Archives for posts with tag: Fiction

SONY DSC– The  Aphid #1, 2013 –

Karl melted away. “Evening, Mr. Klinkel. Been on a little adventure have we?” Karl rubbed at his throat. “You could have phoned us first,” said Clarke, “like Mrs. Hardy.” She emerged from the shadows, dressed for grieving. “Hello Karl,” said Cordelia. “Did you engage with the young woman?” said Clarke. “The maid?” “Yes.” “No.” “Hear anything?” “A tape loop. Just bass and drums.” “Nothing else?” “No.” “I wonder what she’s playing at?” said Clarke. “How do you know what’s going on?” said Karl. The detective turned away and talked to his sergeant. Ute was talking to a uniformed policeman. Karl walked over. “I think my wife needs medical attention,” he said. He held up her arm so that the PC could see the injury. “Come with me,” said the PC. Their feet crunched through the gravel in a loping rhythm. “Not far to the road now,” he said and squeezed her shoulder. “I feel funny, Karl. The girl poisoned me,” she said. Her pupils were dilated. Something moved in the trees. “What’s that?” she said. There was a soft sound. A crunch of gravel that wasn’t theirs and an arm around his neck. Karl tried to shout, but the arm tightened around his windpipe. Something hard knocked the revolver out of his hand. Then Ute was pulled away. He was being propelled towards the road. He stamped on a foot. There was a sharp intake of breath very close to his ear. Then a male voice cursed. Outside the gates sat three police cars. DI Clarke walked towards him. “OK, sergeant,” he said. The hands that and females are produced. Between draped her arms around his neck August and September mating takes place and kissed him on the lips. “Come during flight. After mating, male adults die on, let’s get out of here,” and females shed their wings and he said. She leaned on him. Return to the soil to overwinter. He could feel her breath on his neck – his reward. They turned the corner into the entrance hall. “What about Tony?” she said. “We’ll call the police as soon as we can,” he said. Together they staggered out of the front door, across the terrace and onto the gravel drive. “We have a bit of walking to do. Are you strong enough?” he said. Ute lifted her head and nodded. There was a strange hush. The normal night sounds seemed absent. Karl smiled at her. Emerge in spring and lay eggs. The little smoke. He tried the handle first brood will be fed by and the door swung inwards. “Oh my the queen for three to four God, Karl,” cried Ute. Her dress weeks before pupating in the soil. Adult was marked with dark patches, her workers emerge after two weeks to hair matted and he could see maintain the nest and feed the even in the dark that there queen and subsequent larvae. When adults find were bloody marks on the stacks a food source they leave a phalanx of sheets and towels. “I didn’t shoot trail of chemicals known as pheromones did I?” he said. She staggered back to the nest for others towards him, her arms outstretched. “No, to follow. Towards the end of summer my darling, you rescued me.” She winged males to the queen and her nest simply makes larder. Beyond the shelves piled high space for another. For this reason with packets, tins and jars was it is best to focus on a thick wooden door, locked, controlling only those nests that are course. He knocked on it. “Karl?” causing real problems. “Adult worker ants are,” said the voice on the other side, “all female, wingless, and around 5mm”. “I’m coming,” said Karl. “Stand away in length. Queens are significantly longer and from the door.” He heard scuffling. Fatter larvae are white legless grubs, roughly holding the revolver at arm’s length, 5mm long. Each colony can vary – in he pointed it – at the door’s size from as small as 500 lock and squeezed the trigger. There individuals too many thousands. After over-wintering, females was a terrific bang, and the wind. Something glinted Heaps of earth around the nest on the ground just to the entrance can be a nuisance in left of the front door. He the lawn where they interfere with crouched down to take a look. An old fashioned key. It could bury low-growing plants. Karl stepped into the red ant Myrmica rubra and the main corridor. Don’t turn on the black ant. Queen ants are the lights. To the left was a fly in from neighbouring gardens all a short hall at the end the time but are killed by of which, on the right, was ants from existing nests. Killing a door. The door “She has locked me in the small piles of earth around laundry cupboard,” said the voice [in holes in soil, lawns, paths, and German. Karl located the ventilation grille at the base of exterior walls. To it he said, “I am Adults and may be in the house coming.” There was nothing for it, around fresh and stored food, but to shoot the lock off on sap-sucking pest-infested plants. Large swarms hit the front door. Karl rounded on the flying ants appear in late corner to the terrace and noticed summer. Plants affected. Garden ants rarely cause damage to Cordelia’s pot plants. However, they feed on the garden, its oversized drooping blooms grown sugary foods, oily seeds, honeydewed and sinister in the dark. The tree’s aphid-infected plants and other small insects rattled in.

