The Suicide Machine

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Copies of my latest book “The Suicide Machine” have just arrived from Dusseldorf from the German publisher Zagava. In terms of format, the book occupies that liminal territory between short story collection and novel, much as my first book “Ultrameta” did nearly 10 years ago. In that sense, I suppose it is a return to my roots, only this time there is a considerable aspect of autobiography running through it, in an attempt at personal exorcism after some of the difficult stuff I’ve lived through this past decade, such as loss of family members. I suppose this autobiographical streak is also a homage to the late great Joel Lane, whose work taught me the importance of incorporating authentic personal experience into what we write. My next novel “Barking Circus”, currently under consideration by London publishers, will also follow this same formula but incorporating a wider range of science fictional elements.

The brilliant artwork used in the frontispiece of The Suicide Machine is an oil painting called ‘Stay Close’ by artist Pamela Tait, who lives on the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands. Here is her painting in detail, followed by the back-page blurb for The Suicide Machine:

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“In a decaying suburban house, a narrator tends to his elderly mother while disturbed by nightmarish visions of his deceased artist brother, for whose violent death he blames himself. Hallucinations and conversations tell of possible futures, ambiguous pasts and surreal allegories. Of these the most fantastical of all may be The Suicide Machine itself: the discovery in an abandoned Glasgow villa of a cryptic black device linked to a dissident Russian physicist and his tragic lover, whose rumoured psychic experiments reverberate into the present. Family secrets and the enigmatic boundaries of life, death, sex and sanity all progressively give way and coalesce into an elegiac journey towards hard-won hope from the depths of despair.”

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Arrowhead

11-Fabled ship to otherwhere

Where is it the dead go?
When I look at the moon
or an aeroplane flying overhead
I think of my artist brother
in his white trousers
and best distressed leather jacket
heading off to some event
better than any yet
to receive the ultimate accolade
and applause and I suppose
the sky and the earth give this
don’t they? The sublime embrace
and release for the taut bow
the vector of a lifetime’s longing
this sail across the infinite blue
rolling towards darkening evening
and the absolute landing
among leaves and flowers and earth
where all pain is extinguished
in the arms that catch everything
our unimaginable mother
forgotten except in sleep
found again like a childhood secret
the circle completes itself
and whispers a sigh
like a summer evening’s breeze
which says no tears now
just dreams of
an irrefutable
tomorrow.

The Spirit Of The Hero

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Solway

Corsewall-2018

Galloway, Solway:
glittering seas in the blaze of summer
green lands low-lying
tumbling bush and trees
random Mandelbrot sequence
peninsular as digits of a hand
outstretched, upturned, open
to the sky waiting
for the great yellow ball
of sun to fall
bounce in the shimmering
heat haze and be clutched
squeezed by the ocean
before vanishing downwards
emanating rays of orange fire
between the bark
of every wrinkled finger.

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If Winter Goes

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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.

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News

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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.

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A Sepia Photograph

Norman and Sheena

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.

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The Yearning Year

By Ally Thompson

Skeletal fingers
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.

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