The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 15

“What has been going on here?” said Reverend Phillips.

“Well, as far as we can gather, Mr Joseph here has been summoning jellyfish-like creatures from the deep which have killed and then somehow resurrected fisherman that are in some sense brainwashed and busy committing acts of vandalism,” said Sir John.

“You know, that old chestnut,” said Lord Hollingbury.

“They ain’t dead,” said Mr Joseph, “and they ain’t brainwashed neither.”

“Well, either Mr Wombly has the conversational skills of a trappist monk or something is messing with his mind,” said Lord Hollingbury.

“That ain’t him,” said Mr Joseph, “that’s them. He’s asleep in there.”

“What’s happening in my church?” said Reverend Phillips.

“It ain’t your church neither, you’re a newcomer.  You don’t know the old ways,” said Mr Joseph. “I told you before, them that has eyes, you don’t even see the pictures in this church properly.”

“Well, Mr Joseph,” said Lord Hollingbury pleasantly, “why don’t you go nice and slow and tell us all about it?”

“They first came here hundreds of years ago. My family, they’ve always been lighthouse keepers, in more ways than one. They came and they spoke to my great-great lots of greats grandpa. They don’t think like us, see, nor speak like us. They’re like ants or bees, like a jelly hive. But he can speak to them, shows his son and so on how to do it. They tells him they can make him live longer, make everyone live longer, and he agrees.”

“He agrees?” said Sir John. “So there’s a price.”

The lighthouse keeper nodded.

“They give life, but they take memories. Soon everyone was living longer, just by swimming in the sea. They don’t even have to be that close to the jellies. They give people years of extra life and just take some memories. For the ones that visit, the tourists, it’s nothing they’ll notice at all. Maybe they forget a name or two. For those that live here. They forgets a lot. They forgets about the jellies for starters. So we have to remember, the lighthouse keepers. When people stop swimming, we have to make them again. Otherwise they get hungry and….”

“People die younger,” said Lord Hollingbury. “Much younger?”

“Yes, that too. But when it works it’s a fair bargain.”

“Isn’t that for people to choose?” said Reverend Phillips. “Not for you to force.”

“Mayhap,” said the lighthouse keeper.

SS Ch 15“A Price”

“The disappearances?” said Marie, “Why is that happening?”

“These new fangled entertainments,” said Mr Joseph, “these promenades and cafes and merry-go-rounds and so on. They keep folk out of the sea. They were getting hungry, see. So I arranged with them to take some fishermen and use them to break these things. So these newcomers leave here and people go back to swimming again.”

“The fishermen are … dead?” said Sir John.

“They’re asleep. The jellies cover their bodies and make the men sleep inside. Then the jellies can use their bodies. But I have to direct them. They ain’t that good alone.”

“So for generations these jellyfish creatures have been feeding on people’s memories and extending their lifespan, and when they’re hungry, they’ve reduced people’s lifespan instead. And your family’s job has been to keep people swimming so the jellyfish can feed?” said Lord Hollingbury.

“That’s about the long and short of it,” said Mr Joseph.

“I have one more question,” said Marie.

“What is that?” said Mr Joseph.

“How do we make the jellyfish go away forever?”

The Sunnyport Shadow: Epilogue

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 14

In the centre of the church the pews had been pushed back and a circle drawn. Around its edge candles flicked and in the middle was a single hooded figure. He was chanting slowly in a low tone, his eyes fixed forward. The gibbous moon was shining through the stained glass sending eldritch colours into the church and over the hooded man.

Gibbous moon“Reverend Phillips?”

Suddenly the main door burst open and three figures came in. One was performing a kind of shimmying dance which was seemingly keeping a hoop around his waist. The other two were clutching onto hoops. The one dancing was chanting too, but was putting a bit more rhythm and melody into it, and ending every phrase with “hoop-la”.

The hooded man spun round to look at the trio.

“There are forces beyond your ken in this very room,” he said. “If you’ve a care for your lives or your sanity, you’ll flee now.”

“Oh, I don’t think we need to … worry too much hoop-la,” sang Lord Hollingbury. “See here these magic circles … keep us safe from what-nots.”

