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

~~~

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

~~~

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

~~~

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

~~~

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/

Saxophones and sperm donation: a night at Verbose

“What is this terrible music?”

“You should try a burger when you go. Oh my. I was like.”

“I’m done with Tarantino.”

“Is it fancy dress?”

“See, I like the new Star Wars and I’m not a Star Wars person. Funny isn’t it?”

“I paid four pounds for this and I don’t even like it. Do you want some?”

 

January 25. It’s busy down at Fallow Cafe. I’m listening to the jazz of small-talk. Hello, goodbye, I like your frock, how are you? Verbose is in town: bringing words to the ‘burbs. Hosted by Sarah-Clare Conlon, Verbose is one of several literary nights in Manchester. It’s a booming scene. Tonight’s guests are writers who study or teach at Edge Hill University: John D Rutter, Jim Hinks and Ailsa Cox. I’m doing an open mic slot. My third time treading the boards at Verbose. Wish me luck.

A mixed crowd tonight. It’s always a mixed crowd. There are some admirably interesting fashions on display. A fellow with brown velvety eyes and chapped lips asks me if I like Gerald Manley Hopkins. “Not on a Monday night,” I reply. And certainly not outside the Gents. There are familiar faces. And there are faces I hope will stay unfamiliar. Some writers clutch shivering sheets of paper. Others store their genius in places unknown. I keep mine in my pocket.

Sarah-Clare takes to the stage and we’re off. She explains that the warm-up music was selected by that master of the uncanny and Nightjar Press supremo, Nicholas Royle, as a showcase of sublime saxophone stylings. Gerry Rafferty or Spandau Ballet do not feature. No one complains.

First up, Rutter gives us a tale of IVF treatment and sperm donation. A Geordie accent is attempted with some success. Brave man. Later, there is an eruption of energetic performance poetry from a young man who looks too cool to be in the same room as me. Words bubble out of his mouth: I’m not convinced they make much sense but I’m an old pedant, and it’s a tight, polished, arresting performance. Which is more than can be said of my reading. I wasn’t at my finest. My shoes were too tight. No bottles or knickers were flung at me as I read from a work in progress.

A fellow who looked like a shabby, less handsome version of Anthony Newley delivered a fine, cynical, comical rant, winning laughs all over the gaff. Jim Hinks read a strange, quietly absorbing story. He’s also the man behind MacGuffin, a self-publishing platform owned by the very fine Comma Press. Every reading at the event was recorded. Writers then had the option of uploading their work. You can listen to my dulcet tones here. It’s cheaper than a prescription.

Verbose takes place on the fourth Monday of the month, at Fallow cafe in Fallowfield, Manchester.  On Monday 22 February 2016 readers from The Real Story will be bringing their creative non-fiction to Verbose. You’ll be hearing from Nija Dalal-Small, Adam Farrer and Danielle Peet.

Check it out.

 

 

Look Twice: a Q&A with illustrator Kate O’Hara

“I love taking things that are dark and disturbing and making them beautiful.” Kate O’Hara

“Looking closer, Lorimer saw that at the centre of each flower was an eye, some of which were shedding tears of blood. From a distance, these tears looked like petals. The effect was most unsettling.”  Through the Flowers, published in Popshot Magazine A/W 2015.

All images from kate-ohara.com. Copyright Kate O’Hara. 

A three-eyed crow perched on a twisted bough. Among poppies and thistles, a white rabbit, scrawny and seemingly dead, lies above it’s own skeleton, the bones surrounded by questing roots and worms. A human head, coming apart in sections, to reveal the frantic but alluring world within: a fish, a bridge, musical instruments, geometric forms, plants, insects, birds, mountains, flowers, fruits. A bouquet of carnivorous plants. A dog bounding over a rhinoceros. Capuchin monkeys exploring or observing a human skull. Beetles emerging from a candle. Malevolent birds and busy insects. Curling, thrusting plants.

A Kate O’Hara illustration invariably demands a second look. The thrill of the initial impression gives way to measured inspection. One peers in – or is pulled in – and begins to relish every remarkable detail. Her work is intricate, full of idiosyncratic motifs and odd juxtapositions. The images are bursting with wit and menace. They are, in the main, elaborately macabre. On first encountering them, I was reminded of old medical illustrations and diagrams. Indeed, in the Q&A below, Kate acknowledges the influence of scientific illustrators such as John James Audubon and Ernst Haeckel. There is a touch of the anatomist’s precision about her work. It is as though she is mapping the human soul; illustrating our elusive thoughts and fears.

