Sunlight! And snow still on the ground around Glasgow. It’s been a weird old winter here at the northerly tip of Europe (and supposedly soon to be sawn off at the neck by halfwits in London). Been too busy shoveling snow drifts to post news but here we are at last. High time I tidied my desk up, as you can see. Among the very random interesting older things there is a book on the Ruralists, a book of John Foxx’s writing and montages, a scarf from the marble-quarry town of Portsoy, a notebook from Venice, and an Austrian war medal (which contrasts nicely with a framed letter from Churchill just off camera… don’t ask).
The new things are two astoundingly beautiful hardback books from Romanian publisher Mount Abraxas, one of which I have a story in (The ‘Wound of Wounds’ homage anthology to Emil Cioran, reviewed by DF Lewis here). Also there are my two latest paperback books, now out and freely available to purchase: ‘The Fallen West’, a collection of short stories and poems published by Snuggly Books, and ‘At The Witch Stones’, my first full poetry collection, a sequence of 62 love poems, published by Sally Evans’ press ‘Diehard‘ Books in Callander.
In other news, I will be reading next week at an event for the launch of a new anthology on the theme of immigration, called “You Don’t Look British’, on Tuesday 27th March at 6.30pm at Glasgow’s Scotia Bar. http://www.dovetalesscotland.co.uk/events
And a video is now available to watch online of me being interviewed by young filmmaker Jessie Docherty, prior to a lecture about poetry I gave at the Scottish Writers Centre last summer: the link is here.
The slipstream writer Andrew Hook has reviewed my historical novel ‘The Brahan Seer’ rather favourably on Goodreads, here.
Finally, the last two editions of Theaker’s Quarterly magazine have carried (in two parts, here and here) my long-short story called “Yttrium” which forms part of my novel ‘Barking Circus’ which will be published in London by Eibonvale later this year.
Well, it must be high time I posted some news here. My tenth book, “The Fallen West”, an unusual collection of both short stories and poetry, is now available for pre-order from Californian publisher Snuggly Books. The cover painting is by my late brother Ally Thompson. Official publication won’t be until March next year. Also: my eleventh book, a short story collection called “The Suicide Machine”, will be published (in English) by German publisher Zagava in February, and is projected to use cover art by the very gifted Pamela Tait.
Arbitrary numbering of books is always a bit problematic, but as I’ve blogged here before, my next novel “Barking Circus” (let’s call it my twelfth book) will also be published by Eibonvale Press next year, as will my thirteenth book, my first official poetry collection “Eternity’s Windfall” from Red Squirrel Press.
In terms of magazines and anthologies, the first part of my Science Fiction story “Yttrium” appeared in issue 60 of Theaker’s Quarterly (part two available soon in issue 61), and my short story “Bach’s Marionettes” is in the new tribute anthology to Emil Cioran “Wound Of Wounds” from Ex Occidente Press, which is supposed to be shipping before Christmas.
Finally (unless I have forgotten anything, like this review of The Rhymer perhaps) then I should mention that NewCon Press brought out a compilation anthology this year of the best stories from Visionary Tongue magazine, which includes my short story “Casamundi” which later became part of my first novel Ultrameta.
And that’s all folks. Good wishes to everyone in the coming year, wherein we hope that the best of human sense shall reassert itself upon the world.
Hidden in a drawer unseen for fifty years
is a photograph they never showed us:
our parents young and in love, seated
back to back on a rock by the sea
posing, laughing, smiling to friends
like a message to the future they never
meant to send. But why suppress it?
With a shock it hits me that this sepia image
is me -everything I am, was or ever can be
contained and expressed in the love
of these two young hopefuls
who couldn’t yet know
of my future existence.
How long have I been, a lifetime lost
that this photograph at last has found me?
And now like the sea behind them
the torrent of emotion rises up
to wash over me too late:
Take his hand! Take hers! Turn and kiss!
-I want to shout to them. Take all that
you gave me and breathe it into yourselves
come back to life and know me
as only now have I finally come to know you:
when your are lost to us forever.
I am your future eye
who lives and proves that love, your love
transcended death, and though wounded
overflowing with tears, shouts for joy
and goes on knowing.
impossibly long shadows
reaching out across the town
last rays of October light
washing roofs red
with twisting wisps
of endless longing
mauve cloud overhead
long copper drifts of crinkling
kindling rustling all around
the trunks and branches
disrobed bare and brown
as squadrons of birds rotate
rehearsing desolation now
look at me: earthbound
who have exhausted all
the vagaries of love and travel
pressed fruit into wine
compressed and traversed
each dimension including time
there is no cure for what fills me
no answer for what some crazy deity
has put here in my heart and head
no remedy for life except for what
we’ll find out when we’re dead.
This is only my preliminary version of the artwork, the great David Rix of Eibonvale Press shall be working his magic on it in due course in order to arrive at a final cover worthy of us both, but… as you’ve no doubt gather by this point in the sentence (!) my next novel will be published early next year by Eibonvale. Depending on which books come out first (I have two other books coming out next year, The Fallen West from Snuggly Books and Eternity’s Windfall from Red Squirrel Press) then this will be my tenth book and my eighth novel. It took me 20 years to write it, my most personal yet, and I don’t know if there will ever by any more.
I shall leave you with the (very) draft blurb:
In the early days of the 21st century, an ‘Unknown Executive’ is killed by a passing car near Park Circus, the architectural office quarter of Glasgow. From his briefcase spill a series of mysterious and outlandish story fragments which blow across surrounding districts over subsequent days, each found and read by a diverse range of local characters.
Each of these stories do little to help the police establish the dead man ‘s identity, but seem to point instead to a higher reality, a series of metaphorical futures that throw light on the enduring enigmas of human life and love: the struggle for freedom against the forces of tyranny and decay, the redemptive power of change and rebirth. A far future Britain overtaken by rising sea levels, a near-future Scotland in which a nuclear accident has displaced the lowland populations to new experimental settlements in the north, a future America in which NASA has begun a mining colony on a distant planet to the detriment of its hapless alien inhabitants.
The story fragments also combine with biographical elements from the author’s own life, his struggle to come to terms with the legacy of his artist brother’s life and untimely death. The quest for hope amid grief, the gift and burden we each leave behind in the hearts of others.
All these disparate threads increasingly resonate as the book progresses, revealing a higher ‘meta-message’ in what is left unsaid between them, themes such as the adverse effects of social-exclusion at the personal and societal level, and the redemptive power of art.
Into the endless
of barley and wheat
let me vanish
with the unknowable
hare and the deer
who run alone
and the blind shrew
who can never
Rain on the attic roof
tender footsteps of youth remembered
and all the unconquered possibilities
of immaculate Saturdays
waiting in glistening wrapping
my beloved city where the crowds
ebb and flow on station platforms
like the systole of a giant heart
wherein I know in time I’ll go
dying without dying
caught up in raincoats and shoes
umbrellas and hats
lipstick and conversations
powder mirrors appointments
hairdressers dry cleaners
dates and disappointments
pullovers, sleepovers, hangovers
finders keepers, rails and sleepers,
sidings, branch lines, points and crossings
comforting pattern of fixed life
as beautiful as the bolted girders
over Central Station the confident strength
of Victorian great grandparents
who built this infernal machine
streaming with oil and rain and tears
the dusty glass clouding overhead
with gentle doubt and mercy
when I die I’ll become a conversation
between two strangers on a train
the wistful look in the eye of a pretty girl
gazing outwards, upwards at a glimpse of sky
We built this maze to capture love
the city fathers say, to teach you discipline
and wonder, wonder for the blue above.