Sir John raised up the Cryptozoetropometer whilst hanging onto his hoop and looked at the hooded man.

“It’s definitely him,” said Sir John.

“You mean the chap with robes on? Standing in the circle?” said Lord Hollingbury. He grabbed the hoop and stopped his dancing and singing.

“You really needed that device to work that out?” he asked. Sir John went red.

“I wanted to be sure,” he said.

“Messieurs!” said Marie. “Can we focus on the man? He could get away.”

“Oh, I don’t think so. See, he’s as trapped in his circle as we are in ours,” said Lord Hollingbury. “Aren’t you, Reverend Phillips?”

There was a noise at the back as someone entered the room.

“What’s going on?” said a voice. “What’s happening in my church?”

Reverend Phillips walked up the aisle to the circle, the hooded man inside, and the trio of investigators.

“What’s the meaning of this?” he said.

“You’re not the cultist?” said Sir John. “Then who is that in the circle?”

The man in the circle was starting some more incantations.

“He’s trying to banish the ghoulish what-nots,” said Lord Hollingbury. “Quick, stop him!”

Sir John rushed forward with the Cryptozoetropometer, clutching his hoop.

“Are you going to reverse the polarity and fire etheric energy at him?” asked Lord Hollingbury.

“Actually, I was going to hit him with it,” said Sir John.

“Alright, alright, I surrender,” said the hooded man.

“Let’s see who you are, then,” said Sir John and pulled back the hood. A gasp went out when the man was revealed.

“It’s Mr Joseph the lighthouse keeper!” exclaimed everyone at once.

“I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for you well-meaning but impractical paranormal investigator, mysterious powerful French woman, and sexually ambiguous, morally dubious aristocrat.”

“I bet you say that to all the girls,” said Lord Hollingbury.

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 15

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 13

“Well, here we are again,” said Lord Hollingbury cheerily. “Midnight on the promenade with the Omega device.”

He shot a glance at Sir John, who didn’t say anything, then smiled a little.

“Is that them there?” said Marie as they saw a group of men approach. They walked without talking in a small group. They seemed to be carrying a heavy bag.

“I think so,” said Sir John. “They look to be heading toward that new paddling pool.”

Double Sovereign“For Fun?”

The men stopped in front of the pool and dropped the bag gently. Tools were removed and passed around. Mr Wombly started first, leaning down and prying the tiles from the edge of the pool. The tiles were passed back to the group and broken apart, Other members of the group joined Wombly in removing the tiles.

“Good guess on the pool,” said Lord Hollingbury.

“It looked like the most attractive thing after the merry-go-round,” said Sir John. “Now let’s try the Cryptozoetropometer.”

He got the device out and pointed it at the wrecking crew in the pool. He grunted an affirmative sound.

“It’s as we thought, lines of power as we saw before,” he said. “Now I’ll trace them back to their source.”

“Forgive me if I don’t act surprised,” said Lord Hollingbury. “Is it the church, perchance?”

“Exactly,” said Sir John. “Let’s go and see what’s happening there.”

“Tell you what, let’s not.” said Lord Hollingbury.

“But this is what we’ve been looking for?” said Sir John. “We can conclude our investigations.”

“Just out of interest, have you gone up against a group of mysterious cultists before,” said Lord Hollingbury.

“Yes, we did in London,” said Sir John.

“And how did that work out?” asked Lord Hollingbury.

“It went well, by and large,” said Sir John, “although we did have a martial arts expert, a vampire, and a powerful alchemist to hand at the time. Not to mention a large dog.”

“You know Sir John, I never really thought you had the capacity to surprise me but there you go,” said Lord Hollingbury. “The point is, we don’t have those things, just ourselves and our wits. Luckily, at least for me, that’s quite an arsenal, but we need to deploy it correctly.”

“How do you mean,” said Sir John.

“Well, this is my particular area of expertise,” said Lord Hollingbury.

“I thought that was wanton debauchery and drunken decadence?” said Sir John.

“Oh, touché, bravo,” said Lord Hollingbury. “Yes true, but in a professional capacity, this sort of thing is my area of expertise. Assuming these are your common garden cultists, then they’re probably all ensconced in a nice safe circle in the church whilst all sorts of ghoulish what-nots spin around. In order to get to the cultists and avoid the aforementioned what-nots we need a circle of our own and preferably one that moves.”