I’m always on the hunt for literary magazines. Obscure, vital, feisty publications packed with stories, poems, illustrations and essays. Browsing in the bookshop of Manchester’s Cornerhouse (the precursor to Home), I discovered a rather handsome publication called Popshot Magazine. A strange name, I thought. What lurks inside? Is it safe to peruse in a public space?  I could not make out any writing on the cover aside from the title. Certainly it was an attractive object, trim and dapper, sitting there on the bottom shelf. I picked it up, flicked through the pages. The illustrations were worth the entrance fee alone. I bought it and ferried it home.

I put the magazine on my hit-list. If this conjures up images of a pale loner poring over maps and photographs, constructing a grim and bloody plan in his bedroom, then your imagination is vivid but untrustworthy. I merely decided to submit my work to this stylish publication. But submitting is one thing, being accepted is another. The quality of the artwork in Popshot acted as an incentive. The story that was finally accepted, Through the Flowers, appeared in issue 14, the Curious Issue.

I was immediately bowled over by Kate’s illustration for the story.

KateOHaraPopshotMagazine2_800

Crimson poppies with delicate, pleated petals. Dense, green, twisting foliage. Insects bearing sinister markings. A fallen tombstone. Furred and bristly pods. And in the centre of every flower, an eye, round and staring. I have previously described the illustration as a kind of sinister William Morris wallpaper design. But I hardly think that does justice to the invention and wit of the piece. It certainly captures the essence of my tale. There is a playful violence about Kate’s work, intricate but not fussy, macabre yet beautiful. Her images invite the viewer to return again and again.

Twink_DustBunny_GDOB-30H3-007

Intrigued and impressed, I asked Kate about her work. She was kind enough to answer my questions.

Stephen Hargadon: How did you start out as an illustrator?

Kate O’Hara: I graduated from the University of the Arts’ Illustration program in 2014, and started working as a freelance illustrator right after. I’ve always been interested in art and illustration appealed to me since it’s a combination of fine art and commercial art. I like that clients come to me with projects and I get to create something for them that fits their needs. It also means I get to be constantly researching new topics that would never come up in my personal work.

SH: Which artists, if any, have influenced you? What inspires you?

KO: First would be old scientific illustrators like John James Audubon and Ernst Haeckel. I love their compositions and the life they gave to the animals they drew. I’ve always been drawn to scientific illustration in general, and how it categorizes and breaks down parts of nature to show the whole. There are also a bunch of contemporary illustrators whose work I find really inspiring, Jason Holley, Victo Ngai, Jonathan Bartlett and Sterling Hundley to name a few.

SH: There’s often a sinister or inventively macabre element in your work. Do you enjoy working on darker themes?

KO: I’m always afraid of making work that is just pretty. So, I try to always have a disconcerting element in each piece that makes the viewer look twice. I love taking things that are dark and disturbing and making them beautiful. With my pieces I often start with what would be normal animal behavior, but juxtapose that with human introspection. Themes like death, regeneration and symbiotic relationships are prevalent in my work as well.

KateOHaraInnovation_800

SH: How important is humour in your work? Your images are often nightmarish but witty.

KO: Humour is definitely a part of some of my pieces, but I try not to be obvious about it. I like making visual puns, or having disconcerting elements that are just weird enough to seem clever rather than creepy.

SH: You recently illustrated my story Through the Flowers for Popshot Magazine. How did that project come about and how did you arrive at the finished image?

KO: I found out about Popshot magazine about a year ago. I sent them a note saying how great I thought the magazine was, especially how the art is as important as the writing. Then, they got back to me when they were starting this issue and asked if I’d like to work on a piece.

SH: What are you working on at the moment?

KO: I’m working on a design for a hat, based on Kafka’s, ‘Metamorphosis.’ Also, I‘m doing a whole bunch of hand-lettering for different posters. I have a couple personal projects too. One is an alphabet of Medieval Medicine that combines my love of morbid things, scientific illustration, lettering and the ornate and has currently gotten up to the letter H.

KateOHaraDisperseDrawing_800

SH: If given a free choice, which book would you like to illustrate? And why?

