As Far As You Can Go

September 22, 2012

Like My Previous Collection, But With 100% Added Story

Are you tired of picking up short story collections and finding only nine or ten tales inside? Do you often wonder why someone hasn’t published a collection of 18 stories?

Well they have. As Far As You Can Go is a new collection by Martin Philp. It  features all the award-winning stories* of his puny collection One Big Echo of a Much Nicer Place, with eight brand-new stories, bulking the total up to a spray-tanned, muscular 18 (yes, 18) stories.

And at just over two quid for the entire collection, it works out at a great-value, recession-proof 11.1p per story.**

What’s it about?

As Far As You Can Go is 18 largely interconnected stories set in West Cornwall. They’re a mixed bag of comic tales with a mildly maudlin streak I can only apologise for. You’ll meet Dandy, a flamboyant, lonely, desperate-to-be-loved, Hayle man who suffers a cruel fate during carnival day. (You can read Dandy Allcock here.) John, who has a dangerous obsession with purchasing cut-price power tools from German supermarkets. And foul-mouthed Jack Tremenyans, who each year decorates the town with Christmas lights and a torrent of expletives. (Bizarrely, Jack’s story Merry Fucking Christmas recently featured in a Christmas service at Truro Cathedral.)

But is it any good?

To be honest, I’m not the best person to ask: I’ve messed about with these stories so much it makes my eyes water just looking at them. But the first collection did win the Holyer An Gof Award Fiction Category in 2010 (it’s a Cornish thing celebrating Cornish arts). And I have had some nice reviews from people.

You’ve convinced me. You’ve worn me down. You can have my flippin’ two quid.

You can buy a Kindle edition of the book on Amazon

And bear in mind, if you don’t have a Kindle reader, you can download one for free and read if from there. If anyone would prefer an iPad version or any other format, let me know and I’ll get on to it. It should only take me two and a half years or so.

Hope you like the book. If you don’t, well, as John Shuttleworth would say, I’m sorry.

Cheers.

*Apart from one, which wasn’t very good.

**Calculation not accurate

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Latest review

June 12, 2010

REVIEW FROM WESTERN MORNING NEWS,  1 JUNE 2010

BY MIKE SAGAR FENTON

AUTHOR GETS UNDER THE SKIN OF PORT TOWN

Humphry Davy stood at the top of Market Jew Street, his hand on his hip, and a look of haughty condescension that said: “It’s about time you dreadful people pulled yourselves together and made something of your lives.”

I owe this vivid and accurate picture of my home town of Penzance on a winter afternoon to a man from the other side of the world – Hayle.

And if Penzance is so dreadful, my townsmen might say, what about that post-industrial wilderness through which we trailed unwillingly for so many years until it was, thankfully, bypassed and, therefore, forgotten?

But the words are by author Martin Philp, a name synonymous with Hayle for decades.

//

One Big Echo of a Much Nicer Place is a collection of short stories which has already been reviewed in these pages, and I’ve just finished reading it. I can’t remember which author said that “it’s not enough to be successful – others must fail” but generosity is rare between most creative artists and that’s how we like it.

However, this little blue book, published by Scryfa, is one that any Cornish writer must stand up and salute. He has got Cornwall right, as only an insider can.

And even more of a revelation is that he has celebrated Hayle itself, which is as much a character as any of the complex, sad, funny, utterly humane people whose lives he delicately brings to life. It’s a love/hate relationship.

“Hayle’s a dump and always will be,” says one resident, while another revels in its “faded glory … like an overlong youth, frayed and worn in places (most places)…” awaiting the line of would-be developers who have threatened to make it grow up like other towns.

The author’s ear for dialogue in real Cornish – as opposed to “proper Cornish” – style is marvellous and his satires are as gentle as they are true.

We share the frustration of a conventional local artist bewailing modern art’s money and praise while he looks around his studio at Bosigran And The Heavens, Carn Galver In Autumn, Morvah At Dusk, Last Rays At Zennor Head and other doomed works.

Meanwhile, the art critics do what art critics do: “bludgeon a work with words and concepts until they are quite sure it has stopped breathing.”

No contemporary portrait of Cornwall could work unless it dug beneath the gloss and the pseudo-romance, down to the well of Cornish identity – the mixed sadness of defeat coupled with deep pride of ownership, the sense of abiding values, the willingness to let the world go on its mad way without wanting to jump aboard, and — making it all bearable — the humour, love and humanity which keep our societies together under the harshest circumstances.

