Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

Monthly Archives: May 2016

Review: Mr Jolly, by Michael Stewart

Published by Valley Press (2016)
156 pages
ISBN 978 1 908853 60 8
GBP 8.99

[None of the following is true.]

I walked into McGarry’s office with as near to an appearance of nonchalance as could be mustered by a man who knew he was doomed.

‘Help yourself to tea or coffee,’ he said, as he leafed through the bottom drawer of a filing-cabinet. I looked around, and could not see any hot beverages on offer, and so I took a mouthful from the Americano I had bought at the station, laced with something from Poland, and I don’t mean a heating engineer.

I sat down in the vacant chair.

‘Sit down,’ he said, when he had finished excavating the site in the bottom drawer. ‘What have you got?’ I like that about Mr McGarry: he gets down to business. I had rehearsed this a hundred times by the time my train left York. Two hundred by the time it got to Malton. Three hundred by the time it got to Seamer. But this was Scarborough. I mean Scarborough. I was nervous. ‘What have you got?’

I took another gulp of my ‘wine of Poland’, and gave him my best shot.

‘I’ve got a quirky story about an obsessional character with conflicted sexual tastes, described in detail, with the reader left with the task of working out how this person fits into society.’

‘OK. And?’

‘I’ve got a dialogue-driven story in which a protagonist is tricked into getting into a dangerous situation by a lying interlocutor, with another twist applied, even after the reader has got the main thread.’

‘Sounds good. Go on.’

‘Er. The next piece is called ‘How To Be An Alcoholic’. It is about a character in conflict with his own setting.’

‘I see.’

‘And in ‘Deleting dadsbooks’, there is a very skewed dialogue, of which the reader only gets one side, until the last moment.’ I could see that I wasn’t selling it to him. He reclined, and composed himself to listen, politely, to my last endeavour. ‘I have a story which uses childhood recollections in an unexpected way. I’ve got nine others. I think I’ve got enough for a collection, Sir.’

He sat upright in his chair, and then opened a drawer. He pulled something out and slammed it down on the desk.


I knew that I was beat. Just like the man on the cover.

Lyrics news 4: an extract from The Today Programme*

The time is now 17 minutes past 8.

The Home Office has been under considerable pressure in recent months to explain its policy on the prison system, and on the rehabilitation of offenders. In the radio car, we have a spokesman for the Home Office, Mr Desmond Dekker. Mr Dekker, can you hear me?


Thank you for that microphone test, Mr Dekker. Now, can you tell me how you perceive the current problem?

At ocean eleven

I am going to have to stop you there, Mr Dekker. Surely you are not trying to invoke
a George Clooney film in order to deflect criticism.

And now rudeboys have a go wail
‘Cause them out of jail
Rudeboys cannot fail
‘Cause them must get bail

Well, yes, I am sure we all appreciate all that. These people are marginalised, and left with very scant resources.

Dem a loot, dem a shoot, dem a wail

Well, yes

A Shanty Town

Nobody is in any doubt that poor housing is a fundamental part of the problem, but, as I was saying

Dem a loot, dem a shoot, dem a wail
A Shanty Town
Dem rude boys out on probation
A Shanty Town
Them a rude when them come up to town
A Shanty Town

Mr Dekker, forgive me for saying so, but you seem to be repeating yourself a greal deal. What our listeners want to know, particularly those who, in spite of the uncertainty in the global property market, may still be considering a move a shanty town, is whether:

Police get taller
A Shanty Town
Soldier get longer
A Shanty Town

What do you have to say to that?

Rudeboy a weep and a wail
A Shanty Town
Rude boys a weep and a wail
A Shanty Town

And so are you saying they weep and a wail because the police get taller and the soldier get longer? Yes, I see.

Thank you, Mr Dekker. I think that is all we have time for.

* This isn’t true.