“What do you have in mind?” said Marie.

“Wait but a moment,” said Lord Hollingbury before opening the door in a nearby shop selling seaside toys. Sir John looked alarmed and Lord Hollingbury returned with 3 large hoops of the type rolled down a street by children.

“That’s robbery!” said Sir John.

“I know,” said Lord Hollingbury, “I only had a double sovereign to leave the shop owners. It’s a disgrace.”

“What do we do?” said Marie.

“Step in these hoops, I’ll mutter some incantations to protect us and we can pick them up and walk to the church, go into the church, and catch the cultists.”

“That’s … a rather good idea,” said Sir John.

“I know,” said Lord Hollingbury. “Look if you wiggle your hips like this you can keep the hoop up without holding it.”

Sir John and Marie tried to wiggle their hips like Lord Hollingbury, but their hoops fell to the ground. Lord Hollingbury sighed.

“I have no idea what you two do for fun,” he said.

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 14

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 12

Marie looked around at the church and its bizarre decoration again. Without the shock of the first viewing and the distraction of Lord Hollingbury she was able to see the artwork more clearly. In particular she noticed the background. For behind the fish, crustaceans and fantastical sea creatures there was a constant pattern of pale yellow disks set in a blue base.

SS Ch 12“Mysterious Ways”

She looked at some of the paintings as well. They were mostly biblical scenes, almost all with a watery theme. But some of the scenes she didn’t recognise. She knew the story of Jesus walking on water, but when did the disciples, or anyone, go bathing? Why was there a painting of an old man walking out of the sea? Why was there a …

Suddenly the entrance opened up and Marie swung round. Reverend Phillips had entered the church. He came in and shut the doors behind him then walked up the aisle.

“Hello,” said Marie. The vicar stopped with a start and looked at her.

“Who’s that?” he said nervously, “Who’s there?”

“It is Marie Jennings,” said Marie. “I was here the other day.”

The vicar looked at her and nodded.

“I remember you now. Came with that man. The strange one. And the idiot.”

“That’s my husband,” said Marie.

“Which one?” said the vicar. “No don’t tell me, it’s not good either way.”

“I wanted to talk to you about the men that have returned,” said Marie.

“The Lord moves in mysterious ways,” said the vicar.

“But,” said Marie, “they must have been dead. That’s very mysterious indeed, is it not? When we spoke the other day, you mentioned the resurrection. And now a man is alive who should be dead.”

“The sea is a fickle mistress,” said the vicar. “She sometimes gives and she sometimes takes.”

“She?” said Marie. “You make her sound like a person.”

“All the time I’ve lived here I’ve never once thought of her as anything different,” said the vicar. “For the sake of your health and sanity, you’d better do the same.”

“What makes her a person?” said Marie. “What does she take exactly?”

The vicar grunted scornfully.

“If you’d tended to those I’ve tended to, you’d know well enough. She gives life and she takes it. She sustains us here with her bounty, but it comes at a price. Every year I have services for them that don’t return. Them I can’t bury as there’s no body to bury. So yes, I see her as a fickle mistress and one that takes in a heartbeat.”

“And when she returns them?” said Marie.

“I have to prepare a sermon,” said the vicar. “I have a service this evening. You’ll have to excuse me.”

With that, the vicar headed to the vestry. Just before he arrived there he stopped and turned to look back at Marie.

“Them with eyes can see,” he said and shut the door behind him.

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 13

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 11

“Why are we here again?” said Lord Hollingbury as he and Sir John looked at the remains of the merry-go-round. It had indeed been destroyed and meticulously at that. The pieces had seemingly been removed, systematically broken and left in a pile.

SS Ch 11“Well Spotted”

“Well it’s another mystery,” said Sir John. “It may be of importance.”

“Well I think the mystery of how an apparently dead man walked into a bar is slightly more pressing than, oh let me hazard a guess, a piece of sabotage by a rival. But do carry on.”

“Well this sort of thing doesn’t happen here, apparently,” said Sir John.