It’s truly beautiful stuff, and you should go out and buy a copy.

One Big Echo Of A Much Nicer Place by Martin Philp is published by Scryfa and is available for £7.50 (inc, p&p) from Scryfa, Halwinnick Cottage, Linkinhorne, Callington, Cornwall PL17 7NS.


Local Heroes – or Why I Hate Humphry Davy

March 24, 2010

Setting is hugely important in One Big Echo of a Much Nicer Place. I mean, how could I begin to suggest the rambling, decaying mind of an old bachelor without  Hayle’s crumbling North Quay as a backdrop? Here’s a few of the places you’ll see in my stories. I think of them more as characters than locations – sometimes the lead, other times making a cameo appearance.

Foundry Square, Hayle.
If my stories were movies (not much chance of that) Foundry Square in Hayle would be the opening shot: the hustle and bustle of people and cars, the train rumbling over the viaduct, someone effing and blinding because they’ve been boxed in outside Spar again.
My locations are personalised, fictional sketches. Spar is a beacon of hope (really), the viaduct always looms ominously, old men grumble in deep voices outside the bakery, the fruit and veg shop is run by a couple who are sad but revelling in their sadness. The sound of rain pattering on the canvas roof on wet Tuesday afternoons is music to their ears.

Market Jew Street, Penzance
Have you ever wondered about Humphry Davy statue’s odd pose? All hands on hip and starey eyes like he’s frozen in a moment of consternation. Never has a statue cast such a supercilious, haughty gaze on his townsfolk. He judges the citizens against his own achievements and finds them wanting. One of my stories is set in Penzance in the Eighties. From what I remember of the time – the lines of boarded up businesses,  endless charity shops, the terrible hairstyles of my generation – Humphry Davy was striking just the right pose for the occasion. But I still don’t like him. I’m going to write a story where he hits the skids and spends his last guineas on cheap cider and drinks it sprawled under his own plinth. That’ll show him.

Hayle dunes
Whenever a character needs to tell someone something important – declare his love, reveal that life is a big crock of ordure – I pack him or her off to the dunes in Hayle. This is Hayle’s strange, whispering, marin-swaying border between prosaic reality and a world of dreamy sunsets and infinite possibility. It bring about that crack in the psyche, that pause or gap in a person’s life where they break from the illusion, see and reveal things.
The dunes also say something else about Hayle. They evoke the breadth and range of the place. See the strange, breeze-block structures squatting in the dunes, then look out beyond to an infinity of blue. It’s all there. All of it. (Just watch out for the bags of dog pooh. Oh, please don’t get me started on that subject…)

The Weir, Hayle
My collection is called One Big Echo of a Much Nicer Place because it is a phrase a character uses about the world in general. But later I realised it also said something about Hayle: at least when you’re in a certain mood. There is the echo of zeal and activity about Hayle, the ghosts of working-class industrial workers kicking about the rubble. Usually, they’re down at the Weir. Can a place be beautiful and ugly at the same time? Yes. Go to the Weir. The rubble, the cry of a curlew, the swirl of tide and pool, dithering like it can’t find a way out from a nostalgic daydream, this is the Weir. It is broken and it is beautiful. (And I’ve just fortuitously come up with the title for my next collection (self publication due 2037.)

Chapel Street, Penzance
Chapel Street, the upper-middle class neighbour of proletariat Market Jew Street. The bistros, the antiques, the expensive furnishing, the immaculate pubs – Chapel Street smiles at its own reflection in wine bar mirrors and antique silver tea trays. Whenever a character is beginning to feel alienated or dispossessed I quickly push him down Chapel Street. He inevitably starts to feel worse and that is always good for a story. (You’ve got to be heartless, ruthless even, in such matters.)

Hayle pubs
I use real names for places and that includes pubs but, in truth, all of these are composites and impressions and not the real places in question at all. The important thing about pubs is that they are places where things happen to people. They are the venue for reconciliation or humiliation, the grand operatic moments of a life amid the crackle of a crisp packets, the click of pool balls, the flash and bleep of the fruiter, the ostentatious belch of Fatty Thomas, the soporific drone of Terry Nine Pints at the bar as he sets the world to rights by recommending burnings and floggings for people not of Cornish origin. I love pubs. But only fictional ones, where I am the hand that brings justice and retribution. It’s one of the perks of writing.