery". First impression - it looks really good.

Sextonblake said...

THE LOTTERY is something that I first read many years ago. I can still recall the chill that it gave me, which is the sign of a great short story.The best examples of this genre can be as effective as a novel, and can live with one just as long. As a kid I read THE CONTENTS OF THE DEAD MAN'S POCKETS by Jack Finney in a short story collection called THE THIRD LEVEL. It's a fantastic piece, which not only works as a nail-biting piece of suspense writing, but also manages to say something much deeper. (There is a version that can be read on the internet).

Deb said...

Oooh, could "Clutter" mark a new tone in your writing? Can't wait to read it!

There's a collection of Shirley Jackson's stories called (I think) AN ORDINARY DAY which is fabulous, full of short stories about life both mundane and supernatural. Jackson had a troubled life (exacerbated by drink and a difficult marriage) and died at a relatively young age, but despite all this (and four children in about five years) she wrote constantly and imaginatively.

Martin Edwards said...

Sextonblake, I'm very grateful for this - I've just read the Finney story online, and needless to say, found it very gripping...and true. Thanks.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Deb. I don't know that Jackson book, but I really must read more of her work. She certainly could write.
As for a new direction, I did write a horribly dark story, 'Bare Bones' a decade or so ago, as well as one or two others. 'Clutter' is a bit of a one-off, but a very recent story, 'Squeaky' is one I'm especially happy with.

Paul Beech said...

Martin, terrific news about the inclusion of ‘Clutter’ in the new Mammoth crime anthology – Congratulations! I’ve just checked out the contributors’ list and find my hand straining towards my stash of book vouchers…

I read ‘Squeaky’ this afternoon – great story, splendidly sinister, just the way I like ‘em! Fascinating, isn’t it, to compare the short and long forms of crime fiction? I love them both. Perhaps one difference is that finely wrought shorts have a greater power to draw readers back to them time and again. Whereas, with novels, we’re itching to get our hands on the next one out. Could this be a reason why collections and anthologies don’t sell as well?

By the way, I included ‘Dancing for the Hangman’ in a brief triple-review on my blog this morning, if you want to have a look.

All best, Paul

Dorte H said...

Congratulations! And "The Lottery" is marvelous company to be in.

Jackson´s masterpiece is a terrific story, and it works extremely well in a classroom even today. The students are suitable shocked when they get to the ending. And I remember that when Jackson heard South Africa had banned the story she said, "then they have understood something".