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Is there one? Oh yes.

I am seizing on the fact that he is there, in our faces and our media, and will be there for the next four years. On the campaign trail, it was evident to me that personal popularity ranks very high with him, and he gets irritated very easily if people get under his oh-so-thin skin.

As a writer of riper years, I’ve been saddened for a long time by the lack of engagement of the arts worlds in the UK and Ireland with urgent, world-wide issues – climate change, the emergence and prevalence of harmful, hurtful, violent opinions, the damage done to our cultural lives, our humanity, by a succession of neoliberal governments, and, further back, the damage done to the NHS by its creeping privatisation under Labour, the destruction wrought on the fabric of British society by Margaret Thatcher, and the austerity choices made by increasingly right-wing governments in London and Dublin.

There have been some brave attempts which stand out because of their rarity – Ken Loach, whose writer Paul Laverty distilled his research for ‘I, Daniel Blake,’ into a screenplay so plausible it has the credible punch of a documentary, but whose uncompromising truths remain compartmentalised by the mainstream media as the ravings of a ‘lefty luvvie’. And at the National Theatre in London, this year I saw a verbatim theatre piece called ‘Another World’ about the radicalisation of young men in Britain.

In Ireland, ‘Hinterland’ by Sebastian Barry looked at party political corruption and the exigencies of political reality.

But who has written a play about Irish Water? About the mounting numbers who emigrate, as they did in the eighties? Who has written a play to tell our children honestly what the world is becoming?

The dancer and choreographer Catherine Young is the only creator I know of in Ireland who has recently given us a response to the political chaos our rulers helped to create. Her compelling dance piece, ‘Welcoming the Stranger’, was inspired by the stories of migrants and refugees from Gaza, Iraq, Syria, Africa – all whom have made Kerry their home. At The Everyman in Cork, Artistic Director Julie Kelleher has sought out women’s voices, from Carmel Winters ‘Witness’ to ‘Sisters of the Rising’.

Ireland’s great national theatres have been focused this year on the past glories of 1916, rather than looking at the present, or ahead to the chaos we are creating for future generations.

Writers! Musicians! Artists! Choreographers! We have a once in a lifetime chance to let our talents rip in the service of humanity. With wit, imagination, humour, words, gestures and music we can provide a robust alternative to the carping voices of bigotry, hatred, narrow-mindedness and paranoia. If the spectacle of Trump cannot inspire us to great satire, nothing will. If, out of the dystopia his world view will create we can weave a counter-narrative for our children and grandchildren, if we can restore dignity to our citizens who are disabled, old or poor, if we can keep our spirits buoyant and our eyes fixed on a goal which is not about wealth or power, but about a living planet fit for humans and all other species to enjoy, then our art will truly be serving the people.


ONE STAR

There are no skies like African skies. These skies are deep as the ocean, of a fierce fiery blue. One day when I was a little girl my mother took me to a small hill near our village and we climbed, drinking water, in the cool of early morning. We gazed out at so many miles of land, until, many walks away, I saw where the land joined the sky, and I asked my mother, ‘Can we one day walk until we see how the sky meets the land?’

My mother had a big laugh, and in the trembling heat of the day, she would throw back her head and laugh ‘like a man’, my father said, but he did not mind. That day she laughed whenever she remembered my saying.

My mother was proud of me, I think. She never went to school, she could not read or write, but she wanted her children to learn. We could not keep books in our hut – it was too damp in the rains, and the beetle liked to eat paper. So, from the age of six, I went to village school. There was a tall metal cupboard in our classroom, which was kept locked. When we finished one book, she would call us up to her desk and we had to tell her ‘a precis’, which was hard, for some books needed every word they used. Then we were allowed to choose a new book and take it home, always to be protected by its plastic cover, to keep it safe. Every child in our class had one. There were fifty of us in that class, some from our village, some from other settlements.

I loved my school. It was better than a rest to come away from the work that always needed to be done, collecting vegetables from our plot, digging, more digging, feeding our chickens, sweeping the dirt floor of our home, stirring the pot of meal porridge. School was like a drink of cold clear water, it was simple and it felt so right to drink.

