Some reviews of The Toilet (published in Black Static 49)

“Down in the neon gloom of the Toilet, among the mumblers and dribblers, the dead souls with their dead dreams, Rio Snagg indicated, with a buyer’s nod, that he wanted the same again; the same again being a pint of the celebrated local brew, Knicker Sniffer, a fierce and sooty fluid cited as the malign inspiration behind many a Friday night coshing and bludgeoning.”

The Toilet Stephen Hargadon Black Static 49

Since it’s appearance in Black Static #49, a few curious passers-by and hardy souls have stepped into The Toilet. Here are their thoughts:

 

Stephen Hargadon steps up to bat next [in Black Static #49] and, quite frankly, knocks it out of the park with The Toilet. Doing what he does so well – urban horror that takes the everyday sights and sounds of the city and twists them into something much grimmer – here he takes us on a journey into a semi-hidden inner city bar that serves a very special kind of home brew.

When a murder occurs outside, police inspector Burroughs heads into the dingy joint in an effort to collect statements… only to find himself trapped in a waking nightmare. It’s a remarkable piece, and despite the short length, Hargadon manages to dredge up an atmosphere so sickly, decrepit and smeared in human excretions that you can almost smell it. It’s dark, it’s nasty, it’s slightly confounding (don’t expect to grasp its secrets easily on the first read)… and it’s bloody brilliant.

Gareth Jones ~ Dreadcentral.com

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While investigating an assault, detective Frank Burroughs becomes addicted to an unusual beer in Stephen Hargadon’s ‘The Toilet.’ The Toilet is a small bar, located a flight below street level. Burroughs’ life changes after he visits the restroom in this creepy, noir-ish mind bender.

The Horror Fiction Review

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Rio Snagg is felled by someone with a hammer outside of a pub called the Toilet. Detective Burroughs investigates but runs into trouble. I can’t go into more detail but this one was very strange

Sam Tomaino ~ sfrevu.com

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Hargadon is my cup of tea as a writer … Here the drink is stronger, Knicker Sniffer on the pump, in a basement pub that used to be a public convenience … Hargadon’s … labyrinth of The Toilet’s own lavatory has to be read to be believed. It is something else altogether. REALLY.

DF Lewis ~ The Dreamcatcher of Books

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Want to go to The Toilet?

The print edition of Black Static 49 (November-December 2015 issue) can be bought here. It contains new novelettes and short stories by Ralph Robert Moore, Thana Niveau, Simon Bestwick, Stephen Hargadon, Erinn L. Kemper, and Tim Lees. The cover art is by Martin Hanford, and interior illustrations are by Ben Baldwin, Martin Hanford, and Vincent Sammy. Features: Coffinmaker’s Blues by Stephen Volk (comment); Notes From the Borderland by Lynda E. Rucker (comment); Case Notes by Peter Tennant (book reviews and an interview with Nicole Cushing); Blood Spectrum by Tony Lee (DVD/Blu-ray reviews).

An electronic version is available from Amazon & Smashwords.

Black Static 49

Berryl St

The other morning I went to collect a parcel from a depot. An item of knitwear. It was a chore I did not much resent, for time was on my side and it meant a relatively untaxing stroll through one of Manchester’s tattier and more interesting corners, the Baring Street industrial park, near Piccadilly Station. It’s a seedy and dilapidated zone – unpretty signs, cracked brickwork, soiled concrete, and intimidating gates of rusty, corrugated iron. But among the grimy backstreets and rubble-strewn ginnels there are functioning businesses. Some of the buildings look abandoned, the most notable being of course the old Mayfield Station, a quite impressive ediface of decay and neglect which I did not have the inclination to inspect. The Medlock, usually no more than a brown, feculent, niggly dribble of a river, has been gorging on rain and actually looks quite potent in its own insignificant way. A strange, crudely-painted emblem adorns the bridge over the river. Two creatures, one cream, the other a rather sickly blue pose and prance next to a dull shield. There is graffiti – RZ has been doing the rounds – and a leather jacket lies in the gutter. Some wag has modified the sign for Berry St. You can glimpse this not-quite-destroyed world from platform 14 of Picaddilly Station. It is tucked behind the clean, curved mass of the Macdonald Hotel, where hen parties, business men and football fans stay. Next time you’re up there, on platform 14, waiting for your train to Blackpool or Horton Parkway or Liverpool Lime Street, take a look  at the world outside, at those dirty, littered streets, just beyound the confines of your daily business. They are unloved streets, perhaps even unwelcoming for the right kind of visitor, but they are not with a certain charm. The old warehouses are attractive. The peeling paint and moss-furred pipes are pleasing on the eye. Perhaps my view that morning was coloured by the excitement of collecting a package. The jumper was too small by the way.

Boozers and Hoovers

A few thoughts on Maclaren-Ross

JMR 40s

Julian Maclaren-Ross. It sounds like the name of a shifty toff or privileged criminal, the name of a man who fiddles his tax, hunts foxes, and makes donations to the Conservative party. An effete and fussy name. Perhaps that’s why I had never bothered with Maclaren-Ross until relatively recently. My mistake. The name is made-up, not so much a florid invention as a slight refinement of the truth. (He was born James McLaren Ross in the middle-class London suburb of South Norwood. The McLaren part of the name honours a family neighbour, Mrs Lilian Mclaren, who helped  at his birth.) The teenage Jimmy Ross developed something of an obsession with Oscar Wilde, as detailed in Paul Willetts’ excellent biography, Fear  & Loathing in Fitzrovia:

“Usually sporting an orchid or carnation in his buttonhole, he swanned around in a white mess jacket, worn in combination with a matching crepe-de-chine shirt, linen trousers and, if he was feeling really extravagant, two-tone shoes and a crimson sash in lieu of a belt.”

JMR 9 Men

He accessorised this costume with “a cane and a silver snuffbox, as well as a long cigarette holder.” An army of one, he must’ve cut quite a dash on the boulevards of Croydon. The rejection of Jimmy in favour of Julian completed the transformation. The highfaluting, hyphenated name became part of the author’s raffish, lordly persona, along with the aviator sunglasses, the teddy bear coat, the pungently coloured corduroy.

JMR Love Hunger

Of Love and Hunger was the first Maclaren-Ross book that I read. A short, spiky novel about vacuum-cleaner salesmen during the depression of the 1930s. The dialogue is snappy and sharp. I remember searching the fiction shelves at Waterstones on Deansgate, Manchester, looking for something to read on holiday. (My pile of the unread at home must have looked unappealing.) I chose Of Love and Hunger on a whim and read it under a savage French sun. Days of Pernod and sunburn. I was hooked. Back in blighty, I tracked down his short stories. I recommend Paul Willetts’ selection for Dewi Lewis Publishing as a good place to start. After that I raced through as much of Maclaren-Ross as I could find or afford: the excellent Memoirs of the Forties (the original Alan Ross edition is fittingly suave); the rich, poetic childhood memoir The Weeping and the Laughter; and the sun-drenched novella Bitten by the Tarantula. And more stories, of course, always more stories.

Here’s a few further thoughts on the short stories of Maclaren-Ross: http://blogs.chi.ac.uk/shortstoryforum/i-didnt-actually-invent-this-story/

And for more information about the man who slept in Turkish baths, visit: http://www.julianmaclaren-ross.co.uk/