Where to buy One Big Echo of a Much Nicer Place

May 13, 2010

Just a quick update on where you can buy One Big Echo of a Much Nicer Place:

Hayle – Mr B’s Ice Cream and Driftwood Gallery

Penzance – Newlyn Books in Chapel Street; also in The Book Centre on the Terrace

St Ives – Uys Gallery (formerly The Printmakers Gallery), Tregenna Hill; and at the book shop further down the same road.

It’s also available in lots of other bookshops around Cornwall.

OR

Buy it securely on this blog by clicking the Buy button above, or call me on 07817 675342 and I’ll arrange to meet you in a shady location at night and hand it over in a brown paper bag.


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.


One Big Echo – in Uys Gallery, St Ives

February 11, 2010

‘I’ll have a big ceramic pot, please, and a copy of One Big Echo of a Much Nicer Place.’

Those are the exact words you can hear now* in one of the artiest and craftiest corners of the county, because One Big Echo of a Much Nicer Place is now available in Uys Gallery, St Ives*

Roloef Uys makes beautiful stoneware pots and displays them in this gallery, run by his partner Melanie. I’ve been looking at them myself and they really are things of great beauty.

Visit www.uysgallery.co.uk to find out more about Roloef’s pots, or visit the shop at 8 Tregenna Hill, up near the bus station.

*Only likely to be heard if someone is simultaneously buying a book and a pot


One Big Echo – in a good ice-cream shop near you

February 9, 2010

You know how it is.

You go to an ice-cream shop and buy a rum and raisin. And you feel strangely dissatisfied. And then you say to yourself:

‘You know what would make this a complete and fully satisfactory retail experience?’

‘What?’ you say.

‘If I could buy a book alongside my ice-cream.’

‘Exactly!’ you say.

Well now you can. Because Mr B’s Ice Cream Parlour in Hayle have bowed to heavy authorial pressure (nagging) and decided to mix retail genres by selling One Big Echo of a Much Nicer Place alongside its glorious ice-cream.

Early trials revealed much confusion, with punters licking books and reading ice-cream, but they soon got the hang of it.

I’ve got ice cream in my book

Interestingly, One Big Echo features a story called Love and Ice Cream, about a man who falls in love with a fellow ice-cream seller. (Well, I thought it was interesting.)

Find out more about Mr B’s Ice Cream Parlour at www.mrbsicecream.co.uk/ and then visit them to try the creamiest Tiramisu, richest Black Forest Gateau or one of the many other mouthwatering flavours.

And to pick up a copy of my new book.


Meet the Characters (Part 2)

January 28, 2010

Florence Bray
Apparently growing older is best done gracefully, but no one told that to Florence Bray. With her barely tolerated husband recently in his grave, she rages against the wasted years, casts off acquaintances and finds solace, and adventure, at last in the company of the demonic Mr Drew, a man with an appetite for love, drink and offending the elderly.

Henry Caldwell
Meet an ice cream salesman with a mind as cold and icy as his frosty confections. Henry is the scourge of hot, sweaty optimistic youth, and seems bent on bringing the knowledge of life’s disappointments to the young as quickly as is inhumanely possible. What will save the youth of Hayle from Henry? Love, of course, in the shapely shape of fellow ice cream vendor Sarah.

Ronnie Honeychurch
What is art? No idea, and neither has Ronnie by the looks of it. Until one day this anxious little painter of twee Cornish landscapes accidentally smears one of his tired paintings and begins a journey through impressionism, expressionism, and finally a deadly abstraction. Or something like that. Like I say, I know nothing about art. Like everyone else, I just look at the price tag.

Bill Downder
Bill keeps a diary. Every day he writes what he has for dinner, and what the weather’s like. Then his wife dies. And Bill embarks on a furious spree of writing (well, about 1,000 words)  looking back at the years with humour, regret and an admission that he knew exactly what his wife did with Fish Pie Matthews at the dinner and dance.  I’m sorry, I can’t write any more. I’m welling up.

PC George Thomas
He’s fat, he’s indolent, he wouldn’t know a clue if he saw a great big sign saying ‘Clue!’, and therefore, naturally – and really it goes without saying – he’s absolutely nothing like any policeman in Cornwall or adjacent counties. PC George Thomas is, however, quite the connoisseur of quality biscuits. Join him on a courtesy call to the recently robbed Mrs Grace Pellow, and on a high-tea adventure through Hob Nobs, Chocolate Fingers and beyond.


Meet the Characters (Part 1)

January 18, 2010

Here’s a few of the character’s that appear in One Big Echo of a Much Nicer Place. (And, incidentally, are popping up frequently in the next collection of stories I’m writing now.)

Dandy Allcock – Take a gameshow host from the Seventies (preferably one from an unbroadcast pilot) mix in a little auctioneer and finish with a sprinkling of horse-racing commentator and you have Dandy: a man who just wants to be loved and that no one in Hayle can stomach for more than a few minutes.

Barbara Morethek – Morethek means something like sadness in Cornish, I forget exactly what now, and Barbara is the epitome of the person who sees all the world through a veil of sepia-tinted nostalgia. Her life is a crackling Cine film, with a soundtrack made up of sighs and water dripping from guttering on a Sunday afternoon.

Jack Tremenyans – When some people swear it’s ugly, when others do it’s an art form. Jack belongs to the latter group – never does ‘fucking’ sound so vital and alive than when falling, mid mishap, from his cursing Cornish lips.

Archie – Otherwise known as Old Broken Window Bachelor. Living a life of purity can be a pretty dirty business. Ragged old Archie drinks and smokes his way through his autumn years like the young poet of his youth. Wise people salute him; commonplace people sneer.

Tommy Wakfer – The uber Cornish male. Suspicious of change one moment, Quixotic the next, a profanity or a poetic utterance never far from his lips. He’s never had a full story proper to himself yet, just an anecdote, though he pops up in a lot of other character’s stories when the raging spirit of Cornishness need to rear its beautiful/ugly head.


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.

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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