Some girls did not want to go to big school, they wanted to get married and have a home and babies. Someday I would want that too, but for now, to go to a big school which would be full of books was my only wish.

I was twelve years old when I started at the secondary school. There was a uniform! My parents had to save to buy it for me, a few pounds at a time. But when it was all mine, I felt so proud walking in my colours of purple and yellow. There were five other girls from my village at our new school, and we had a bus that came to collect us and bring us home. We felt so rich, so grown-up, to drive in a bus every day!

All the time I was growing, I loved to look at the sky. Especially at night, when it wrapped me around like blue-black velvet. The stars were tiny holes, cut out to show the light of heaven peeping through. I never told anyone of this fancy, but it pleased me to choose the star I would slip through on my way to heaven. Because, in my dreams, everyone would be allowed to choose their star.

I asked at school if they had a book about the stars. The shapes they made. How many there were. To study the stars was the art of astronomy. Mr Edwards, my teacher, told me that it was possible to work as an astronomer, and from the age of thirteen, I told anyone who asked me that was what I wanted to be. It was a puzzle to match the stars I saw with the constellations in my book. I could never learn them all. Were there any stars not in a constellation?

Round about then I became a woman. My mother helped me, but it was a nuisance. I felt different now, at a certain time of the month; sometimes I was moody and angry for no reason. It was a necessary part of being a woman. Boys had no such moment. For a while, I wished I was a boy. I did not like my breasts becoming larger, and tender, so if I got pushed or struck in the chest, it hurt more than when I was little. I stopped wrestling with boys.

So we come to the day when everything was lost to me. We were in our classroom, we had just had our morning prayers, because this was a Christian school, and in our home, we had a cross on the wall which my mother would sometimes kiss for luck. So I did not mind the prayers, although I yearned always to begin the class, to learn more.

We had all sat down. Mr Edwards gave out our maths books. I loved maths. I loved all lessons, but maths seemed to bring the sky closer.

It was a cloudy day in summer, hot and heavy. Our school had windows, not like my village school, and we opened them all to let in the dusty air. Then someone said, two buses are coming into the school yard. It was unusual. We crowded to the windows, even Mr Edwards, to see the doors open and men coming out, wearing hoods so we could not see their faces. Each man carried a long black gun.

Mr Edwards said, Girls, get under your desks. I will speak with them.

We did as we were told. But then he left the classroom and we had to see what happened. We crept back to the windows and watched as he came up to the men and lifted his hand, as he did in class when he wanted silence. But these men did not obey him. One raised the gun a little, and shot Mr Edwards in the head.

Girls started screaming. We tried to get back under our desks. The door was kicked open and a handful of men came in, shooting their guns at the ceiling. They told us we had been rescued and that we must go with them. No one asked, rescued from what?

Where were our teachers? Those men and women whose word was law? They stood outside, up against the wall. Guns were holding them back from saving us. They were forced to watch while girls from all classes were loaded onto the buses. Three hundred of us. A whole school. The youngest was twelve; the oldest nearly eighteen.

Then began the terror time. We did not understand anything. We did not dare ask our kidnappers any questions. One girl needed the toilet but they would not stop for her and she had to sit in her own wetness for many miles. We were thirsty; we longed for water.

Once the buses stopped so the men could talk to each other. They laughed a lot. They were pleased with themselves. There was one man on our bus, but he was not intelligent. He had counted us all as we got on, but slowly, as if counting was difficult for him. He still had his hood on, but it was troubling him. He decided to remove it. To do this, he put his gun down, and in that split second while his eyes were blind, two girls squeezed themselves out of the windows and ran into the bush. Two out of so many. I wished I had had the courage to do as they did. But when the men stopped talking, they discovered that two girls were missing, and this made them very angry. They took one girl from each bus and shot her without even time to say a prayer. I had never seen anyone die before, and to die in that lonely place was terrible. I said a prayer for them, but this made the men even more angry, to hear some girls say God and Amen, and they came into our bus and shouted at us that we were infidels and we must change our religion or we would die, they said, but slowly, more slowly than Mr Edwards or our schoolmates.