“You mean none of the other merry-go-rounds have been dismantled,” said Lord Hollingbury.

“I think this is the only one,” said Sir John.

“So mathematically speaking we can say this sort of thing happens 100% of the time,” said Lord Hollingbury. “That’s rather more than never. Let’s focus on the dead man, shall we. Where is Mrs Jennings this morning? I daresay she could conjure something to help us.”

“She’s otherwise engaged,” said Sir John.

“That’s rather vague,” said Lord Hollingbury, “so I’m going to infer you don’t want to tell me. And given that she mentioned the reverend last night, I’m going to assume that she went to find him. Further, she probably suggested it would be best if I wasn’t to come along in case either he or I spontaneously combusted.”

Sir John went a shade of red.

“Subterfuge is my metier,” said Lord Hollingbury. “You can’t outplay a grandmaster.”

“Look, there’s Wombly,” said Sir John, pointing further down the promenade to some men on a bench. Sir John and Lord Hollingbury started walking briskly toward the fisherman.

“Who’s that with him,” said Sir John as they approached.

“From the pictures I’ve seen I think they’re other missing fisherman. Maybe Mrs Jennings was right after all.” said Lord Hollingbury.

“She usually is,” said Sir John. The two men arrived at the bench.

“Hello Mr Wombly,” said Lord Hollingbury cheerily, “we wondered if we could ask you a couple of questions about where you’ve been this past week or so.”

“Oh, I couldn’t rightly say,” said Mr Wombly, sheepishly. “I’m just glad to be here.”

“What, glad to be back on dry land or sitting on this bench?” asked Lord Hollingbury.

“Well, you know me,” said Mr Wombly.

“Not terribly well,” said Lord Hollingbury, “only enough to know that everyone thought you died.”

“I feel as fit as I ever did,” said Mr Wombly.

“Look,” whispered Sir John, “all these men have paint on their hands. Paint the colour of the merry-go-round.”

“Well spotted, Sir John,” said Lord Hollingbury. “Wombly, what’s that paint doing on your hands.”

“Oh, I couldn’t rightly say,” said Mr Wombly, sheepishly. “I’m just glad to be here.”

“And the other chaps?” said Sir John. “Would they know?”

“Well, you know me,” said Mr Wombly.

Sir John and Lord Hollingbury looked in confusion and mild horror at the man. After a pause he spoke again.

“I feel as fit as I ever did,” he said.

“You know,” said Lord Hollingbury to Sir John, keeping his eyes fixed on the fishermen on the bench, “I rather fancy a drink.”

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 12

Why I Stopped Watching Movies

Le_voyage_dans_la_lune_drawing“Bigmouth Strikes Again!”

Good afternoon Dear Reader

Here within and withal is our final epistle in our triptych of transgressions, at least within our lights. Today we turn those lights, cameras, actions on the world of cinema and list the factors and features of the silver screen that leave us disgruntled. As before, all lack of gruntles are purely our own and no crabs were harmed in the making of this blog post. And yes, we will be using Smiths song titles again.

Paint A Vulgar Picture

The lights go down and the music goes up. Instantly we are dropped into a world of extreme excitement as a thrill inducing, vertiginous sequence with state of the art graphics shows the protagonists in action, probably, at this stage, foiled by the antagonist. There is then maybe a brief moment of quiet where we at least learn everyone’s names, and then, rather like the first day at work, we are spiralling back into action again. Perhaps there is a training exercise, or a chase, or some such. Pause for recap and repeat, each time louder, brighter and with more effects.

The lights go up as the credits role and my, haven’t we seen a wonderful spectacle. As for character development, theme, plot and so on, well, they weren’t that important, were they? Of course, it all makes for first rate entertainment, that makes an hour or so pass quickly, but without the depth of story, it is all so much sound and fury, signifying nothing.

There Is A Light and It Never Goes Out

There is a famous joke whereby a gentleman (a Mr Lenny Henry) enters a shop specialising in recorded music. He enquires after a particular piece of music and is offered the “single mix, 12 inch mix, dance mix or instrumental remix”. The gentlemen in question replies, “Could I have the one where they get it right?” We have the same feeling these days about movies. The scourge of sequels is sufficiently well known to merit no further discussion, but it seems these days we have extended editions, directors cuts, reboots, deleted scenes, alternate endings, digitally enhance versions, et cetera et cetera. One no longer knows which version of the film one is watching. We would most heartily exhort the entertainment industry to focus on making the film once and, in the words of the joke, “get it right”.

