Pine | Book Review

Pine

Francine Toon

325 pages

ISBN: 9781784164829

£8.99

Penguin

Paperback

Review

Amidst the winding Highland B-roads and the long, creeping dark of a northern winter, Lauren and her father Niall try to come to terms with the disappearance of Christine, Lauren’s mother. One cold October evening when out guising, they find a gaunt, barefoot, woman lying in the road. Lauren and her father give the woman shelter, but when morning comes she has disappeared. Lauren looks for answers in her tarot cards and in the sideways glances of friends and neighbours. In a close-knit and claustrophobic village, someone knows the secret linking the two disappearances. Although Francine Toon’s poetry has appeared in the Sunday Times, Best British Poetry, and Poetry London, ‘Pine’ is her first foray into novel writing. It was shortlisted for and won a slew of literary prizes and in my opinion is well worth the praise.

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Alder, Beech, Hawthorn and Hazel | Short Story

I’ve been rather staccato on WordPress of late. Work and writing up the first project in my doctorate have crowded out anything more cultured, so it is with some relief that I can report my short story ‘Alder, Beech, Hawthorn and Hazel’ has been picked up and published by Writer’s Egg magazine.

‘Alder, Beech, Hawthorn and Hazel’ is an odd, dark little piece. It was one of those stories that a writer wants a good home for. It was with increasing despair then that I saw ABHH rejected by five separate lit mags and ignored by another two. This would normally be enough for me to send it to the beige desktop folder from whence no stories return, but this was one I couldn’t let go.

When I had just about given up hope, I received an acceptance from Writer’s Egg, a Bristol-based print magazine that won Winner of the Best Start-Up Magazine with South West England Prestige Awards 2020/21. I am delighted to feature of course, and it is a timely reminder for me that the distance between waste paper basket and magazine is not always so great.

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Something Borrowed, Something New | Short Story

Thimbles are old hat. As are hatpins, come to that.

We don’t skirt along wainscots anymore – linoleum and robot vacuum cleaners have made that too dangerous. Nor do we abseil down curtains – blinds are not nearly so conducive to a silent descent. And the pets…People still talk about Eggletina having been eaten by a cat, a story whose horror is not in any way reduced by its being apocryphal, but in modern Borrower life the Human Beans are far more eclectic in their tastes. Ferrets, parrots, tarantulas…my cousin Dimmer swears he had to squeeze through a letter box brush to escape a fucking micro pig. These days it is ventilation grilles, wood burners, and shimmying down USB cables.

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Bustle and Beat | Haiku

Good morning folks,

I was out in my garden this week when a skein of geese flew overhead. The sight always reminds me of The Book of Merlyn in T. H. White’s The Once and Future King and Lyo-Lyok the goose talking to Wart on the mudflats about freedom and war. White was a passionate bird watcher and his enthusiasm is apparent in what is a beautiful piece of writing. The slim ‘v’ in the sky provided the inspiration for this set of haiku.

Bustle

Bustle, bill, and honk.

Restlessness on the mudflats.

A glance, a stretch, flight.

Beat

A white-fronted front,

Chevroned against the turquoise.

Wings beating northbound.

Things I’ve read this week…

Chris Hall’s ‘The Facility‘ microfiction series is a wonderfully dark and twisted dystopian tale. She is not new to keeping her readers hooked through these series, with each snippet having its own narrative arc within the wider story. She makes us feel the white tiles and dull chrome of the The Facility. She makes us smell the disinfectant and hear the echoes in the long, stark corridors. Wonderful stuff.

Chris Terrell’s commentary on choice of subject for sketching is a lovely insight on an artist’s process. I had a look through Chris’s work and loved it.

*Thanks for reading, folks. Images courtesy of Wikipedia and Pixabay.*


Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Close to the Bone, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, Flashback Fiction, Cafelit, Best MicroFiction 2021, and Shooter magazine. He is a doctoral student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father. He blogs at www.matthewjrichardson.com and tweets at https://twitter.com/mjrichardso0

The Inn at Lettaford | Short Story

The residents of Lettaford are thin-lipped and watchful. Some put it down to the hamlet’s isolated position on the edge of Dartmoor. Others say that the place was borne from the people and that there’s nowt as queer as folk.

One thing everyone agrees on is that the moor is a dangerous place. Mists eddy and creep over the hillocks and streams and do strange things to people’s sense of direction. Rowan and Willow root wind underneath the peat and the heather.

When travellers stop by the low-slung inn, mauve smoke curling from the chimney, the villagers warn them not to set foot upon the moor, no matter how clear the path may seem. Some are foolhardy, though, sneering at the patrons with coaldust in their hair and dregs of ale in their beards.

