"This matt-black bound collection is likely to be desired by every Joy Division fan. But for those readers who aren’t familiar with the band, these stories exist boldly in their own right… United by some unleashed kinetic force from long ago, these collected stories are achingly modern and fully embrace contemporary anxieties and preoccupations. They confront us with intense feelings and show us places we may not always wish to be, but – just like Joy Division themselves – they have the collective power to stay firmly rooted in our minds."
We Were Strangers, my new book, has had its first review. It’s in The Observer and, friends, it’s an absolute ruddy corker.
It’s incredible to get such a positive review, but it’s also great to see one for a short story anthology from a small press which is so detailed and prominent appearing in The Observer. There are a great many indie publishers which have been doing fantastic and daring work for years, frequently on a shoestring, many of them based outside of London, but it finally feels like they may have finally gained the attention they deserve from the national press. It's also rather thrilling to be reviewed by Carol Morley, a novelist but also one of my favourite film directors (if you’ve not done so, do watch The Falling).
You can read her full review here and - hey! - why not pre-order the book here?
‘My family were in this city before it was even a city. Pre-Industrial Revolution, you know? Manchester was just another backwater then – just a church, a couple of pubs and some houses by a river. My dad always says we can trace our family back to some bigshot from the 1500s, some important astrologer, used to talk to the angels and work out when all the lords and ladies should have their weddings. Then Queen Elizabeth died and talking to angels got him in trouble, so he got sent to Manchester as a kind of punishment.’
I have a new ghost story, titled ‘Lodestones’, coming out in This Dreaming Isle, a brand new collection of stories each of which takes a piece of British folklore and its location as its starting point.
At present, it often feels as though we’re all locked into a collective crisis of identity, with what it means to live in this country endlessly contested and squabbled over. What does it mean to be British? Does someone who happens on have been born here have more of a claim to the land they walk on than someone who happens to have been born elsewhere? Whose history is Britain’s history, whose values, whose culture? While the skirmish plays out – tilting further daily into ugliness and racism – the land itself remains, a repository for stories older than those who tell them, stories which survive via their telling, passed on from imagination to imagination, even while the lights begin to go out.
‘Lodestones’ pertains to Manchester, to its endless redevelopment and, dimly, to John Dee, the courtier, alchemist, scientist, theologian, alleged black magician and astrologer to the Queen, who moved to the city in 1596 and, by all accounts, had a bit of a shit time here. It also takes its title and some of its inspiration from ‘Loadstones’, a 2013 song by The Fall which I was listening to a lot while writing it. I was also learning to drive, and as such the story features quite a few descriptions of cars, roads and the correct use of gears. I am nothing if not a complex, mysterious writer.
This Dreaming Isle features 'Lodestones' along with fourteen other stories by Alison Moore, Andrew Michael Hurley and the great Ramsey Campbell among others, all of which draw on history and landscape, touch on myth and legend, and look to the past, but also question who we are and what constitutes this ‘we’.
The stories for the book are all written and the cover art is ready, but your help is still required. The authors, the artists, editors and the printers all deserve a fair wage. You can get yourself a copy of This Dreaming Isle while also doing your bit to support an independent publisher, Unsung Stories, via its Kickstarter. Here you will find various rewards, including the chance to pick up some of their 2018 titles, including Aliya Whiteley's new novella, The Loosening Skin, at a special price.
We have always lived in the factory. We were born here, amongst the engines and the lathes, the conveyor belts which stretch for miles. Not one of us has been outside. Few of us have even been so far as the wall which rises like an end to things, grey and hard and irrefutable, beyond the last of the warehouses.
We Were Strangers, a brand new book of brand new short stories edited by me, is now available for you to pre-order.
I've commissioned ten of my favourite authors to each write a short story which takes its title and inspiration from one of the tracks on Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, making a kind of accompanying fiction playlist which collectively reflects on and responds to the record’s themes, imagery, history and *vibes*.
This is the first book I’ve edited. For various reasons, not least its captain’s inexperience, We Were Strangers has navigated a long and at times choppy journey from idle notion to bookshop shelf, but that protracted period of gestation has, in my humble opinion, resulted in a collection of rare quality, definitely one of which I couldn’t possibly be more proud and certainly one you should seek out.
For one thing, I struck gold with Confingo, an independent publisher based right here in Manchester who share my belief in books being a good read as well as – just look at the thing – objects bel.
Secondly, here is what the table of contents looks like:
Sounds good, right? Well, it'll be published on 6 September, BUT luckily for you, it’s now available for you to pre-order direct from the publisher’s site here.
Or, once it's published, you can get it via Amazon here.
Or you can get in touch with your local bookshop. For all you ISBN fans: the ISBN is 9780995596610.
Finally, I’ll be hosting the book launch at Waterstones Deansgate on Friday 14 September, with readings from David Gaffney, Zoe Lambert, Sophie Mackintosh and Nicholas Royle, tickets for which are available here.