KO: I’d love to do an alphabet book of weird animals someday. Also, I like fables and fairy-tales, so something along those lines.

SH: Take us through a typical working day.

KO: My studio is out of my house, so generally I start by drinking coffee and answering emails. Then I’ll get started on whatever project I’m working on for that day, whether it’s sketching, drawing or coloring a piece. Depending on what needs to get done I might work on some personal stuff later on. My schedule isn’t set in stone because the hours I work are usually dictated by deadlines and client time-zones. So, sometimes I stop work at 6 and sometimes I work until 11. It’s nice to be able to set my own hours as a freelancer, but I have to keep myself from getting lazy, since there’s no one else keeping track of my time.

SH: What’s your favourite flower?

KO: My favorite flower is the poppy. I’ve always loved the poem, ‘In Flanders Fields’ and how the poppies represent something so sentimental yet dark. I also have always liked how sparse and tough they are, but also vibrant and resilient. Coincidentally, I also used them in the illustration for, ‘Through the Flowers.’

For more information about Kate’s work, visit her website here. Prints of her illustrations can be purchased here. I look forward to seeing more of her work in the future. And I hope she gets a chance to do that alphabet book of weird animals.

 

KateOHaraOppositesRight_800

The Joyful Art of Derrick Harris

In a recent article for Litro I wrote about second-hand bookshops, those “pubs for the mind”. The essay was called Just Browsing and contained a brief reference to the illustrator Derrick Harris. I first became aware of his work when I picked up an odd but entertaining old book called Word for Word, An Encyclopaedia of Beer. I was intrigued by the jargon of the brewing industry. But it was the illustrations – small black and white wood engravings, bold and jaunty, with sometimes sinister flourishes – that really caught my attention. I was in the excellent Carnforth Bookshop at the time, nosing my way through a succession of creaking rooms, all crammed with books. I believe it was a birthday expedition, a couple of years ago perhaps. (The messy all-dayers and frazzled nightclubs of curly-haired youth had long been superseded by sedate railway journeys across the north country.)

Carnforth is, of course, famous for its railway station, central to Brief Encounter. Carnforth itself seemed a rather desolate place – at least it appears as such in my untrustworthy memory, a place of wide corners and sloping roads to nowhere. The pubs were uninvitingly big and menacingly empty, with screens glowing in the gloom. There was, however, an excellent little bar serving real ale at the station. I hope it is still there.

The bookshop where I discovered Harris was an endless warren of rooms and sub-rooms. It was almost overwhelming. A few solid hours of browsing lay ahead. I heard a voice. “Relax, take your time. You’ll find some good stuff here. It’s only a matter of time.” The voice was in my head. In such a promising bookshop one almost feels it a duty to leave with armfuls of treasure. But my haul was meagre. A copy of Wolf Mankowitz’s My Old Man’s a Dustman, “the story of a Cockney Don Quixote and his Sancho Panza”. From the flyleaf: “In this story Wolf Mankowitz uses the Cockney idiom with immense relish, making the most of its audacity and gorgonzola ripeness.” How could I resist? I still haven’t read it, I don’t know why. It draws me in. I’ve taken it off the shelf to have a look. It has a nice jacket, designed by Sydney Mould, with an attractive, trembly illustration of the Cockney duo making their way across a rubbish tip.

There were a few William Sansoms to be had in the shop but I considered them overpriced. In the age of the internet everyone’s an expert. So I left with two slim volumes, the Mankovitz and Word for Word. I took them home on the train as Cumbria and then Lancashire darkened through the windows.

A few months later I looked up Derrick Harris. There wasn’t much to be found on the internet. I contacted his Estate. A little later I was invited by Catalina Botello to view the archive. It was an immense privilege to meet Harris’s widow, Maria. She sat with a jigsaw on her lap as she told me of her life with Derrick. It was a delight to see Harris’s sketches and doodles, his homemade Christmas cards, his imposing ink-stained woodblocks. It was a bright day in early summer when I visited Catalina and Maria, a day of glinting windows and halting traffic. Workmen yelled. Students meandered in and out of grand-looking buildings. A woman in huge sunglasses carried a tiny dog in her arms. A boy dropped his ice lolly and let out the most awful squeal of anguish. It was a Derrick Harris kind of day, full of interest and charm and human mischief.

