Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Writers on Writing: Martin Pond

Books That Inspired Me: Black Evening by David Morrell
 
The book that inspired me to collate some short stories into one of my own is Black Evening by David Morrell. It's a collection of, well, if not horror stories per sé then certainly unsettling stories. No, that's not the genre by which Morrell pays the bills - he's a thriller writer, most famous for writing First Blood. You get the impression from reading some of the author's notes in Black Evening that he isn't wildly keen on what Hollywood and Stallone did to his story but let's not digress.
 
I'll confess I hadn't even heard of David Morrell until a friend of mine mentioned one of the stories from Black Evening in a blog post. That story was the excellent Orange Is For Anguish, Blue Is For Insanity (in which an art historian sees a whole swarm of hideous faces hiding in the paintings of a tortured artist) and is among the stand-out efforts in Black Evening. That's saying something too, for although this collection presents its stories in chronological order, so that you can watch Morrell hone his writing technique (as well as seeing the effect events in his personal life had on his storytelling), the standard here is uniformly high. For that reason alone, I don't want to pick out or describe too many of the stories therein... but I do want to give two a special mention.
 
I am an aspiring writer, and most of the efforts with which I've had some success are short stories of the sort that Morrell includes in Black Evening. No, I am not trying to compare myself to this multi-million selling master of the craft. I'm just trying to illustrate that I try to write what I like to read. And, after reading The Storm in Black Evening, I had a genuine “I wish I'd written that” moment. The story is simple: whilst on holiday, our protagonist comments to his son that a native American's rain dance is hokey and just for the cynical benefit of tourists. Cue a curse on our narrator, who is then followed wherever he goes by a torrential storm. He manages to get the curse lifted, but there's a twist in the tale. Isn't there always? Okay, the premise reminds me a bit of the contemporaneous Thinner by Richard Bachman but c'mon, there's nothing new under the sun, after all. And that shouldn't detract from the fact that this story is beautifully, sparsely written, utterly absorbing and, despite the otherworldy content, made entirely plausible.
 
Then there's Mumbo Jumbo, a tale of a US high school sports team mascot and the effect it has on the players. Now I didn't go to a US high school and the idea of American football is anathema to me, but that doesn't matter. Morrell weaves a tale that drags you in, takes you back to whatever your school days were and lets you reinhabit the mind of the person you were then. It's a beautifully told tale (with a little twist in the tale, naturally) and, like many of the stories in Black Evening, would make a fine story for The Twilight Zone. Or, if you're English, like me, an excellent Tale Of The Unexpected.
 
So, Black Evening... it's out of print, of course, but thanks to Amazon, I have an ex-library hardback in pretty good condition that only cost 1p, so there's a bargain to be had here. I recommend it to you unreservedly - if you're the sort of person who enjoys Stephen King's short stories (or just well-told short stories in general, as long as you're not averse to being creeped out now and again) then this is a book for you. Go, seek it out.
 
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Martin Pond
Born in East Kent in 1970, Martin Pond was educated at the University of East Anglia... but unlike many more famous writers he didn't study Creative Writing there or do "The MA". A career in IT followed, and continues to pay the bills. In 2007 Martin made a hesitant return to fiction, not having written remotely seriously since his student days. He returned to UEA too, and took a diploma in Creative Writing.

Martin's stories have appeared in Unthology No 1, Streetcake magazine and Alliterati magazine, whilst three poems have appeared in The Artillery Of Words magazine. He is currently working on a novel-length work, Drawn To The Deep End, and, as an experiment, is publishing the first draft, unedited, in weekly online instalments. Martin's first collection of short fiction, Dark Steps, was published in August 2011.

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