What She Said

We fear this may be a sign of ageing and impending deafness, but as we don’t encounter this problem in real life, we suspect not. The object of our ire in this section is that most pernicious and diabolical curse of the modern age: mumbling. Yes, you heard us right, which is one advantage of enunciating with clarity. So many movies today seem to feature the scourge of mumbling characters that no visit to the cinema is complete without a hissed “what did he just say” comment. Maybe it’s a stab at realism, maybe it’s what the “cool kids” do these days, but whatever it is we find it (indistinguishable words).

So there it is, Gentle Reader. We have usefully concluded then that in writing our novel we should shy away from characters that are disinteresting mumblers, from scenes of excessive violence and banal humour, from cliched genre tropes and from unsatisfactory endings. Suitably forewarned we shall approach our task with a beady eye for such misdemeanours and shall vigorously excise any examples.

We hope you have enjoyed our cerberus of criticism and continue to have a pleasant weekend. Next week we shall endeavour to “accentuate the positive” and post something much less disparaging but no less enlightening.

 

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 10

“Two teas,” said Mrs Pimplenick, dropping the teacups in front of the Jennings at the breakfast table. Some tea sloshed around in the saucer.

“Oh, we thought we might have orange juice this morning,” said Sir John.

Mrs Pimplenick went red.

“But I’ve made tea!” she said and left the table. Sir John went to the sugar pot and saw it was empty. He turned round to say something and saw Mrs Pimplenick staring at him.

“Thursday,” she said by way of explanation.

Sir John took a sip of his tea and pulled a face. Mrs Pimplenick was still staring at him.

“Very nice,” he said and the landlady left, a sour look on her face. Marie took the opportunity to pour her tea into a nearby plant pot. She stroked the plant’s leaves and apologised to it.

SS Ch 10.jpg“Very nice!”

“I was thinking overnight about this strange re-appearance,” said Sir John. “I think we need to speak to Wombly, try and find out what he remembers.”

“I was thinking to speak with the priest,” said Marie.

“That’s a good idea too, we can find him as well,” said Sir John.

“Maybe it would be better if I went alone,” said Marie, “Lord ‘Ollingbury may … set the priest off a little. I think he likes to irritate ‘im. Amongst everyone else.”

“Yes, fair point,” said Sir John, “well I can keep Lord Hollingbury occupied with the search for Wombly.”

The delivery man from a few days before entered the front room, preceded by an aroma of fish.

“Got the latest delivery, Mrs P,” he called out. He turned round and saw the Jennings and smiled sheepishly.

“Morning to you,” he said.

“I have remarked more than once on the correct entrance to use,” announced Mrs Pimplenick grandly, arriving from the kitchen.

“Sorry Mrs P,” said the man, “but it’s a devil to shift them that far. Oh sorry – do mind my French.”

Pas de problem,” said Marie and the man looked surprised.

“Yes, well, next time perchance you’ll remember,” said Mrs Pimplenick.

“Have you heard the latest news,” said the man. “About the promenade?”

“I’m sure Sir Jenkins doesn’t want to hear some local tittle tattle,” said Mrs Pimplenick and started to lead the man into the kitchen. The man unconsciously took off his hat and stared at the Jennings with awe.

“Actually, we wouldn’t mind at all,” said Sir John.

“Well, it’s been destroyed hasn’t it,” said the man, whilst Mrs Pimplenick looked on in annoyance.

“The promenade?” said Sir John.

“No, the latest attraction, the merry-go-round for the little ones. The paint wasn’t even dry on it and it was taken apart over night and broken up. Who’d do such a thing, eh?”

“It must be outsiders,” said Mrs Pimplenick, “like when those scoundrels from London with sticks had a fight with those gentleman who laughed at them.”

“Oh yes,” said the deliveryman, “the rods and the mockers.”

He was dragged into the kitchen and some strong sounding language came from behind the door.

