Wednesday, May 09, 2007


'Rocket Boy'

I’ve put up the full text of my short story ‘Rocket Boy’ over at my web site.

It first appeared in the anthology Future Weapons of War, published in February, although I've yet to see a copy. Has anyone spotted one in the wild? Perhaps the publishers are too busy counting their money to send out contributors’ copies. Or perhaps my copy has been intercepted by Homeland Security on its way out of the US; even now some apparatchik might be puzzling his way through the stories, looking for sentences that might possibly give comfort to the Axis of Evil.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

More Greene

Just off Essex Road in Islington is one of those increasingly rare all-purpose junk shops: dusty and distressed furniture, foxed mirrors, worm-eaten gilt picture frames, chipped shepherdess figurines, rusted Oxo tins . . . And books too, of course. There’s always a rack of them set up outside, and on Sunday I bought a couple of Penguin paperbacks for less than the price of a pint of beer. A post-war Mr Polly, the spine a little chipped but the red cover still bright, and a slightly waterstained edition of two of Graham Greene’s stories made into films, ‘The Third Man’, and ‘The Fallen Idol’.

Rereading ‘The Fallen Idol’, I was struck afresh by the vivid precision and precise concision of its structure and imagery, and the brilliant conceit of using a seven-year-old boy as the viewpoint in a story about an adulterous affair involving the boy’s parents’ butler. The boy is damaged for life by what happens, but it’s the butler’s wife comes of worst, in all senses. It’s necessary for the story that she be unsympathetic, of course - as far as the boy is concerned, she’s a figure of unwelcome authority that spoils his fantasies, a nightmare intruder who at one point is described as a witch. And because she is such an unsympathetic character, we are able to feel sympathy for the butler, betrayed by the boy’s innocence. Yet I can’t help wondering about how different the story might be if the child left in the care of the butler and his wife had been a little girl; how she might have colluded with the cheated wife instead of the cheating husband, and how she might have been ruined in quite a different way.
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