The Rivastones Murmurs

July 2021

Summer heat prickles the skin, dust-fattened moths tap at the windows, but the trigger is not disturbed. Production of the Hollow Shotguns deluxe edition, signed in shotgun shell powder with special extras, continues to hit snags, but the Covid-related delays may work in my favour. I want to give Dr Craine’s Body and “Red” a similar treatment, the novella signed in “bloodied” surgical suture and the short story in specially produced neon ink, and release all three in close proximity as they’re now formally part of The Rivastones Murmurs, a loose series of stories both independent and interconnected, creeping through voices and genres to bring alive a declining city and its inhabitants.

All my Rivastones City-set fiction will fall under this series, including my second novel, The Fires of Red, and its two follow-ups, which will form both a self-contained trilogy and part of the series, the trilogy-related title after that, two subsequent novels, Craine and Murmurs, and an upcoming short story, “Rat Trap”, to be included in the deluxe Dr Craine’s Body hardback, where it best fits. Taking place in Forest Heights and featuring established characters alongside new, “Rat Trap” will be my first short story since 2013’s “Red”, a path from what’s already come to what is to come.

As the series grows, the reasons behind it being called The Rivastones Murmurs will become clearer, narratives sinking into the city’s social consciousness like the dead into clay, words gaining metaphorical value, the literal yielding to the mythic.

I’m also, in snatched moments, here, there, working on something outside the Rivastones continuity. Provisionally titled Come Heaven, set around the time of the 2001 northern England race riots, it’s spurred by the literary exhortation that if you know or want to read a story not yet told, you must tell it. The novel will draw from personal experiences and be backgrounded by the peculiar, at times ruthless, madrassa system that underpins the lives of many young working-class British Muslims. Widespread, underexplored, thousands of children are shunted to mosques, often unregulated, after school each evening to learn Qur’anic recitation, Qur’anic literalism and ancient Islamic customs startlingly relevant to their lives, such as how to clean a well left impure after an animal stumbles into it and dies. It may ruffle feathers but, hopefully, challenge assumptions too. I’ll probably aim to release this the traditional way, seek an agent, publisher, an unrealistically fat advance, all that, rather than the experimental guerrilla approach taken with The Rivastones Murmurs.

No release dates to be offered in these locked-down times, where everything is often destabilized, time itself seeming to shrivel and bloom in strange ways, distort, contort. When these titles are ready and available, subscribers will be the first to know.

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