Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Starlings and other stories

The morning after the 1920s murder mystery event at Gladfest, it was time to head down the road to Waterstones, Wrexham, for the launch of a new anthology. The Starlings and other stories is edited by Ann Cleeves and is a truly fascinating and innovative project. The stories come from the six members of Murder Squad, and six 'accomplices', and the common factor is that they were all inspird by black and white photos taken by David Wilson.

The publishers, Graffeg, had previously published a book of photos taken by David and featuring scenes in Pembrokeshire. The images are very evocative, and the suggestion was made to Ann that Murder Squad might like to compile a themed anthology of stories inspired by the photos. I thought the idea of stories inspired by photos was brilliant, but at first I wasn't entirely sure about the logic of a group of northern writers tackling photos of South Wales. However, as the project began to take shape my uncertainty was vanquished,and I think that the resulting book is rather splendid.

Part of that is due to Graffeg's high production values. They are an impressive outfit. Part also is due to the photos. David  Wilson came along to the launch and it was great to be able to meet the person who provided us with our inspiration. He really does take fine photographs. And of course, the variety of the stories, as ever with anthologies, means there's something for all tastes.

My accomplice was Helena Edwards, fresh from her triumph in being short-listed for last year's CWA Margery Allingham Prize, for a story that has now been published in 'Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine'. She is a very accomplished writer, and I hope she'll soon publish more fiction. She and I thought it would be fun to choose the same photo, and not surprisingly what each of us came up with was very different.

Helena's story is light and lively.My story is longer, and represents an experiment. At the time, I was reading a lot of that wonderful writer Robert Aickman's 'strange stories' and 'Through the Mist' is very much in the Aickman mould. It's not really a crime story at all, though there is a crime in it. The experience of writing it was very rewarding, an example of how the short story form gives a writer the chance to try something far removed from their 'usual' work, which is always exciting. Some time in the future, I hope to write another story of this type. In the meantime, it's a real pleasure to be part of this project.

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