Look, Know #1, 2013

Quinnell wrinkled his nose. The incident room offered breathable air made up of two parts male sweat to one part bad food. The team Pankhurst had put together were chatting at desks littered with open files, humming computers, and steaming coffee. Adams sat by the window, twirling a biro between the fingers. Quinnell picked up the murder book and weighed it in his hand. He looked at the faces around the room – the indolent, the incompetent and the untrustworthy. He was in good company for he was all three. Donohue walked in, raising the tone slightly.

“I’ve got the guest-list,” he said, handing a sheet of paper to Quinnell. “Looks like a few members of the criminal fraternity have got an interest in art,” he added.

Look, Know #2, 2013


Look, Know is the A-side of a 1982 7″ single by The Fall, released on Kamera Records. You can listen to it here.


My New House #1, 2013

When the morning came she found herself all covered with dew. A wooden door banged. Footsteps click-clacked towards her. “Jeremy! It’s another bloody squatter,” said a woman. X could smell something sickly – an expensive perfume. The woman was close.

“She’s not a squatter, darling. She’d have to be inside the house to be a squatter. She’s a vagrant,” said a man from a little further away.

“Shoo,” said the woman.

X turned her head in the direction of the voices. The shoes approached – royal blue and gleaming. X reached for the bag, and felt the pain in her right hand, the one that told her what she’d done. Of course the bag was gone. X swore, rolled away from the shoes, got herself into a kneeling position, clambered to her feet and stood up – a giant, bedraggled, black moth.

“Oh God, Jeremy, she’s bleeding on the lawn,” said the woman.

“Come back here, darling. I’m going to call the police,” said the man.

X shrugged. It was no more than she deserved – she’d really f-ed up since the murder. Her eyes dry and gummy with sleep, but the man and the woman looked like the kind she saw in the windows of expensive restaurants in town. It was a nice house. They didn’t deserve this. She watched them retreat behind their mock-thirties front door.

My New House #2, 2013


My New House is track 8 on The Fall’s 1985 album, This Nation’s Saving Grace. The album is widely regarded (in the music press) as one of the group’s best. It’s certainly more accessible than a lot of the more recent output and recommended as a way into their uniquely ugly/ beautiful music. You can listen to it here.



Garden #1, 2013

After eight o’clock, Sambourne was eerily silent. No teenagers congregated outside the shops. No one shouted. There was virtually no traffic. The sky was massive and the smell of slowness – leaf mould and old stone, mainly – seemed to pervade the whole village. Jenny followed the shadowed path past St. Mary’s to the shrine. The shrine to the Virgin was lit by fluttering nightlights. Flowers had been laid on the ground, and a few around the image of the Virgin. Scrawled messages had been pinned to its wooden surround. Can you help me? Jenny said to the object. She shifted her weight from one pinched, aching foot to the other, and fixed her gaze on Mary’s image. The wind moved the branches of the trees, so that they rattled against each other, but other than that there was no sound. Jenny felt nothing. The image wasn’t even interesting to look at. She was on her own.

Garden #2, 2013


Garden is the third track on The Fall’s 1983 album, Perverted by Language. It’s nonsensical, but poetry of the highest order, set to urgent, pounding, repetitive music. I strongly urge you to seek it out.


 SONY DSCSignal to Noise #1, 2013

Set back from the lip of the opening was a metal-runged ladder that ran the depth of the shaft. The vertical tunnel terminated in a cool grey corridor of rough concrete. Anyone expecting to smell beer would have been disappointed. If anything the cellar smelt of mice and their doings. And something human.

“Come out,” he said to the empty corridor. From his standpoint he could make out a series of openings two to the right and the same to the left. “Come out,” he said again, with less conviction this time. His shirt stuck to his skin. A little way off to his left, a man coughed in a concrete room.

The words, “I’m unarmed,” echoed down the corridor carried by a voice Quinnell did not recognise. It sounded nothing like the man he and Sparks had found in the Guild Hall. Its accent came from several rungs higher up Bamtree’s social ladder.

“Well, I’ve got a gun,” said Quinnell. “Are you going to come out now?”

