There was something going on here. There were too many odd things going on in my life, all of them since the accident. Patterns and signs. I wondered if someone was playing around with me, trying to put the frighteners on me for some imagined insult. Maybe it was just someone in the village who didn’t like the idea of a stranger burying bad secrets, poking his nose in where it wasn’t wanted.


Gutshot marks Conrad Williams’ debut as an editor. It is an anthology of ‘Weird West’ stories to be published by PS Publishing some time in late 2011, if all goes well. The book will contain 20 original short stories from new and established authors and features stunning cover art by Caniglia. Here’s the close-to-finalised ToC (in no particular order):

Paul Meloy Carrion Cowboy
Alan Ryan Passage
James Lovegrove The Black Rider
Zander Shaw Blue Norther
Joel Lane Those Who Remember
Mark Morris Waiting for the Bullet
Gary McMahon El Camino de Rojo
Joe R. Lansdale The Bones that Walk
Peter Crowther & Rio Youers Splinters
Christopher Fowler The Boy Thug
Amanda Hemingway Ghosts
Simon Bestwick Kiss the Wolf
Stephen Volk White Butterflies
Gemma Files Some Kind of Light Shines from Your Face
Cat Sparks The Alabaster Child
Sarah Langan Beasts of Burden
Adam Nevill What God Hath Wrought

More news to follow soon…

Total abstinence

I reached for the bottle of wine and felt my spine crack. Grey mist drizzled across my vision. The bolus of mashed breadsticks in my mouth caked the back of my throat; I couldn’t swallow it. Through the grain I saw the beak of the broken gull, bloodied and shuddering. I heard bubbles of air being sucked through wounds. The gull bent the spar of its wings and lifted from the sand; black, blood-wet clumps hung or fell from the chicane of its body.


Charlie released the slipknot and it all came slithering out. I reflexively stepped back and slipped on the wash of mucus and blood and brine. I went down hard on my backside as the tide of fish charged into me. Within seconds I was coated in a foam of slime. Charlie was laughing, his hand over his mouth, his shoulders shaking as if he were trying to shrug something off him. But then I saw the knot of confusion tying itself into his forehead. He was staring into the glut of marine life as it arced and shuddered. I stared too.


He stood and watched through his ghastly orange mask, an ecstasy of bug-eyed pouting and ragged breathing, sweat turning the fabric of his coat patchy with dark. She would scoop up the soup or the stew or the risotto, and push away the plate with its blood-printed spoon, wishing she could conceal the cutlery from him and spare her poor hands. But, without fail, he watched her finish each day and he always took everything away that he brought to her.

Pain Management

The pills don’t cancel the pain, they just move it out of reach for a while. It’s still there, in view, like a dangerous thing put on a high shelf away from the children. And you can’t stop glancing at it. You know it will be returned to its normal place before long. Decide what you reasonably feel that you would like to achieve in your life and think about how using opioids can help you. Set yourself some realistic goals.


Out now, a new anthology edited by Stephen Jones. Conrad’s contribution is called The Fold.

“Jones lines up heavy hitters for this anthology of reprints dating back to 1914 as well as original tales about decidedly non-Hallmark angels… This wide-ranging anthology has something for every taste, from the light to the horrific, and is nicely completed by Jones’s introduction, which traces the history of angels in religious lore and modern fantasy.”

Calcium Cowboys

It was midnight when I turned the key in the lock. I listened for Ruth but could hear nothing. I went for a hot bath and crept into bed. I couldn’t get rid of the cold, even though the heating was on. I felt too tired to sleep. But then I woke up and I was sweltering, the sweat dripping off me. I felt my skeleton clenched within its juicy prison. My grinning incumbent. White skull.

You know, cannonball, and the like.

I rolled over and my heart was beating hard and fast and it was as if the skeleton had somehow got its ribcage to shrink in a bid to press down on what was keeping me alive.

I am within you but you are also within me.

I sat up. Wind cast spits of rain against glass. I knew I’d said the words. Spoken them for my thin, white friend.



I don’t spend too much time on the contents. It’s too much like prying. But sometimes you can’t avoid the objects that tumble out; they contain their own force, a fearful potential. A map of Alaska slashed with black biro. Aeronautical charts (which gave me pause) with their dense codes, vectors and warnings to pilots. CAUTION: Severe turbulence may occur over rugged terrain. CAUTION: Numerous windmills. CAUTION: Intensive aerobatic practice area. A letter so old the page is as fragile as an insect’s wing. A cat’s collar. A photograph of a man in khaki shorts whose ice cream has fallen from its cone. Something grey, excised, rattling in a clear plastic tub. A promise, or a threat, of fidelity.

It takes to the flame every time, first match in. It goes up as if it were created for this moment.


I’m thrilled to announce that a story of mine, All Our Dead Heavens, will be published in what promises to be a beautiful, must-have anthology edited by Nicholas Royle and available in October this year from Two Ravens Press.

All Our Dead Heavens
is a reprint. It first appeared in an anthology called Sugar Sleep back in 1993 (edited by Christopher Kenworthy). I doubt many people saw it.