After that we were allowed to get off the bus in groups of ten, and we had to do our business in full sight of the men, who laughed and pointed. It was a shameful interlude. When I was on the bus I tried to think of anything in my life that would help me. Had I learned any facts at school that applied to this situation? What would my older brothers, my mother, my father, do in my plight? Thinking about them brought their dear faces before me and I began to cry, as many were doing. The men let us cry for a while, but then shouted at us to stop. Anyone who did not stop would be shot. It is surprising how fear can dam up tears. Soon it was dull silence. Then one man pushed his hood back and told us that we must change our religion, because Christianity was bad. We had to become Muslim, we had to worship a new god called Allah.

I did not understand how there could be two Gods in heaven. We started whispering to each other, to try and make sense of this order, but he shouted at us again, that anyone whispering would die, but not by shooting. This shut us up. He said then that we had been ‘rescued’ to fulfil our destiny, which was to marry and become mothers. I knew some girls were only little, too young to even think about a husband. But this man told us in the eyes of Allah we were ready, and our husbands had been chosen for us.

So we dreaded coming to the end of our journey. We arrived at their camp after a day of travelling. The first thing I noticed was a man cooking. I had never seen such a sight. He was stirring a pot, and even though we were tired and thirsty, we longed to eat.

They gave us all water from a calabash, we had to drink from cupped hands, never enough. There were only a few bowls for the stew, so we had to take turns. By then we were so frightened that we did everything we were ordered without a murmur. I had begun to dream that police would come, that soldiers would come, that our parents would come. That was our only hope.

As the girls came forward to get their food, they would have to stand and eat while the men watched each one. After eating, the man who had done all the talking would point a finger at a girl, and ask ‘Who wants this wife?’ and the men were allowed to choose us. Then we had to go and stand with this man. All had guns, our husbands.

By now I was feeling this truly was a bad dream. It could not be real, that my life, our lives, could be snatched away. I must be dreaming the blood on my friend’s faces, the exploding head of Mr Edwards. Every time I closed my eyes I revisited that scene.

It was my turn. I ate my stew and the finger was pointed at me. A man quickly came forward to claim me. He was not young; he wore shorts and his legs were ugly, bent and bowed with huge knots of dark blue veins up and down. I could not believe this was my fate. He was grinning as he seized me roughly by the wrist and pulled me over to stand next to him.

Soon all of us were standing with a husband. A man who said he was an imam made a brief statement to the effect that this was our marriage ceremony and we did not have to say a word. We could not defend ourselves in any way. I was so angry for the little girls, who were not ready for husbands. I did not know what being married would be like. The men gave their responses and there was much shouting about Allah and words we did not understand. Night was falling now, and I looked up to see my stars still shining down on me as if they did not care. At that moment I hated the stars. My favourite constellation was Cassiopeia, but even seeing her brought me no pleasure. My husband had some teeth missing and his hair was grey in parts. They had married me to an old man.

When we had eaten we were dismissed for the night, and each couple went to their own sleeping place. Ours was a cave in the side of a hill; some had huts, most slept in the forest. Our cave was dark and there was a pile of stinking animal skins on the floor, which my husband patted, saying, this is our bed. He had not even asked my name. I lay down in my school uniform, but he frowned and told me to take off all my clothes, every stitch. I had to do as he said. His gun was watching us, leaning against the side of the cave. I got back on the bed and he gave me a cloth to cover us both. He stripped off. I tried to pray, I tried to think, I tried to use my brain to rescue myself, but no help came. All I had time to calculate was the sum of wanting to live, minus this hell. How much did I want to live, at that moment? Only enough to do whatever he said. He told me to touch him. His part swelled. I tried to think of it as a biology lesson. He put his hand on my breast, and I screamed. Immediately his hand was across my mouth, cutting off the scream, and he told me what would happen if I screamed again. He told me to open my legs. Then he did things to me that changed me forever. I lost my ambition that night. My career as astronomer shot high into the clouds, as far away as the constellations I loved to study. It exploded in a burst of dark light; tears ran down my cheeks all the time my husband was doing his business. I did not know his name until afterwards. He wanted to know mine, and I told him it was Cassiopeia. He shortened it to Cassie. He fell asleep and snored loudly while I lay awake, thinking about the little girls and what torture they were going through. Surely they would see that these twelve year olds were too small, not fully grown, not old enough to be married?

