The strangeness of the suburbs. A few reviews for Langwell Sorrow

Langwell Sorrow Stephen Hargadon

Last year (how briskly the years fall away, yet each day takes an age) I was privileged to be published in the tenth anniversary issue of the excellent Black Static. I was in the company of three other writers who published their very first stories in that magazine: Carole Johnstone, Tim Lees, and Ray Cluley. (I still remember, and still cherish, the excitement of that first acceptance.)

My story, Langwell Sorrow, is set in Manchester. There are pubs, there are big screens. There are voices. There are football teams. There are memories and hopes. There are streets to which you should never return. I do not quite know how the story began, or why it needed to be written. These things happen. The words happen.

I’m pleased to say it gathered a few decent reviews. Here they are.

For me, the real jewel in the crown in issue #60 is Langwell Sorrow by Stephen Hargadon. Quite simply, this is one of the best short stories I’ve ever read. It centres around a mans encounter with a patron at a pub that leads him on the trail of a local football team that few have heard of. The team is/was called Langwell Sorrow. Why is there no history online of Langwell Sorrow? Where is the ground they played at? Why have only a few heard of them? Why are they spoken about in hushed voices? These are all questions that need answering as our narrator seeks to piece together the truth of their existence, and perhaps his own. This is a beautifully melancholic story. I simply adored it. Many of the places mentioned are close to where I grew up and I believe this is one of the reasons I became so drawn into this story. Hargadon perfectly captures the feel of being a football supporter with his wonderful writing along with honing in on the camaraderie that exists between followers of the sport. The narrator is full of hope and sorrow at the same time, a wonderfully realistic character. The ending to the story is simply perfect. I enjoyed it so much I read the story again, twice! it is just brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, nothing else to say. The Grim Reader

The best tale this issue is novelette “Langwell Sorrow” by Stephen Hargadon about a depressed single office worker who becomes obsessed with discovering an otherworldly amateur football (soccer) team that he learns about in a pub. It’s an engaging story full of insights … Michael J, Goodreads

“ … giving way to wrinkles and creases, the eyes ever more frightened, more alert, too sensitive for the world, and then becoming dim …” I have long lived with the truly remarkable Stephen Hargadon canon of stories in Black Static, and this one I tell you is that canon’s latest apotheosis, beyond which I cannot conceive of a greater apotheosis. Except I expect there may be one. I put nothing past this author, least of all a goal. Here, we have pub talk as a sort of religion, pubs as scatologically and eschatologically worse than even one’s memory of them, one’s living in them … and better, too. Football, too, as soccer puppets of the darkening soul. I imagined stigmatised bodies hanging from those chanting outstretched soccer-scarves to the Sorrow. I cannot do justice to this text packed with wise saws, homilies, unique locals, the strangeness of suburbs of a city that are ordinary to the people living there but an alien land to you, like life and death themselves. The good-hearted winks at sometime bad bonhomie, a rough cut mix of rarefied Quentin S Crisp and something overwhelmingly and completely off-the-bar but true … And the narrator himself is a real character and a half. Full of anxieties as well as hidden hopes. DF Lewis 

… the local color and characters make [this story] a rewarding experi­ence. The nameless narrator finds old Gary Gorse at a local pub and listens to him grouse about his football team. Despite his discon­tent, he exists for the Langwell Sorrow (“Named after a church. Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows on the Lower Langwell Road”) and remains true to the green-and-maroon. The narrator is fascinated and goes off to find Langwell, the church, and the team. Paula Guran, Locus Reviews

“Langwell Sorrow” by Stephen Hargadon. The narrator meets a man in a pub who tells him about an obscure football team from an unknown town. He tracks down the village, which is not listed on any map. His journey leads to an unexpected discovery. The point of the story seems to be the narrator’s search for a way to escape his lonely existence. Victoria Silverwolf, Tangent Online

Our narrator drinks a lot in a pub and doesn’t have much more in his life. One night, a man he sees all the time started talking about all the football clubs he hated, which seemed to be all of them. What club did he support? Langwell Sorrow. Team colors were maroon and green. Our narrator is intrigued but can’t find out much more from the man, only that it was associated with a church called Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows. He starts to look around and finally found where they play. Nicely chilling ending. Sam Tomaino, SFRevu

Black Static 60 can be bought from TTA Press here. (If dark fiction is your thing, it’s well worth getting yourself a subscription.) For Kindle, it is available here.

black static 60 Langwell Sorrow

Cover by Ben Baldwin

A rollicking good read: some reviews for Mittens

Mittens appeared in Black Static 53, accompanied by Richard Wagner’s artwork (below). Here’s a few reviews of the story:

Stephen Hargadon steps up … with the evocative and imaginative Mittens. Following the discovery of a grotesque murder, the apparent felon – sideshow manager Percy Scollop – pleads his innocence by recounting tales of his history in showbusiness… most importantly, in managing the astounding talents of master knitter Neil O’Neill.