“Alright,” said the voice. The man appeared in the corridor. The vigour he had displayed in the chase replaced by a sullen shuffle. The dirty fingers of one hand were held aloft in a gesture of surrender. “I know you from somewhere,” said the man, nodding in Quinnell’s direction. The other hand clutched a wretched carrier bag to his chest.

“I want you to answer some questions,” said Quinnell.

“You’re a policeman?” said the man. He squinted and shuffled a little closer to Quinnell, sniffing all the while. “I’ve had enough police for one day,” he said. There was an extra sibilance when he said the word police. “Where’s your gun, then?” he added.

“There is no gun,” said Quinnell. “I’m impatient, I’m sorry.”


Signal to Noise #2, 2013


Listen here to Signals by Brian Eno, the fourth track from his 1983 album, Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks. And here to Schizophrenia by Sonic Youth, the first song from their 1987 album, Sister.


All That Numbs You #1, 2013

Welcome to Bamtree!

To find the quaint village of Bamtree take the M27 to the Kennelworthy exit. Kennelworthy’s a small village built around a main road. After a mile take the narrow lane between the chemical factory and the dump. Drive slowly or you’ll miss the turning, although perhaps not the cloying aroma of slurry. At the end of the lane, where all around you is barren fields and abandoned farm machinery you will find a sludgy indistinct track bordered by stubble and broken brick. Follow it to the top of Starvation Hill, which is often crowned by a miasma of lazy insects. If your windscreen wipers can cope, on the other side of the hill you will be able to see an ancient road, built on the bones of our ancestors and surfaced with unwanted Robbie Williams CDs. Turn left and keep driving and you can avoid the whole sorry mess. Turn right and you’re on Main Street. It no longer connects to any other highway, sealing off the Bamtree community from a grateful world. You’ve arrived. Good luck!

–          The Official Tourist Guide to Bamtree (1986)

All That Numbs You #2, 2013


All That Numbs You is the final track on Thomas Feiner and Anywhen’s 2008 album (actually a reissue with tweaks), The Opiates Revised. It’s an extraordinary piece of work and as far as I know their only release. It’s dark and loping (possibly injured) and yearning and mournful. And I haven’t stopped playing it since it was released. Unfortunately, it’s quite difficult to get hold of – it was something of a lost classic before it was spruced up and now it’s a lost classic once more. Anyway, don’t take my word for it, listen to the track here. You might also want to listen to Dinah and the Beautiful Blue.


Hand In Glove #1, 2013

Her answers checked out, but she twitched and fiddled. She seemed fragile and restless, rocking to and fro on the edge of the armchair. Some did – nervous witnesses often assumed the manner of the guilty. Something in the corner of the room she didn’t want him to see. Drugs? She never let her gaze go that way. The way she moved her head gave it away. Quinnell looked where she wouldn’t. A small portable TV next to an occasional table on which stood the kind of table lamp you would pick up in a discount store, and an unused glass ashtray; nothing unusual.

DI Quinnell thanked her for her time. “You’re not planning on leaving town are you? Only we may need to talk to you again if there are any details we need to clarify.”

She assured him she was staying put until the holidays in August. “So why did you run off?” he said. Without missing a beat, she said, “I was scared.” He told her that her friend, one of the other member of waiting staff, had stayed put until the police arrived. She glanced around the room, avoiding the one spot, then shook her head and said, “I ain’t him.”

“No,” he said and consulted his watch. There were other visits to be made, including one to Tanya’s flat. The framed erotic print on the wall reminded him to get going.

As he got into the Rover, he saw the girl framed by the sitting room window, elaborately placing a hat on her head, as if she was playing a dressing up game. A confection that involved a black lace veil. The other young woman who’d done a runner was a mystery. Savage was seen with her on his arm. Then nothing.


Hand In Glove was the first single to be released by The Smiths (May 1983). It did not chart (unless you include the Indie Chart) and I would have missed it had it not been for a friend in my English class who lent it me along with This Charming Man.  He told me they were the best band he’d ever heard (he still maintains this is the case). And I was totally blown away.

If you’re new to The Smiths skip the debut album and go straight to Hatful of Hollow – both of the singles are on it along with superior versions of most of the debut along with BBC session tracks. You can listen to Hand In Glove here.