The morning brought fresh horrors. We girls saw each other at breakfast, when we were told by the man whose name was Ahmed the rules of our imprisonment. For every girl who ran away, five would be killed. Education for girls was sinful. We should never have gone to school, so it was our fault that we had been there that day. Now we all had to become Muslims; he was going to ask each one if she agreed. Those who did not, he said, would have a dog’s death. Of course we agreed. Except Lilly. Her father was a priest, and her whole family loved the church.. How could they ask her to betray her father, betray Jesus? When it came to her turn, she said no, she could not worship another god. She was pulled out of the group and put to one side. Her husband looked angry. Soon we had all agreed to become Muslims and they told us how lucky we were to have been chosen. But then we had to watch what happened to Lilly.

It was beginning to get hot, so the men took it in turns to dig a deep narrow hole, and four of them put Lilly into it, only her head showing. They piled the earth around her so her face was undefended from the sun. I wondered if that was the death, to leave her to bake in the sun we had been taught to shelter from since we were babies. Her lips were moving but silently she prayed, her eyes were closed, but every so often they flickered open. I thought it could get no worse than this.

The men were scrabbling around , picking up stones until they had a pile of different sizes. A young man was the first; as if he was a teacher, he showed us how to do what they wanted us to do. He picked a stone and threw it at Lilly, hitting her forehead. Then they ordered us all to throw the stones at Lilly, yes, to throw at her innocent face. No one stepped forward to do this thing. So they pointed at each one of us, and we were forced to take a stone and throw it, or we would suffer the same fate. They shouted at us to throw harder, but we could not. Lilly’s face began to bleed, and her mouth opened and she cried out ‘Sisters, I forgive you in the name of Jesus’. This made the men so angry that they seized rocks and big stones and rained them down on her. Our feeble efforts were nothing. They aimed for her nose, eyes and mouth, they broke her teeth, but still she tried to pray. Where was her husband? He was throwing rocks with the rest of them, saying it was the will of Allah.

By now it was hot and I felt faint and sick. Some of the girls vomited in their terror. But these men had no mercy; we had to stand and watch until Lilly ‘s face drowned in blood and her mouth was no longer a mouth. We couldn’t make out her words, except I think she said Jesus; I think she called on Jesus to come to her. It was a terrible lesson.

That night I went out of the cave when Ahmed was sleeping. I did not know where this camp was, I did not know how far we had come, but the clouds had cleared and I moved about until I could see the constellations as I saw them from my hill at home. I guessed my village was south, away from the pole star. I sent a prayer to Lilly, not a Muslim prayer, but my own, to God and Jesus and Mary to look after Lilly and all of us, to bring us to heaven. I wondered which star had opened wide enough to let Lilly in. For her I chose Canopus, in the constellation of Carina, which is an Italian word that means a darling girl. That twinkling star was the door I would have chosen for myself. It was a bitter consolation, to know that I was only one star away from heaven. 


I’ve seen this used as an explanation by the right wing media for the anger that is currently  being expressed, both inside and outside parliament. Wealthy people know in their hearts that the poor want everything the rich have got, and they will never be satisfied until the rich have been stripped of all their assets and beggars get to ride upon horses. To paraphrase  Alan Duncan, a Tory backbencher, anyone who isn’t a millionaire has only themselves to blame. We could all be rich, if we really tried.

I’m writing this to try and explain to the wealthy people currently running our country  why their beliefs are wrong, why their actions have aroused such anger, and why our anger is light years removed from envy.

