Day Twelve… Returning

2028 words.

In 2004 I wrote a short story called The Return which was a sequel to my first novel, Head Injuries. The story was published, for anyone who’s interested, in Andy Cox’s splendid The Third Alternative (which underwent a title change and is now known as Black Static… subscribe!). The Return concerned the main character from Head Injuries and his return from illness and self-imposed exile. He tips up in Morecambe, his old stamping ground, and tracks down old friend Helen, who is in a persistent vegetative state. All the while, nasty things are going on…

Anyway, that’s not really the point of this blog post. There was a character in The Return called Becky Slade. She was a ghoul, a death-chaser, a chronicler of atrocity. I liked her so much that I resurrected her for Loss of Separation (albeit with a name change… she’s now called Amy). I quite like the idea of using characters or ideas I’ve explored in short works more than once, fleshing them out, exploring them some more, pushing them in different directions. A short story called The Pocket, written in 1994, found its way into London Revenant, as did The Umbrella from 1993. The Cello (1995) was integrated into Blonde on a Stick.

I don’t see it as recycling the same old material (and I hope my readers don’t either). For one thing, the chance that the audience for my novels have also read my short story output are pretty thin. I like to think of some of my short stories as dry runs to see if they would work in something much longer. Mike Harrison, a writer I admire very much – and a great influence on my work – does this kind of thing all the time. Indeed, it’s fascinating to see it happen, both in technical terms and also because you’re recognising something you read in one context, many years ago, being moulded in a different way. That story is as much a part of you as it is a part of the writer. Which means that your engagement with whatever novel it has now become embedded within is that bit more intimate and intense. At least, that’s how I see it…

Listened to: Places, by Brad Mehldau

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