Illusory Flowers in an Empty Sky

Barry Graham, Scottish Author

by Barry Graham

In the summer of 1989, I finished writing my second novel, The Champion's New Clothes. It was a few months before my first, Of Darkness and Light, was published by Bloomsbury. They bought the second one right away, but took almost two years to publish it. Scotland on Sunday called it “entertaining, raw and punkish,” with “scenes of rampant evil.” It soon went out of print, and remained so for more than a decade.

Today, a French translation, Le Champion Nu (The Naked Champion), is published by Tusitala, who also published The Book of Man as Le livre de l'homme, and it has the same translator, Clélia Laventure.

It's a strange and happy feeling to see a book I finished at age 23 published in another language and country 32 years later.

#barrygrahamauthor #books #booksinfrenchtranslation #lechampionnu #thechampionsnewclothes #thebookofman #lelivredelhomme #ofdarknessandlight #scottishfiction #scottishbooks

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by Barry Graham

“A principal rule for writers, and especially those who want to describe their own sensations, is not to believe that their doing so indicates they possess a special disposition of nature in this respect. Others can perhaps do it just as well as you can. Only they do not make a business of it, because it seems to them silly to publicise such things.”

—Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

#writing #books #vanity #barrygrahamauthor

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by Barry Graham

Black Body by Bart Lessard

Earthlings by Murata Sayaka

Pine by Francine Toon

The Care Manifesto by The Care Collective

Shot by Gerard Brennan

Breasts and Eggs by Kawakami Mieko

Revolting Prostitutes by Juno Mack and Molly Smith

A Spell in the Wild by Alice Tarbuck

Girls Against God by Jenny Hval

There Is No Outside edited by Jessie Kindig, Mark Krotov, and Marco Roth

Mutual Aid by Dean Spade

Feminist City by Leslie Kern

The Southland by Johnny Shaw

Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald

#books #fiction #politics #righttothecity #crimefiction #horrorfiction #barrygrahamauthor

by Barry Graham

Glasgow Live reports a new breed of rat, resistant to pest-control, is making its presence known.

This reminds me of the Glasgow bin-men's strike in 1975, when the “super rats” ran wild. I fictionalised it in my novel The Book of Man:

The middens were infested with rats. They’d appeared in force during the months when the Cleansing Department went on strike and rubbish filled the back courts in stinking piles. When the strike was over and the rubbish was gone, the rats were still with us. They got so big that the tabloids began printing stories about “super-rats.” For once they weren’t exaggerating. They were true, the stories about huge hungry rats attacking babies in their cots, and fighting back like angry cats when hysterical mothers tried to drive them away. Nobody wanted to believe the Victorian horror stories under the banner headlines. But, in 1970s Glasgow, they were true.

Some might say that Robert just evened things up a little, scored a few points for the two-leggers. Others would say the rats were in as bad a situation as we were and so you couldn’t really blame them.

Robert had a hamster-cage. It had housed a hamster at one time, and I don’t even want to speculate about what happened to it. But with the hamster gone, the cage wasn’t redundant.

He’d put a bit of rancid meat in the cage and leave it by the midden, with its door left open. He’d stand a distance away, but still close enough to see, and wait. It wouldn’t be long until there was a rat in the cage, groping and gnawing at the bait. Robert would rush over and kick the cage door shut.

He didn’t catch the biggest ones, the super-rats, because they couldn’t get through the small door. But the ones he caught had plenty to offer him by way of amusement.

In the afternoons, he had the two-room flat he lived in with his parents to himself. His father worked for the Cleansing (I swear it) and his mother had a part-time job in the local off-licence.

Robert would take the cage with the rat up to the flat. If the rat was lucky, it might get to finish eating the bait before Robert had boiled a pot of water big enough to fill the sink.

He’d pour the boiling water into the sink until it was nearly overflowing. Then he’d plunge the cage into the water and boil the rat alive.

Peter and I stood one afternoon in Robert’s grimy kitchen and watched a rat swell to nearly twice its size, saw its eyes strain to explode from its head, saw a red- brown substance — maybe its tongue — come out of its mouth as it rolled around under the steaming water.

You could smell it on the steam. Even after we’d left the flat and were walking along the road in the sunlight, I only had to take a deep breath and I’d smell it again. The smell of boiled rat.

#glasgowratinfestation #glasgowinthe1970s #superrats #maryhill #glasgow #scottishbooks #scottishfiction #thebookofman #barrygrahamauthor

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by Barry Graham

My publisher, Dockyard Press, has put out three new books: The Night before Christmas of the Living Dead, a holiday-themed zombie thriller by M.V. Moorhead; The Heavyweight Champion of Nothing, a Chicago novel of working-class disillusionment—and burglary—by Zak Mucha; and Shot, by Gerard Brennan, the first in a new Northern Irish crime series featuring Shannon McNulty, a former London cop gone home to contend with the murder of her gangster uncle and the disappearance of a politician’s daughter. All titles are available as e-books through our in-house store, and in paperback at all discerning bookshops.

#dockyardpress #books #crimefiction #horrorfiction #gerardbrennan #zakmucha #belfastnoir #mvmoorhead #barrygrahamauthor

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by Barry Graham

Of Darkness and Light by me. It’s been making people sleep with the light on since 1989.

The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg. In my opinion, the greatest Scottish novel ever. I wrote about it, and others, in this essay.

Carnacki the Ghost-Finder by William Hope Hodgson. A classic, far ahead of its time. Here’s an essay I wrote about it.

The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley. Another classic, but not at all ahead of its time. The racism, classism and general Little Englandism of this book sometimes reads like parody, but it’s still a great page-turner, still scary, and it arguably invented the occult novel as we know it.

Julia by Peter Straub is haunting in every way, and still this author’s best work.

Full of Days by Bart Lessard is elegant and horrifying, my favorite work of one of my favorite contemporary authors.

The Least of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones is my pick for the creepiest of his brilliant, creepy books. Read his werewolf book Mongrels too. Better still, read all his books.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. Read this, okay? You’ll thank me. Then read The Moonstone.

Fragments of Horror by Junji Ito. You can't go wrong with Ito. I love his graphic novels Uzumaki and Gyo, but this collection of short tales is my favourite. ​ The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories by Algernon Blackwood. What I said about Wilkie Collins applies equally to Blackwood.

#horrornovels #books #barrygrahamauthor

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by Barry Graham

Girls Against God by Jenny Hval

The Care Manifesto by The Care Collective

Breasts and Eggs by Kawakami Mieko

The Missing by Sarah Langan

Gulp by Mary Roach

And rereading:

A Lover's Discourse and Image Music Text by Roland Barthes

Ghosts of My Life by Mark Fisher

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

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by Barry Graham

Authors are, with few exceptions, worthless scum. But, knowing that, even I was flaggergasted recently when I picked up a collection of stories by Chekhov, with an introduction by Richard Ford, and found the book had a biography of Ford... but not of Chekhov.

One of the few exceptions to the rule of authorial narcissism is the Icelandic novelist and poet Sjon, who, as editor of the Nordic writing anthology Dark Blue Winter Overcoat, didn't include any of his own work.

#chekhov #richardford #narcissism #authors #writers #sjon #books #fiction #barrygrahamauthor

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Today is publication day for the French translation of my book on Zen practice, Kill Your Self, published by Pocket as La Vie Apres L'Ego. A deep bow of thanks to Mikael Demets, Charlotte Lefevre, Elise Boulay and Ghizlaine Guevel.

#zen #buddhism #meditation #mindfulness #barrygrahamauthor #dogobarrygraham #lavieapreslego

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