I was born in 1947, along with the NHS. My early life was peppered nights of pain from ear abcesses, horrendous earaches,  frequent visits to our GP, Doctor Shanahan, and visits from district nurses who gave me penicillin injections. I was four when I had my first experience of hospital, to have my tonsils and adenoids removed. [ I don’t know if that hospital still exists as I can’t remember the name of it. Searching for it, I found this website. Look at what we have lost -and this is only in London. Lost hospitals in London. Somehow, we could afford to run all these, at a time of post-war hardship. The reason, I hazard, is because those in charge of our finances were able to think in terms of fairness, and of values other than money]. The children’s ward was full, so I was alone in an empty adult ward. In those days, parents could only come at visiting hours, and when my mother arrived with books for me to read [from the library], I could not tell her what an ordeal I was going through. Enemas. Examinations. Baths – one day I was given three, because I was too frightened to tell the nurses I’d already had one. The NHS was primitive then, but all the medicines and treatment I had, until I got big and healthy, would have been an impossible expense for our family. We lived in a rented basement flat off the Portobello Road, in a crumbling Victorian house with holes in the floors and mice and mould everywhere. That house is worth millions today.   I showed promise at school. I passed the 11+ with the 90% marks required for me to have an interview for Godolphin and Latymer, in those days a state maintained girls’ grammar school for high achievers. It is now a private school. Many of the girls went to university and went on to careers. I was lucky; there were full student grants in those days. I was the first child in my family to get a degree.

During this time I was forging out my own values. What would be my guiding principles through life? How would I see success? What would make me happy? The fact that I chose to work in the arts is an indicator that wealth was never a factor. I never, ever expected to be rich, and I didn’t see that as a goal. I am not good with figures – like George Osborne, I only managed ‘O’ level maths – and buying and selling did not appeal to me as a way of life. Acquiring money was of no interest to me – and I was ambitious, and I have succeeded in making a living in the arts – writing plays for children, working on community drama projects, travelling the North East to bring theatre to people who had never seen it –  all my working life. If I failed to achieve my childhood ambition of fame, my more mature self is heartily relieved to have escaped the merciless spotlight that is our media.

So what  would I like to pass on to my children?

A love of the countryside. Nature has always been inspirational to me. To be able to walk all day along footpaths, across hills and mountains, unspoilt since the Romans were here, to enjoy the public national parks and lands that were all that remained after the illegal Enclosures took much of our common land away. To know that this would be here for ever, for my children and their children, gave me that all-important thing, the thing Cameron is at pains to stress he wishes to give all of us – security. Now the Land registry has been privatised, our public lands are up for grabs. For the sake of profit, our ancient rights to walk and be inspired by the rare beauties of our country will be taken away from us. It’s perfectly legal – it’s an Act of Parliament. But is it fair?

Fairness is something that all parents try to teach their children. Sharing with siblings if you have more than they do. Not ganging up on others, not bullying, or lying to help yourself do better. A sense of what George Orwell called decency. To behave in such a way that your conscience does not torment you at night. I can’t answer for the current cabinet, but I wonder if their expensive schools taught them rigorously enough about fairness and decency?  If not, here is a fact for them: the present capitalist system is a triangle. At the top, a tiny number of the very rich, in the larger middle section, the middle classes, and the poor, the most numerous, at the bottom. Unfairness is built into the system, because it is only by keeping most people down below them that the rich can thrive. So to attack people for being part of that necessary structure is deeply unfair. It is bullying.

No one wants to be ill or disabled. I happen to be both, and I bless the NHS and its doctors and nurses every day of my life. They saved my life on a Saturday, by the way, when I had bilateral pulmonary embolisms and didn’t realise until I turned blue and passed out. That’s how close I was. So when Jeremy Hunt says that we don’t have a seven day service, he is not being honest. Honesty would be another quality I cherish. I have brought my children up to be considerate and kind, but also honest.  I passionately wish that our rich policiticans, who clearly were raised with so many material advantages, had been taught the importance of these three qualities. Because in the policies they have chosen to carry out, there has been an absence of these vital things.

I would like to bequeath to my kids and to all children everywhere,  hope in the future. A world that is cleaner and more peaceful. And to be able to say to them before I die that I did everything in my power to stop the powerful elites fracking, burning, despoiling, selling to the highest bidder, and by degrees killing the planet, is little consolation. To the rich I say, you cannot make money from a dead planet. Your children and grandchildren will not suffer the results of your policies as soon as we will. Their inherited wealth will keep them cushioned from reality until the very last tree has been felled. But this sick planet is what you are colluding in handing down to your children?