In Slow Time #1, 2013


“It’s an unusual one for Bamtree,” said the Coroner. “Normally speaking I get people who’ve slashed their own wrists, not ones who’ve had a little helper. These are very careful, deliberate incisions. Someone took the time to do the job properly. Of course, the aconite was a big help in this. Our victim was paralysed – probably got to see his own lifeblood draining away. Nasty, if that’s what our murderer did. Hypothesis, of course. Any idea who did it, Rufus?”

“No,” said Quinnell. “Our victim’s got form though and connections with some of the usual Bamtree lot.”

The coroner let out a whistle. “So this was done to convey a message?”

“He was holding a piece of paper with Fin written on it,” said Quinnell.

“Bloody Hell, Rufus. Our killer has a dark sense of humour,” said the coroner.

“Yeah.” Quinnell smiled.


 So why use aconite? And the focus on the veins. Was that part of the message or just a method of torture? What it did mean was that despite Mark Savage’s size, the killer did not need to be a big man. Mark Savage had been incapacitated by a herb. And then drained of blood, possibly while still conscious. Rather than narrowing down the list of suspects swarming in DI Quinnell’s head, the coroner’s report had just enlivened them.

There had been no aconite found in Savage’s nostrils. So he had not mistakenly snorted the powder. The poison had been swallowed along with a chicken and bacon sandwich, some tomato, rye bread and mozerella cheese, and several glasses of red wine.


In Slow Time is the sixth track on Peter Hammill’s 1980 album, A Black Box. With the exception of some sax and flute (courtesy Peter Jackson of Van der Graaf Generator) and synthesizer and tambourine (played by David Ferguson, co-writer of In Slow Time and member of Random Hold), all the instrumentation was performed by Hammill. Side one of the original LP is made up of seven songs, side two one: Flight (19:36). It was the first time, post Van der Graaf Generator that Hammill had recorded a complex, multi-section song. And it’s a doozy! You can see a video of  Peter Hammill dancing to In Slow Time here. I’m not putting a link in to Flight – I’m sure you can find it if you want to or, you know, go and buy the album.


I Come and Stand at Your Door #1, 2013

 “You’re wearing odd shoes,” said Detective Sergaent Donohue. Quinnell grumbled. He shuffled across the tiles towards Donohue, a pained expression on his face, his plastic overshoes rustling. “It’s an interesting look,” said Donohue.

“Why did you call me, Franc? Surely you know, I’m the sh_t on the sole of the department’s shoe. My presence here could cause you all kinds of problems,” said Quinnell.

“Oh, I don’t think so, DI Quinnell,” said Donohue. He busied himself with the examination of the corpse. “There’s cash in his trouser pocket, and a what looks like a wallet in his jacket, so I don’t think we’re looking at a robbery,” said Donohue.

The victim was sprawled on the toilet, a lilac shirt wound round his head like a makeshift bandage. But there did not appear to be any blood on it. The victim was naked to the waist, suggesting the shirt was his own. A loosely folded sheet of paper protruded from his left hand. Quinnell placed the man in his forties. His lower jaw reminded Quinnell of that of a comic book hero. It was accentuated by a beard as black as a policeman’s notebook.

“What about Stamp? Did you call him?” said Quinnell. Donohue hummed to himself. “Stamp’s sick,” he said. “Ah, so I was second choice after all,” said Quinnell. Donohue stooped to examine the victim’s arms. “Wounds to both wrists. Most of the blood’s pooled here and here. Odd but it looks like once the action moved into the cubicle, he just sat still for it,” said Donohue. “And no, I wanted you.”

Quinnell crouched down to examine the trail of blood that led out of the cubicle. “Did you get a statement from the CSOs?” he said. DS Donohue nodded and said, “But they weren’t the first on the scene. The two men who raised the alarm would have been more useful, but the CSOs let them go.”

Donohue registered Quinnell’s look of disbelief, then smiled and said, “It gets better. The CSOs compromised the scene: no gloves or overshoes. Their fingerprints are probably everywhere. And one of them moved the body – he thought our man here was alive.”

Quinnell shook his head. “What about the other witnesses – the party guests?” he said.

“One of the CSOs ran into the private view and told the guests what they’d found. The guests lost interest in the art pretty quickly after that,” said Donohue.

“I can’t believe I let you drag me into this – I’ve got a bad foot,” said Quinnell.


