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


Buy Local – Pick Up An Award-Winning Collection of Cornish Stories For Just £2.10

April 6, 2012

As Far As You Can Go is my new collection of e-book stories set in Cornwall.

About as far away as you can get from pirates, piskies or picture-postcard Cornwall, this collection of largely comic tales is packed with plain-speaking and occasionally foul-mouthed Cornish characters.

The collection includes most of the stories from my previous print collection One Big Echo of a Much Nicer Place, which won the Holyer An Gof Award for Fiction (2010), plus eight new stories.

Reviews:

Martin Philp is a highly original writer of great talent. His odd blend of humour and tragedy must be quite unique.
COLIN WILSON, AUTHOR OF THE OUTSIDER

 [It is…] likely to be the start of a much wider and deserved recognition for a writer of such exhilarating talent.
DES HANNIGAN, WESTERN MORNING NEWS

Philp conjures a world inhabited by convincing characters. Sad, foul-mouthed and always authentic, his stories invariably possess a great sting in the tail.
THE WESTERN MORNING NEWS

Very funny. Read it at your peril and be prepared to laugh a lot.
THE CORNISHMAN

Support local produce – buy my collection of 18 short stories for a minimum wage- and seasonal income-friendly £2.05.

Haven’t got a Kindle? You can get a Kindle reader for your computer or smartphone.

Like to sample the produce before purchase? Then read a story.

That’s the hard sell over. Thanks for listening!

Cheers.

Martin Philp

ps If you could like my Facebook page, it would be a great help in getting the word around.


Ten new stories

December 8, 2010

Coming soon

(but not that soon and possibily under different titles and no, I know, it isn’t ten stories yet)

The Fabulous Life of Bolitho Townshend

Nature Video

The Return of Dandy Allcock

Titles, titles, titles… I just can't think…

Departures

Mad Dogs and an Englishman

Bingo! (Or the Vorstellung Adjustable Slim-Nosed Plane)

John Lennon Hat

Another Glass of Sherry, Please

Milk Factory


In defense of short stories

October 31, 2010

I used to steer clear of short stories, for the same reasons I steered clear of poetry. I was told every word must count, because it is a short form. So as writers we would (presumably) weigh words out like a miser and polish them before putting them on the page;

My favourite short story? Glad you asked. Cat in the Rain by Ernest Hemingway.

and, as readers, examine the words and turn them to the light, like precious stones. It all seemed a bit precious and earnest.

After writing and totally ballsing up two novels, I decided to write some short fiction. But, interestingly, I found that certain chapters of one of my ballsed up novels stood alone as perfectly good (in the relative sense of my own creations) short stories. And it made me wonder if there is anything so different about this form after all.

After extensive research, writing and reading short stories, I have come to this conclusion (cue drum roll): Short stories are shorter than novels. That’s really all there is to say on the subject. They can appear to be a fragment of a life, something plucked from the stream; a sketch; or a moment of crisis. Anything, actually. Just pretty short. Inevitably, they’ll have one storyline and will lack the subplots of novels, because there simply isn’t room. But to look at rules in short stories is restrictive in my opinion, though you might look at tendencies.

One other thing. I think the reason people have trouble with short stories is because when you enter any new fictional world, the first few pages can often be disorientating or unsettling, while you find your feet with the narrative voice and the world in question. With a novel, no problem: you’re talking about perhaps five per cent of your reading time as hard work. With short stories, you’re required to be bewildered and work a little harder every time you begin a new story. Unless, of course, you’re reading a collection with a similar narrative voice throughout, in a single locale. That makes things a little easier.

Anyway, if anyone’s interested, here’s a few masterpieces of the form, from the top of my head.

John Cheever

Cheever is my current favourite writer. His stories have an easy grace about them that can appear deceptive at first; and yet as you read on you realise his subjects are always, and only, the important things. Love, disillusion, nostalgia (yes, and drinking till you wet your pants). The Swimmer is about a man who decides to return home from a party via his neighbours’ swimming pools, swimming a length of one, getting out, walking to the next, swimming etc etc. And yet in truth it is about something far more disturbing. The Tallboy is a stunning story with an unpromising subject: a piece of furniture. And yet it evokes beautifully the dangers of wallowing in the past, of attempting to bring the deceased back to life through treasured objects. These are beautiful stories with the ring of truth, told in the reassuring voice of an artist who is easy and comfortable in his craft.

Chekhov

I’m not sure if these stories came before or after his turn in Star Trek, but Chekhov is the name that comes up time and time again as the consummate miniaturist and author of a life (and accompanying crisis) in a few pages. I find some of his stories a little slow – for a great Russian read (or Ukranian to be precise) Gogol’s Dead Souls is funny as hell. But back to Chekhov, you have, of course, to read The Lady and the Dog, which is a beautiful, sad story of a sordid love affair which seems to be not only about this particular affair, but all the sad, sordid relationships of the world. (And this wider, metaphysical quality runs through many Chekhov stories.)

Flannery O’Connor

A Good Man is Hard to Find is a hypnotic story which brings a shocking change in tone to a tale that begins with the mundanities of a family outing. A bit like Hitchcock’s Psycho. Another great story is The Artificial Nigger, which is about two country men coming to town, and is full of Biblical resonance. Her stories are set in the American South and accentuate the grotesque; there is something cartoonish about them, and yet also authentic and true.

Denis Johnson

There are far too many writers doing that drink-drugs-hopeless-sordid-barfly thing, yet Denis Johnson is a master, evoking a desperate world of rusted Americana and hopeless lives in a chilling, yet extremely readable way. You never feel he is trying to bullshit or impress you, but rather explain calmly and quietly a world on the margins that is, at times horrifying; at others, beautiful.