I’m not a Christian, or a believer in any religion. The way I conduct my life is by principles that, if I were to abandon them, would make me feel deeply uncomfortable. So it makes me angry when the only value that is considered worth discussing in Parliament, composed of nominal Christians, is monetary. Staying in the EU – it’s better for business. Fracking – great business opportunity. Selling our hospitals to the highest bidder – nothing wrong with profiting from illness. Refusing sanctuary to refugees desperately fleeing war? Never mind Christian compassion, brotherly love or even a remembrance of how Syria took in refugees and was known as a safe haven, until civil war, and war by proxy, turned the country into a dangerous, chaotic waste land – we can’t afford to have any of them here. Nuclear power stations – wait a minute. The new and long delayed station at Hinkley Point is uneconomic. It will cost us, the powerless, more and more as we pay the price for Osborne’s wrong decisions. A dose of honesty would be welcome here.

What has been lost, utterly lost, by today’s neoliberals, is any sense of sharing. Equality. Social justice. Those with the most helping those with the least – yes, even the undeserving, because, like Orwell, I don’t believe that people are automatically workshy. I hate to be dependent on others. I still work; I still write, even though my official retirement age was nine years ago. I don’t make money; I write because I love doing it. I have the most basic state pension, paid for by my own NI contributions. It isn’t much, because self-employed people don’t make much. But I don’t care, as long as I can live by my core values.

So David Cameron, George Osborne, Alan Duncan, Boris Johnson, and all who follow you-can you open your eyes to values other than than money? I don’t meant collecting art, or having a box at the opera, or taking holidays in Cornwall to enjoy the surfing. The values you seem to lack are the values that built the finest welfare state in the world. Visionary, revolutionary plans, inspired by ideals of fairness, bitterly opposed, of course, by the Tories then – and you have profited from it all. You’ve made billions for the exchequer by  selling off things that belonged to all of us. Not just this government, but the past four, have forgotten that what matters most is not money. You know the price of everything, and the value of nothing. How can we get you to understand?

 

Frances Kay is the author of ‘Micka’, published by Picador, 2010 and ‘Dollywagglers’ published by Tenebris books, 2014. Her play ‘Feast of Bones’ will be performed at the ASSITEJ conference in Birmingham this July.


We live in poor times. There is poverty of vision and imagination from our rulers, poverty of spirit in responding to those who have been traumatised and terrified by war, and the numbing despair of financial poverty that makes every day an effort.

When I was asked to choose one of my plays for a rehearsed reading at the Everyman Theatre, Cork, the one called BURNING DREAMS struck me as uneasily apposite.

Dublin, 1941. Tenements. Hunger. Sickness. An idealistic young doctor wants to help everyone. Who is the ‘most deserving’ – a refugee girl, a tenement dweller, or an angry Trades Unionist. But how can he possibly choose, when there is not enough to go round?

What is most tragic is that the pitiful crumbs they were fighting over in 1941 are still all that is on offer to the poorest and most deprived in our society right now, seventy years later.

 

 

The play will be staged on 22nd March in the snug bar at the Everyman Palace Theatre, Cork. It starts at 8pm. Tickets €9.

It would be wonderful to see you there.

 


I am writing this in a hazy blur of delight. Right now, my short story  STRANGE CREATION is on the Amazon best sellers’ horror page, right under a book by the master of his genre, Stephen King.

The first books I read by this writer, IT and THE STAND were borrowed from my public library [in the days when the UK still had a comprehensive library system]. I soon realised that I would need my own copies, because a single reading was not enough.

Stephen King has an instinctive, visceral grasp of story structure, although I believe he said once that he never planned the plots of his novels. His stories go fearlessly into those parts of our human psyches we would like to pretend we do not own; they show us fallible humans , often making choices that reveal their fatal flaw, as in CUJO, and they show us three dimensional people like ourselves, faced with terrible dilemmas.The possibilities he implants in our heads, before the reveal, shows what dark thoughts we are capable of. He is the voice of our nightmares – but they are ours, as well as his.