“Well then,” said Sir John, “it seems like we have three things to investigate.”

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 11

Why I Stopped Watching Television

TV“No crabs were harmed during the making of this blog post.”

So once we must apologise for the crab catchy title (see Why I Stopped Reading Books for an explanation of that phrase) and make the same general observations as from the previous post. We won’t mention any specific television shows, just the concepts that are likely to cause us to stop watching a series. These observations are of course highly subjective. As before, we hoped these thought processes might help us in our ongoing novel writing avoidance. I mean project, novel writing project.

As a minor aside, we really don’t possess a television as we prefer reading improving books or dining in fine restaurants as an evening’s entertainment. But we do have access to a well known video streaming service named after a South American river.

Half A Person

“He’s a wise-cracking smart-alec manufacturer of craft beer, she’s a by-the-rules cop with a taste for danger. Together they are Trouble Brewing.”

Maybe the character development stopped at the “elevator pitch” or maybe the size of the writing team means that no one person scripts all the characters’ lines, but quite often we notice a certain “two-dimensional” quality to characters. It seems like they all have wonderful, clever lines, well suited to the character’s archetype, but they never speak to each other as normal people do. This makes them seem less real, less plausible and then we don’t care as much about them anymore. And we all remember what happens when that happens…

Suffer Little Children

We like some dark in our fiction. Regular readers of this august organ will no doubt be aware of that fact as we weave in some fiendish and mesmeric scenes into our stories. But for us, dark does not mean constant decapitations or slow motion torture or psychological torment. It means… a certain atmosphere or feeling. A sense of unease or a disconcerting moment. So when we encounter television shows with body parts flying around and human beings in pain, it tends to “turn us off” as the young people say. And so we in our part turn it off.

I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish

We have persevered for weeks, we have followed every twist and turn, on the edge of our seats. Our hearts are melted by the protagonist, enraged by the villain and enraptured by the mystery. The series finale beckons with a final reckoning. Evil will be punished, good will be rewarded and we will finally find out what is in Cory’s bedroom closet. And yet, our faith and energy are not rewarded. There is some ending of a story arc to be sure, but the villain has escaped, the heroine has lost her job, and inside Cory’s closest is chest of drawers.

Of course, all of this sets us up nicely for the next season in how many months time, and of course we are hooked. Or at least we are for now. We are aware of the truth of the famous quote that a mystery endures longer than the explanation, but nevertheless there has to be some satisfaction in the end. I would implore any creators to finish the story arc they started. Trust the audience, if we liked the show we will be back next time even if you haven’t left us dangling over a cliff. Because a story without climax, is, well…

That’s all we shall discuss this week. We hope that you have enjoyed our critique. Next Saturday we shall discuss Why I Stopped Watching Movies. Have a marvellous week.

 

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 9

“I still can’t quite believe it,” said Lord Hollingbury, looking pale and clutching a glass as he sat with the Jennings in the Cock and Bull.

“It must ‘ave been very shocking,” said Marie sympathetically. Lord Hollingbury glanced up at her with sad eyes.

“It was,” he said. “I fear my hands may never fully recover.”

“Are you…” started Sir John, “are you talking about the rowing?”

“Shush, “said Lord Hollingbury, “people will hear.”

“A man has died!” said Sir John.

“People die all the time,” said Lord Hollingbury petulantly. “It’s about the only thing they’re consistently good at. I never row.”

Sir John threw his hands up in despair then glanced down at the glass of brown liquid in Lord Hollingbury’s hands.

“Isn’t a bit early for that?” he said. “It’s barely 9am.”

Lord Hollingbury looked down at the glass in confusion and then back up.

“Oh, I haven’t been to bed yet,” he said. “After we parted I came back here to recover my nerves and see if the fishermen might tell me more. There was a lock-in, so I was here some time trying to find out something. Nobody spoke about the creatures though, no matter how much I plied them with drink.”

“So you’ve been here all this time?” said Sir John.

“Oh no. I went home with the barmaid,” said Lord Hollingbury, taking a sip of whisky. “And her friend.”

SS Ch 9“Barely 9am!”