Full of life, drama and a palpable sense of wonder, Hargadon’s Mittens blends the magic of the stage with the malignancy of self-doubt, wanderlust and, yes, bloody murder. O’Neill’s signature stage show is brought to gleaming life – a bombastic spectacle that comes close to placing the reader right before the stage – whilst the gloomy, blood-slicked horror that follows is equally affecting in Hargadon’s hands.

Throw in the twisting effects of an unreliable narrator who may be that worst of narrative leaders – the insane showman – and you have yourself a rollicking good read.

Dread Central

~~~

“The years go quickly but they arrive slowly.” As ever, this Hargadon is crammed with stunning turns of phrase, wise saws, suppurating homilies, witty but down-to-earth conceits … the central conceit of the variety act in question is too good to spoil or unspool in a review such as this … And its staggeringly disturbing finale has to be encountered cold to be fully appreciated.

DF Lewis

~~~

Impresario Peter Scollop is found in a room in the Foxbridge Hotel in Buxton, naked except for a pair of pink knitted mittens, with blood on them, and the dead body of a woman in the cupboard: strangled, her chest cut open and knitting needles in her major organs. Scollop denied everything even his name and that the woman was dead. We get a wonderfully imaginative story with descriptions of the incredibly bizarre acts that he presented to the public. One of the best was Neil Niall O’Neill, the remarkable knitter. He could knit at a remarkable speed. But he went into a rough patch and went out with his most unbelievable act of knitting. But was that his last creation? Imaginative, entertaining and very unsettling

SFRevu

Black Static 53 is available from TTA Press here (or from Amazon). Well worth buying a subscription.

mittens

Illustration by Richard Wagner

Roll up, roll up: Mittens, a new story.

The last story I had published in Black Static was ‘Listen, Listen‘, back in March.

Time moves quicky, the world is a different place, perhaps a shittier place, and here I am again, in the current issue of Black Static, with a new story, ‘Mittens’, a treat for afficiandos of fine knitwear and fast knitting.

The accompanying artwork, stylish and eerie, is by Richard Wagner, who illustrated ‘The Visitors‘ in issue 45.

Here’s how the story begins …

The first time I met him he was sat on the edge of a bed, naked except for a pair of pink mittens. The Foxbridge Hotel in Buxton. We found the body of a woman in the cupboard. She had been strangled and her chest had been cut open. Knitting needles pierced her major organs. There was blood on Percy Scollop’s mittens. Under the bed we discovered a black sports holdall containing several skeins of yarn and a selection of knitted items such as dolls, gloves, half-finished scarves. Scollop denied everything. He said he wasn’t Scollop. And he said the woman in the cupboard was not dead.

Black Static 53 Contents

BS 53 looks a strong issue, with stories by Priya Sharma, Steve Rasnic Tem, Harmony Neal, Kristi DeMeester, Danny Rhodes, Charles Wilkinson, plus regular features by Stephen Volk and Lynda E. Rucker. There are Peter Tennant’s book reviews, while Gary Couzens casts an eye over the latest DVD and Blu-Ray releases: The Witch, Penda’s Fen, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Goosebumps, The Hound of the Baskervilles, That Cold Day in the Park, Journey to the Shore, Evolution, Night of Fear, Inn of the Damned, Me and My Mates vs the Zombie Apocalypse, The Club, Even Lambs Have Teeth, Cherry Tree, The Ones Below, Visions, Baskin, i-Lived, The Forest, Intruders.

Black Static 53 can be bought here.

BS53cover

Cover illustration by Tara Bush

Reviews for ‘Listen, Listen’

Some reviews for ‘Listen, Listen’ (Black Static 51)

When his father dies, Robert Haig moves into his house. His aunt tells him she had been telepathically in communication with his father and that his last words were about a place that had been burned and in which a man who died. The ghost of old Haig reprises his last dream. A nasty, very effective, grim tale. Sam Tomaino at sfrevu.com

Hargadon is the name of an author of whose work I have become a fan over the last few years … The main theme, of how one dies and what is supposed to happen after death, depending on whether one dies peacefully or while dreaming, is certainly original … We have spontaneous combustion, regrets, guilt, collected toys, Yeats’s Byzantium, father-son relationship, life without dreams not being a life at all, workers-boss relationship, money-making, the nature of bodies when burning, telepathy, death as the most dramatic thing you ever do… DF Lewis

In ‘Listen, Listen,’ Stephen Hargadon introduces us to Robert Haig, who inherits his toy-making father’s fortune. But Robert’s old man comes back to torment him in a unique way in this wonderfully written study of ghosts and the afterlife. The Horror Fiction Review

… reminds me a little of Mark Samuels crossed with Reggie Oliver … There’s far too little witty, decadent and disturbing prose out there, and I’m delighted to have discovered another author who is so good at it. John L Probert

Black Static 51 is available from TTA Press or Amazon.

LL

Illustration by Vince Haig: barquing.com

 

Listen, Listen

I have a new story, “Listen, Listen”, in Black Static #51.

The March–April issue also contains new novelettes and short stories by Mark Morris, Stephen Graham Jones, Gary McMahon, Caren Gussoff, and Norman Prentiss. The cover art is by Martin Hanford, and interior illustrations are by Vince Haig, Jim Burns, Ben Baldwin, and Richard Wagner. 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 Molly Tanzer); Blood Spectrum by Tony Lee (DVD/Blu-ray reviews).