I wrote an essay on Harris, Inspired by the Day, also published by Litro. I’m heartened by the positive response it’s had, with people curious to know more about Harris, to see more of his work. People do seem to warm to his images. Perhaps his time has come at last. It would be wonderful to see an exhibition of his work in the UK. At one time there were plans, I believe, to include Harris in the Design series of books, joining such figures as Abram Games, Edward Bawden, E. McKnight Kauffer, David Gentleman and Peter Blake. Harris’s delightful colour illustrations for a children’s book, Royal Flush, remain without a story.

For more information on Derrick Harris, please visit: www.derrick-harris.com

All images copyright The Estate of Derrick Harris.

 

Lambert Flows

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of reading my work at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester. If you haven’t been, you should. I was merely a warm-up nonentity before the main attraction, Magnus Mills, a tall and genial fellow in a noticeable shirt. He looks like Syd Little and sounds like Tommy Cooper. He  entertained the crowd with  a selection of droll readings, my favourite being a telephone interaction between a less than forthcoming grocer and an increasingly exasperated customer. Mills himself likened it to a Python sketch. He was very good.  But let’s return to the nonentity.  I read from a work in progress. The piece seemed to acceptable to a boisterous crowd hungry for Mills. Indeed, nothing unsavoury was hurled in my direction. Does that count as success?

Jamie Stewart reviewed the event for Humanity Hallows. I was pleased to see what he’d written:

“Lambert flows through Dublin,” Stephen Hargadon begins as he kicked off the night with the equally hilarious and gruesome story of a “faded, rather hairy pop-star from the 1960s, who hides himself away in the West of Ireland.” It’s hard to listen to Hargadon’s prose without feeling Dublin around you, hearing the river and the voices curl nearby. “Lambert is observing, listening, walking.” Hargadon’s ear for city sounds is both disarming and utterly charming. Hargadon has previously had his work published in Black Static and Popshot.”

To be pedantic, Lambert was strolling, not flowing, through Dublin. But no matter. My dulcet tones, combined with a dry mouth, probably led to the confusion. Indeed, it was a happy mistake. I rather like the idea of Lambert flowing through Dublin like the Liffey. Constructive criticism at its finest. (BS Johnson thought critics a waste of space unless they could suggest improvements.)  As for the dry mouth, there must have been something in the air that night, for Magnus Mills reached for his glass of water several times to pacify a mutinous throat.

An enjoyable and instructive evening for all concerned.

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.

Browsing on a Sunday afternoon

This afternoon, after an uninspired but tolerably energetic stint in the gym, I wandered over to the bookseller on Oxford Road. I’d seen the tables being set up earlier, just outside All Saints Park, as I ate an overripe banana on my way to the gym. The thought of all those books, musty and foxed, sustained me as I cycled grimly in front of a television screen busy with growling rappers and sneering divas. Soon, I told myself, this bodily torment will end. Soon I will be checking the condition of bindings and dust-jackets, picking out obscure Pelicans and Penguins for closer inspection.

Freed from the bright purgatory of kettlebell and rowing-machine, I ambled over to the tables. There were two long rows today – a chance for some proper post-gym browsing. You never know what you might find on these tables. It’s a casino of the mind. There was a big selection of communist literature, as there often is, from Trotsky’s provocative analysis of Swedish volleyball to Lenin’s thoughts on contemporary millinery. None of it has sold for weeks, perhaps in protest at the capitalist system. There was another table piled with more insidious red propaganda – big, shiny hardbacks about or ‘by’ such luminaries as Ferguson, Beckham, Ferdinand, Butt. These profound tomes inspired such awe in passers-by that no one stopped to investigate. Alex and Eric received far less fondling than did Leon and Karl.

For me, it wasn’t a vintage browsing session. But an hour or two spent nosing through strange books among sometimes strange people is never wasted. I dabbled with a bit of Henry James – I’ll try anything on a Sunday – but halfway through the opening sentence I felt the first faint throbs of a migraine. There’s usually a good stock of luridly-dressed sci-fi – I was drawn to Harry Harrison’s No More Room. In the end I came away with an interesting and sharply-designed Pelican paperback on mental asylums, which has certainly added cheer to a chilly Sunday afternoon.

If you’d like to read more of my thoughts on secondhand bookshops, my essay Just Browsing: An Ode to the Second-Hand Bookshop can be found at Litro.

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.