So I just finished reading the City Crime 2016 Anthology and of course this isn’t really a review. If nothing else, there’s a rather significant conflict of interest here… seeing as I wrote 1/16th of it. See, this isn’t a book you’ll ever read. You’ve never seen it before and you’ll never see it again. You’ll never read what’s inside. But for at least 16 people (myself included) this book means something. It represents a significant part of our lives. Hundreds and thousands of hours of work. Two years of hard graft. Working and reworking and reworking until we forgot what we were doing in the first place. Sixteen novels that are, at the very least, complete.
For the last two years, I have been sitting a Masters in Creative Writing (Crime) at City University London. Before that I had written three novels, all of which were comedies. The first was called Sculpture to a Block of Marble and was inspired by my school life. No one’ll ever see it, because I pretty much copied the style of Joshua Ferris’ And Then We Came To The End. (I never told my family that. They just thought I was being clever) It was also slightly more depressing than I intended. The other two – The Dog That Turned Into A Cat and Amateurs are actually available to read and they’re about a heartbroken young boy taking drastic measures to protect himself and my observations about being part of an amateur theatre group respectively. They’re not phenomenal by any means, and I wouldn’t necessarily advise seeking them out. But they’re things what I did. So I guess that’s a good thing.
Starting the MA course was interesting because I had to totally switch genre. Turns out, it wasn’t so hard. I think because one of the key components of my comedy was parody and satire, aping concepts and aspects of other genres. So maybe at the start, I was basically parodying crime fiction, just without the jokes. But quickly enough I was actually writing crime, something which I had only read before. I started to use my love of Christie and Conan Doyle (and my inherent love of showing off) to craft something impossible. It’s brash, it’s a little silly, but it’s (at least I hope) a lot of fun. A high-concept thriller called Dead Room, a novel which takes place (almost) entirely in one hotel room. To quote an agent I recently had a conversation with, it’s ‘Saw meets And Then There Were None’ (or at least it will be in a few edits time) I did four drafts of Dead Room during the course, each clocking in at around 80,000 words. I probably poured at least 500 hours into each. That’s a big thing. At times, I was spending more time with my fictional characters than I was actual humans.
Why am I telling you all this? It’s just an example. The anthology is the collection of the starts of all sixteen students’ novels. That’s sixteen stories like mine. Not the novels. The stories behind the stories. Sixteen two years. And what we made of them. And the anthology also represents whats to come. Sixteen potential careers. Some of us will keep trying. Some of us will give up. Some of us will keep writing for the joy of it. And some of us might never write again> Some of us might even get published. So this is truly a book of chapter ones. A book of beginnings. But they’re not necessarily the beginnings on the pages.
That’s what I feel when I look at this book. This big dumb book that won’t mean a thing to most people. A sense of pride – not just for me but for everyone. And I wish everyone all the luck in the world, because the number one thing I learnt on the MA is that getting published is damn hard. Sometimes it’s not just about writing talent. There’s a lot of luck involved, a good sense of timing, sending off to the right agent in the light of a full moon after sacrificing a lamb atop a mountain. We need all the luck we can get.
What does this mean for you, reader? Nothing really. I’m going to continue running this blog with the bald-faced passion that I hope sufficiently comes across. And every time I tear someone’s work apart just remember I would only expect the same for my own book. And remember that I love fiction. I love it so much I want it to be better. I want every book to earn it’s right to be essential. Because when it comes down to it, stories are the best human invention. And I enjoy every one of them.
Even Rush of Blood by Mark Billingham.
Which was fucking shite.