I Come and Stand At Your Door is the twelfth track on The Fall’s 1997 album, Levitate. It’s a predominantly electronic collection and features sound cut-ups and unusual vocal arrangements (particularly on The Quartet of Doc Shanley). I Come and Stand At Your Door is one of the more straightforward tracks – based on a poem by Nazım Hikmet and a traditional tune, previously performed by Pete Seeger, The Misunderstood and The Byrds. The album was released on a label called Artful, which no longer exists, so the physical artifact is pretty difficult to track down. You can hear the whole album here. I thoroughly recommend you listen to track 4, I’m a Mummy!


Lemmings #1, 2013

Spider clawed at the thick fingers around his throat. He stamped at the pedals, the floor of the car, and the door, but he couldn’t seem to get the message through to Quinnell that he did not want to die. “Stop struggling,” said Quinnell. He gave Spider’s head a hard slap and Spider did as he was told. The Mustang’s windows had steamed up. From the darkness a short-bladed knife consolidated itself and glittered in the rear-view mirror.

“Mr Quinnell,” Spider hissed.

“You mucked everything up,” said Quinnell with a tone that sounded like regret. He pressed the tip of the blade to Spider’s throat. Spider yelped.

Quinnell’s face was flushed. Even the red in his moustaches seemed to have intensified. Following the curve of Spider’s throat, the blade moved slowly and with great deliberation, not too soft and not too hard. Momentarily, it left behind a neat red line. Then it got messy.

Spider spluttered something that sounded like f_k. “You didn’t have to do that,” he rasped. He squirmed in his seat. There was blood down the front of his yellow jumpsuit.

“It’s been a long day,” said Quinnell.

Spider tried to turn his head, but Quinnell did not want him to turn his head. So he hit the side of Spider’s head with the hilt of his knife to keep it where he wanted it.

“How did you find me?” said Spider.

“I’m asking the questions,” said Quinnell. “You lied to me, Mickey.”

The slight movement of Spider’s neck Quinnell’s fingers allowed suggested he wanted to shake his head. “Why?” said Quinnell. Spider sniffed.

“Of course, you’re not going to tell me anything. Not for nothing; that would be against your principles,” said Quinnell. “But I could torture the answer out of you.”

“Who’s your boss, Mr. Quinnell?” Spider hissed.

“You’re the one who knows everything; you tell me,” said Quinnell.

“Detective Superintendent Pankhurst,” said Spider. “Think about it.”

“Pathetic. That’s your answer?” Quinnell relaxed his grip. But the knife blade remained. “Very weak, Mickey,” he said.

Spider chanced turning his head to face his interrogator. “The culture’s changing, Mr. Quinnell,” he said. “And Bamtree’s changing with it. Our old arrangement was good, but someone made me a better offer.”

“Who actually paid you?” said Quinnell.

“No money involved.” Spider laughed a tight little laugh, which turned into a cough that rattled through him and shook the car around them. When the fit subsided he added, “Just be glad you didn’t hurt me too bad, Mr. Quinnell. I’ve become an asset.”

“You’re a prick,” said Quinnell. “Tell me who paid you.”

“I can’t do that, Mr Quinnell. As you know, words is my business, and those words would cost me dear.” There was a sour chemical taint to Spider’s breath. He turned back round so he was facing the windscreen. “Please don’t make a mistake here that we’ll both regret.”

“Mickey, you are no longer under my protection. May God help you.” Quinnell withdrew the knife. He slid back in his seat, folded the knife away, swung the car door open and climbed out. It had all been for nothing – paying the kid in the squad car – the bloody car-chase. Quinnell blinked in the darkness.


Lemmings (Including Cog) is the first track on Van der Graaf Generator’s 1971 album, Pawn Hearts. The original album was a massive three tracks long, the whole of side two being taken up by A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers (23:04). The album reached the number one spot in Italy. When the band toured the country to support it in 1972, riots broke out. Exhausted on their return to the UK, the band split. And reformed in 1975. Split again in 1978. Reformed in 2005 and are still going today (minus flute/ sax player David Jackson). The remaining members (Peter Hammill, Hugh Banton and Guy Evans) are touring this year and have promised to play A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers in full. You can see the song being performed on Belgian TV here. But, you know, buy the album.


Just after I ran into Jimmy Clancy, I met up with David Cook. I’ve known David since 1986. We were at art school together in the nineteen (mutter, mutter, mutter). He’s an artist and runs a great blog about art in London here. I was very jealous of David’s red jacket (not the reason this photograph is B&W). Anyway, thanks for letting me take your photograph, David! Hope you like it.

David Cook, 2013