The germ of my recent novel DOLLYWAGGLERS was inspired, years ago, by reading THE STAND, his dystopian fable of America after a flu pandemic. I was itching to write my own dystopia, having read Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ as a teenager, but the idea of a disease [and this could be a metaphor for all kinds of sicknesses our society manifests – or it could be an act of God – or it could be chance], gripped my imagination.

I never thought of myself as being a horror writer, but my short story that now stands, rightly so, underneath King’s, is, I realise, horror with a human face.

I wonder why it is that Stephen King has for so long remained uncrowned as the King of American fiction. Why his fellow writers have not honoured him with a prize. Why the world has not found a way of giving him the laurels he deserves.

I’m not talking about the books that keep you reading far, far into the night, the stories you have to reach the end of, like MISERY, or THINNER, or the short stories that make up ‘Skeleton Crew’, but the ones that reveal King as an author of depth and evocation. Take THE BODY, a story I have read at least ten times, and that made itself naturally into the fine film STAND BY ME. A better drawn picture of fifties’ childhood I have never read. And even though I grew up in England, his references to Schwann bikes, dog tags and hamburger meat brought that moment in time , that little crew of misfits, perfectly to my mind’s eye. The loyalties and rivalries of his group of kids, their language, their fears and hopes, travelling along the rail tracks so they can see an actual dead body, reminds me of the gangs I used to be in, back in London in the early fifties, though we never did anything as adventurous.

Or take a more recent work, BAG OF BONES. A fine study of bereavement, mixed in with the haunting of cursed land, but at the heart, is a man who misses his wife and whose involvement with the supernatural is his way of finding closure. It rings true to me.

King understands the niceties of human nature, and if he chooses to take us down dark tunnels, it is not because he cannot stand the sunshine and daylight up above. On the contrary, his understanding of our whole selves, light and shadow, makes us appreciate life all the more.


This was a title I played around with for a book of short stories I am putting together. It’s not my phrase, of course, it’s Shakespeare’s, and in coining it, he was referring to LIFE. Maybe it’s because my life is none of the above that I enjoy writing, and reading, the darkest of shadowy fiction I can find. If you do too, then you might wonder if that says something about yourself as a person? Do you have to be sick, or mad, or just weird, to enjoy  inspecting the darkest underbelly of humanity? And how about writers who choose to write that stuff? Can they sleep peacefully at night? What makes them go for the jugular?

I’d like to introduce my newest piece of fiction to you. I have no idea whence it came. Imagination is a wild animal, and I would never try to tame mine.

Last April, thanks to this blog, and a group of friends I emailed, my novel DOLLYWAGGLERS had amazing numbers of sales in its early weeks.
 
I’ve just released a new, very dark, unnatural short story.
Published by Tenebris Books, it is called STRANGE CREATION. 
 
It’s about a down to earth scientist, Dr. Dorothy Broadhurst, working calmly and logically on a project in Central Africa, studying a sub species of ape.
But suddenly, everything starts to go horribly wrong….
 
This comes to you in the form of an ebook for a risible 99p. 
You can buy it on Smashwords:
 
or on Amazon:
 
I hope you will. And I hope you will enjoy it. If you do, and you would like to be added to my mailing list, please leave your email here as a comment. I won’t forget you.
Love
Frances.


 

I forgot to mention this, with all the other more important stuff going on, but my latest book, DOLLYWAGGLERS is FREE to download RIGHT NOW.
If you don’t have a Kindle (as I don’t), you can get a totally free Kindle app. from Amazon, put it on any device or computer, and read away.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dollywagglers-Frances-Kay-ebook/dp/B00JYGG58W/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1418067643

That is not a proper link, you have to cut and paste. Sorry. For some inexplicable [to me] reason, I can’t insert a link into this edit.

However, if you have the patience to copy and paste, it will work. And the book is still free!

Paperback versions cost £8.99
Happy Christmas!
If you think this book is not about happy anything, you could be wrong… my characters find hope and a light….eventually.
Oh, and there is a sequel in the pipeline, so it can’t be all doom.
Though ‘Dollywagglers’ is definitely a dystopia.