You can read and see excerpts from issue 51 here.

I’m particularly pleased by Vince Haig‘s artwork for “Listen, Listen”. Seems to capture its tone and atmosphere very well.

LL

Here’s how the story begins:

“Richard Haig, known to long-standing business acquaintances and certain family members as old Haig, died five weeks ago. On hearing the unhappy news, his eldest son and heir, Robert Haig, had returned from Peterborough where he had been working on his memoirs (two hundred and forty-one pages of rhyming couplets) to attend the funeral, a grand, sombre masque of white blooms and black veils. The whole town came out to smirk. Robert softened himself on gin and swapped polite words with various unremarkable cousins, nephews and simpering admirers of the dearly departed. Resisting the call of Peterborough (where his latest muse, Emily, was waiting for him in a flat above a fish and chip shop), Robert decided to stay on at Haig Heights, an ugly Tudorish pile perched on a hill at the northern end of town. Its timbers creaked and moaned in the cold winds that blew in from Russia. The home, if it can be called a home, had all the charm of a dusty and infrequently visited provincial museum, a certain dull menace, and was efficiently run by a robust housekeeper called Mrs Furnivall. No one knew if this woman was married, or had been married, or wished to be married; it seemed unlikely that she would tolerate something as frivolous in her life as a husband. On the other hand, no one could quite imagine that she had ever been a little Miss, all ribbons and plaits and moonlit intrigues. It was as though Mrs Furnivall had turned Mrs into an entirely new category of being, the mysteries of which were known only to her. While at the Heights, young Haig did his best not to interfere with Mrs Furnivall’s endless round of cleaning and arranging. He retreated to the leathery gloom of the library and set about putting old Haig’s estate in order. But young Haig wasn’t so young anymore and he wasn’t very good at putting things in order. Quite often he abandoned the library for the Cock and Badger, where he found strong ale and a serviceable muse.”

Black Static 51 can be bought here.

Enjoy. And don’t work too hard.

 

 

 

 

The Toilet

November, month of thrown fireworks and burning effigies,  will see issue 49 of Black Static magazine landing on doormats across the country.  It’s certainly better than having a banger stuffed through your letterbox. This issue features a 13,000 word offering, Dirt Land, by Ralph Robert Moore, while Martin Hanford provides the cover art.

Black Static 49

This issue includes a story of mine called  The Toilet. It’s my fourth story to feature in Black Static, following on World of Trevor, The Bury Line and The Visitors. As a magazine, it’s a broad church. Readers who might think it restricted to blood and guts and rampaging fiends should take a closer look. There’s a real variety of writing to be found,  detailing our many modes of terror, disquiet, pain, grief, loss, our human vulnerability.

World of Trevor, my first short story to be published anywhere, appeared in Black Static 42. So to have another story in the magazine feels rather like coming home, if that’s not too presumptuous a comment.

I’m looking forward to seeing the artwork.  I hope you enjoy your visit to The Toilet.

Through the Flowers

“Good choice. It’s a lovely edition and a very fine story.”

My copy of Popshot Magazine – The Curious Issue – has arrived. As ever, it’s a handsome devil, with stories by Georgia Oman, Danielle Carey, Dan Coxon, Rob Stuart, Jane Wright, Audra Kerr Brown and Alys Hobbs, Christine Burns and poetry from Claire Booker, Katherine Venn, Adam Battestilli, Nancy Carol Moody, Ben Norris, Sophie F Baker, Sharon Lusk Munson, J.S. Watts and Rosie Garland.

The artwork is remarkable. The magazine a thing of beauty. I’m particularly thrilled by Kate O’Hara’s interpretation of my story “Through the Flowers”, my first to be published in Popshot. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised: her design is lush and sombre, marked with sinister wit and invention. I love it. The picture works well with the story. The vivid green leaves, the pleated scarlet petals, the insects, the  furred buds, those eyes. It reminds of an intricate Victorian wallpaper pattern – or perhaps the ornate and nauseous florals of the 1970s. A creepy William Morris design, watching your every move. Kate’s other work is well worth investigating. She’s very good indeed. Check her out at: kate-ohara.com

Popshot is available from tasteful and enlightened stores all over the spinning globe.  Ten quid will get you a three issue subscription, a bargain. Issue 14 can be snapped up here: Popshotpopshot.com

I hope you enjoy your stroll through the flowers.

Take out or eat in

 

Hollywood Chicken: a new story

“Happens to me quite a bit. People think they know me. Perhaps they do. I wouldn’t know. I’m not a people person.”

Hollywood Chicken was published in issue two of LossLit Magazine and can be read in full here.

LossLit is an attempt by its co-creators, Kit Caless and Aki Schilz, to explore the various influences of loss in literature. The project aims to produce a body of work that will look at loss from all angles, alongside its online micro-project, the #LossLit hashtag on Twitter. Find out more at losslit.com.

Each contributor is asked to pick a book concerned with loss. You can read about my choice in the magazine.

Enjoy the story. And don’t forget to clean up after yourself.