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Bloody Foreigners | Book Review

Bloody Foreigners: The Story of Immigration to Britain

Robert Winder

Abacus

ISBN: 9780349115665

£9.99

How many times, throughout history, have immigrants had to contend with the accusation that they are lazy, grasping, on the take? How many times will they have to deliver luminous counter-examples before we cease to believe it? There aren’t many universal truths, but people do not lightly burn their small hoard of money or burden themselves with loans merely to put their feet up at someone else’s expense. They do not leave their homes and families because they are risk-averse. They travel, like medieval labourers, “onlie to seeke woorck”; or, like the pious pastors harried out of the Continent by Catholic armies, for religious and personal liberty.

Review

During the course of my doctorate so far, I’ve been fortunate enough to engage in some fantastic conversations and receive some wonderful advice from academics already in my field. I was pointed in the direction of Robert Winder’s ‘Bloody Foreigners’ by one such academic, who told me that he regularly gave the book as a Christmas/birthday present to associates and family members who held what he considered less-than-enlightened views on immigration. It certainly serves as such, charting as it does migration to Britain from 25,000 years ago to present day and discussing Normans, Jews, Huguenots, Protestants, Italians, Irish and many more.

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Very Good, Jeeves | Book Review

Very Good, Jeeves

P.G. Wodehouse

Penguin: Random House

ISBN: 9780099513728

£8.99

Review

There has been a glut of non-fiction in my reading diet recently. Doctoral literature has been eating up a lot of my at-home reading time, whilst I am finding that the commute to work lends itself more to non-fiction (history mostly) – my tendency to let my thoughts wander whilst driving means that I’m better able to plug back into a narrative I’m already familiar with. In an attempt to remedy this imbalance, I read my first Wodehouse, an author regularly cited as a bona fide genius by the likes of Stephen Fry and Kate Mosse. Wodehouse was prolific in later life, writing more than ninety books, two-hundred short stories, and forty plays. He is perhaps best known for his Wooster and Jeeves series of novels and short stories chronicling the chaotic, bumbling socialite Wooster and his long-suffering, brilliant manservant. I chose to start with ‘Very Good, Jeeves’, a collection of stories about the duo.

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Splay and Spate | Haiku

Good morning folks,

amidst the heat, a couple of waterborne haiku to keep you cool…

Splay

Mist-borne, gully-birthed.

A glance below, a damp breath…

White splayed over grey.

Spate

River-worn and time-scoured.

Cast aside by spates gone by.

Waiting for Fall’s rush.

Things I’ve read this week

One of the benefits of being part of Ayr Writer’s Club over the past year has been being introduced to other authors’ writing. It really is a talented group of people, demonstrated by the awards won at the Scottish Association of Writers 2021. Marion Husband’s ‘Explore Govan‘ is a product of one such writer. I lived within spitting distance of Govan for five years, and there are myriad gems in this little book which surprised me. Marion’s tour takes us from Govan Ferry to the Riverside Museum, from Elder Park Library to Govan Old Parish Church. There are so many things that I drove past on a daily basis with a past, a story. Marion brings these buildings and their history to life. This is a fantastic book for those visiting the area, and indeed for those more au fait with Govan.

E.E.Rhodes’ ‘Self/Less‘ won the Federation of Writers Vernol Equinox competition, and it’s easy to see why. In form and language, it really is a beautiful piece of writing – five minutes of your life well spent.

*Thanks for reading, folks. Images are my own and are taken from near Steall Falls, Glen Nevis. My recent writing includes ‘Night at Kinlochleven‘ and ‘HMS Cleopatra‘.


Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Close to the Bone, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, Flashback Fiction, Cafelit, and Shooter magazine. He is a doctoral student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father. He blogs at www.matthewjrichardson.com and tweets at https://twitter.com/mjrichardso0.

Night at Kinlochleven | Short Story

Cheap pitches. Free showers. View of the loch. Save for the omnipresent midge, there seems little reason not to stop at Kinlochleven campsite. Strange then that no-one stays a second night.

Looking west along Loch Leven as the sun dives horizonwards, the summits seem benevolent, cradling the little town in a gnarled embrace. Binnein Mor, Na Gruagaichean, Am Bodach, Sgùrr a’ Mhàim and more lie in wooded repose lochside, benign under the last sideways-slung rays. This dying of the light is picturesque to be sure, reaching up into the loch. Weary trekkers and wellness bloggers snap pictures for their Instagram accounts, their eyes on their phones whilst locals search the gullies, the craggy overhangs.

It is not the dusk that the townsfolk are wary of. At least, not the dusk alone. It is a stillness in the evening air, a sense of heavy dreichness. The villagers can sense it. They close their doors over softly and stuff dishcloths and rags in the loose window frames. Curtains are drawn, lights dimmed.

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