Raymond Carver

The writer who spawned a million inferior imitators, with his pinched, minimalist prose about the often mundane lives of Americans. It sounds unpromising, but Carver is the writer who is deeply poetic without appearing to write poetically. They are wonderful, beguiling stories because you will rarely find the beauty in a single line, but only in the wider context. In that way, the art of Raymond Carver is something almost invisible, hiding behind the words, but there all the same. One other thing: the simplicity of the prose makes these stories so effortlessly readable. (That’s always something worth mentioning after waxing lyrical about the style.)


Official – Indians love Cornwall

August 21, 2010

Take a look at this picture.

Notice anything odd about the little boy on the right?

I didn’t.

I was driving from Pondicherry to Bangalore with my girlfriend, Gargi.

We were deep in the Indian countryside: bullock carts, vibrant green paddy fields, the fragrant smell of rice in the air, old men wobbling on even older bikes.

We stopped the car and got out. We wanted to take it all in.

Then these two kids came up to us.

I took their picture, then we all did a bit of grinning (they didn’t speak English, we speak no Tamil).

Gargi and I got back in the car and carried on to Bangalore.

Cornwall For Ever. But only if regional pride is inclusive and doesn't take on any bigoted overtones, innit, my handsome?

Several days passed before we looked at the photos and noticed what was written on the T-shirt.

(For anyone not familiar with Cornish culture, Kernow Bys Vyken means Cornwall For Ever in the Kernewek language.)


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.


First review for One Big Echo

January 12, 2010

Town takes its place in the literary landscape
Monday, January 11, 2010, 11:00

A Cornish author’s debut collection of short stories is a tour de force, says Des Hannigan

WITH his first collection of short stories – One Big Echo Of A Much Nicer Place – Martin Philp stakes his claim as an original and authentic voice and as a Cornish writer of some power.

Philp’s stories vibrate with humanity, wit and, at times, a merciless but honest view of the human condition. He says that he discovered his Cornish hometown of Hayle as a rich seedbed for stories after forays into the wider world in search of inspiration. But a universal wisdom illuminates this collection and Philp has made of Hayle, with its no-nonsense rhythms and its rough vitality, a vehicle for a liberating take on life in much the same way as the Canadian broadcaster and writer Garrison Keillor has done for his fictional Lake Wobegon. Martin Philp has secured for Hayle an enduring and colourful place in the literary landscape of Cornwall and beyond.

Eleven stories make up this collection of often ribald, but always humane vignettes. Philp’s style rolls along gently as if the writer is talking directly to his readers at a pub or cafe table; the occasional lapses in syntax and form are manageable and there’s little need of too much background colour or literariness either. These stories are so insightful about the behaviour of ordinary people and their tangled lives that the scenes are set with ease.

Dialogue is a key element in these tales but Philp shows his skill as a writer by avoiding the hit and miss device of trying to replicate dialect. Rendering any dialect convincingly on to the page is rare; in the wrong hands, Cornish dialect especially, can be excruciatingly badly rendered. These stories have no need of such gilding. You hear the rich Cornishness for yourself in the mouths of Philp’s characters and in the nuances of their robust language and the rhythm of their often surreal thoughts.

//

Such gentle surrealism threads its way throughout the book, not least in the titular story, One Big Echo Of A Much Nicer Place, about two ordinary souls, Barbara Morethek, trapped in a loveless marriage, and Charles Spycer, fruit and veg man, playing to the crowds with rude wit and lonely cheerfulness until he and Barbara discover their mutual contentment in being miserable.

In the terrific story, Clink Clink Clink, widowed Florence Bray dutifully conforms to the world of local chatter, godliness, envy and narrow-mindedness on bus tours to Cornish resorts. On the harbourside at Fowey, however, Florence has an epiphany and finally dismisses her tormenting “best friend” Marjorie Eddie and throws in her lot with the scatological and liberating philosophy of the ancient Mr Drew.

In The Drunken Sunset, Philp offers a savage, but utterly sane take on the world of painters and art collectors. He takes his hero, the happily conventional artist Ronnie Honeychurch, on a gentle odyssey through his past and through the raw Cornish landscapes that inspired Ronnie’s work as a painter. From this, Ronnie is delivered into happy anonymity by a hilarious final gesture towards artiness and its pretensions.

Most of the stories in One Big Echo Of A Much Nicer Place are about the redemption and renaissance of ordinary people. There is no romanticism, no sentimentality here, no whimsy or quaintness. Nobody in a Martin Philp story trades windy chatter over wine or escapes to the sun. They transcend their apparently dull, dutiful lives to reach the “much nicer place” that lies within themselves.

Cornwall has seen a blossoming of short story writing talent in recent years, not least through the work of the collective Scavel An Gow, with such fine practitioners as Annamaria Murphy and Mercedes Kemp to the fore. The work of these writers has also had welcome exposure through the literary magazine Scryfa, now sadly reaching the end of its fruitful run. A serious loss to Cornish culture; but in promoting short story writing so generously Scryfa has found a real star in Martin Philp and this first collection is likely to be the start of a much wider and deserved recognition for a writer of such exhilarating talent.

One Big Echo Of A Much Nicer Place by Martin Philp (with a splendid cover painting by Penzance artist Rod Walker) is published by Scryfa at £7.50. It is available from shops, by visiting http://www.onebigecho.wordpress.com or by sending £10 (including p&p) to: Jean Philp, 2 Boskennal Drive, Hayle, Cornwall TR27 4QX. For more information about Scryfa’s unique co-operative publishing scheme, visit: http://www.scryfa.co.uk