Sir John muttered something under his breath. Just then there was a commotion in the main bar as a group of people burst in.  From the looks of them they were local fishermen. There were excited voices and laughter.

“Look who it is!” said one of the group. “It’s Wombly! He’s back!”

Everyone in the pub looked around, and the disappeared fisherman walked up to the bar surrounded by the group. They were patting his back and shaking his hand, large smiles all around.

“Well, well, well. Mr Wombly,” said the Landlord, warmly. “Where on earth have you been?”

“Oh, I couldn’t rightly say,” said Mr Wombly, sheepishly. “I’m just glad to be here.”

“Well, we’d better get you a drink then, a pint of the usual then,” said the Landlord, “A pint of water.”

There was much jovial laughter at this.

“Well you know me,” said Mr Wombly.

“How are you man?” said another person at the bar. “Are you well?”

“I feel as fit as I ever did,” said Wombly and a cheer went up.

The trio at table turned round to look around at each other.

“Well there you go,” said Lord Hollingbury. “There really was no need to chastise me about the missing man. If he’s anything like this one he’ll be turning up at the bar in a few days.”

Sir John looked perturbed at the scene.

“Whatever can this mean?” he said.

“It is like the priest said, n’est ce pas?” said Marie. “It is the resurrection.”

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 10

Why I Stopped Reading Books

Oscar ReadingA Victorian Gentlemen Concerned About Catching Crabs

So we must immediately apologise for the misleading and attention grabbing title. We believe it is called “clickbait” in the modern parlance, which sounds to us like something one uses for catching crabs. We refer not to a refusal to read books of any kind. No, rather, to the the reasons why we may abandon any given book. You see, we have on our “electronic reader” a collection of books named Stopped. This little collection is like a dark corner of our literary world where we place books that we feel we cannot continue with right now on the assumption we may one day return. Of course, once placed in that virtual pile, they fester away, never touched again, with their electronic bookmarks wagging like the fingers of a chiding aunt.

As we are currently in the middle of writing a novel (stop laughing at the back) we thought it might be useful to visit this little literary backwater in the hope it might deliver us some insight on why these particular books have suffered such an ignominious fate. The aim, of course, is to prevent our own novel suffering the same misfortune. We present here the aforementioned knowledge. We shall mention no books in particular and offer the immense caveat that these ideas and judgements are most certainly subjective. One’s man’s meat is another man’s murder.

This Charming Man

After reviewing the list of books, one common aspect immediately made itself known to us. Namely, we don’t care about the the characters. We don’t mean they are unlikeable, although that may be a factor. Or even that they are uninteresting, although that too may influence such a judgement. We mean simply this: we don’t care two hoots whether the characters achieve their ambitions and dreams or end up in Cheapside taking in laundry for a living. We’re sure the reasons for this are as myriad as they are arbitrary, but once settled on such an opinion, it is hard for us to shift it. And conversely, the book is easy to shift into the Stopped section. Lesson number one, then, is make the characters likely to be of interest to the people who you hope will read the book.

That Joke’s Not Funny Anymore

At the Benthic Times we’re rather fond of comedy. We tend to prefer deadpan and surreal to, say, a piece of slapstick, but we’re not above making jokes about pineal glands. Our reading too reflects that, we heartily enjoy tales that a have a comedic element to the fore. However, there can be too much of a good thing. And, we have found, that books that are all gags and no substance tend to lose our interest. We call this the “pearl theory” of comedy. It’s pleasant to have something smooth, shiny and translucent to look at, but if there isn’t at least a little bit of grit at it’s heart, it’s going to seem rather fake and cheap.

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before

On a similar note, we like genre fiction. A lot. And whilst we like nothing more than a book that merrily (and hopefully, humorously) subverts genre tropes, we’ll groan and yawn when confronted with one that seems determined to tick all the cliche boxes without an ounce of irony. Not every genre book should be constantly genre busting, of course, otherwise there would be no such thing as genre. And yet, some fresh angle or approach is very welcome.

Well, that concludes our little reel around the fountain and through the cemetery gates of our electronic reader. We hope it was entertaining and enlightening. Next week we shall looking at more crab catching with a post entitled “Why I Stopped Watching Television”.

Paul Michael