By John Pilling
“A male bonding exercise?”
“A three day bonding exercise” he said gloomily. “It’s the latest bright idea from the new general manager, he reckons it will help to foster a team spirit in the chambers…get us all singing from the same hymn sheet as he puts it.”
“But why you? I thought that sort of thing was usually reserved for the lawyers and management…you’re a clerk in the invoice room.”
“He said he’d booked something special that needed a specific number of people so he asked me if I would make up the numbers… I didn’t like to say no.”
Sadie looked at her mild, inoffensive husband with her usual mixture of affection and exasperation. Not liking to say no she thought was probably the reason he was still a clerk , but he’s a good kind loving man, I wouldn’t change him. Continue reading
To celebrate the publication of The 900 Club Anthology 2013, we are giving away five paperback copies. On 01 April 2014 we’ll post the free copies to the lucky winners. Click on the link below to enter!
Goodreads Book Giveaway
Giveaway ends April 01, 2014.
See the giveaway details
Continuing our review of 2013, here is Martin’s pick of his fellow 900 Club writers’ work from last year.
Probably the easiest one to choose as my number one favourite from Paul’s though, was The Sowing, because as soon as I read it I loved it. I like the way he has taken something real and turned it into something even more twisted. The flashback to an infected ant, millions of years ago is inspired. The contrast between that and the broken-hearted scientist is something most people writing this type of story would probably not think of. Paul, uniquely, thinks of these things. Excellent story.
A Leisurely Breakfast is one that immediately stood out when I thought about picking a favourite. Simon, as usual, makes something sad and a bit sinister funny as well. I really enjoyed Mark. Probably because I’ve read (I think) pretty much everything Simon wrote before the 900 Club, and that story was typical of Simon’s warped imagination and sense of humour. It is a preposterous story and I love it. However, The Man in the Middle, was my favourite. The dialogue and narrative are both hilarious. Almost every line made me laugh. Not only that, the twist at the end somehow contrives to be even more ludicrous than the rest of the story. Ingenious.
Because his son writes, I assumed John was a seasoned writer, but then he told me he hadn’t written before, so I had no idea what to expect. I was still surprised by his first story, The Letter, because it didn’t read like someone’s first attempt at writing. What I found fascinating was that the letter in the story was worded in such an innocent way, then when you come to the twist at the end, the letter suddenly becomes something completely different. Something rather disturbing – very well done indeed, a seasoned writer would have been pleased with it. I also really enjoyed Duo, John showed his dark side again in this, but also an understanding of the human psyche.
My favourite, however, was Next. I get the impression John uses his extensive life experience (OK, he’s a bit older than me and has had an interesting life) in his writing, which gives it a believable, tangible quality. In this story though, he showed he also has a great imagination and a flare for the fantastic. And the twist at the end is excellent.
First of all, I agreed with Simon about The Walk. It is vivid and made me think about it for quite a while after reading. I also laughed for a long time after reading Peter and David, everything about it is funny, even the fact that he bullet-pointed a conversation. You don’t bullet-point conversations, but Adam did, and who is going to argue with that? Not me.
My number one story though, is Chapter 17 of my memoirs By Monsieur le Comte de Beaumaris. I…I just don’t know where to begin. The way this story is worded is amazing. I had to read it several times. He’s practically invented a new language. It is ludicrous and brilliant. Adam has turned out to be a bit of a dark horse, as soon as I think I’ve got his number, he does something totally surprising. Surely the mark of a very talented writer.
2013 was The 900 Club’s first year and a great one. We thought it would be a good exercise for each of us to pick our favourite 900 Club stories from 2013 and share them with you. Our founding member, Simon Evans, was first. Below are his favourite stories from each of us from 2013.
Adam – ‘The Walk‘. I love this story. The atmosphere is so tangible, it really gets under my skin. The family walk is full of little phrases and glances which say so much about their relationships. This close, often melancholic but overwhelmingly hopeful, scrutiny of people is something that I find really appealing in Adam’s writing. The looming darkness throughout the story is encapsulated wonderfully by the lines; ‘I imagine the boy in there, amongst the reeds, looking at the dragonflies, unable to close his eyes. I hope we don’t find him.’ Those lines are inspired, like poetry.
John – ‘The Phone Call‘. This is another story with an elephant in the room, or, in this case, a man on a balcony. The growing panic and frustration of the 999 call gives the story the feeling of an anxiety dream. A damning indictment of modern society – while the Kafka-esque bureaucracy slowly churns humanity takes a sickening dive. The image of the unknown figure on the balcony has a chilling 9/11 falling man quality to it. A gripping read.
Martin – ‘Dinner Time of the Gods‘ because it’s fucking hilarious. When Martin is in full play time with his writing it really smacks me hard on the funny bone. I could have picked several stories but this one confused me at first which made me laugh that much more when I realised what he’d done. Martin’s imagination is a grotesque clown, riddled with gleeful ridiculousness. Evidence of this can be found elsewhere with a gnome riding a spaniel, a bollock tree, mid air births and a man turning into a grasshopper. Martin’s blog about his dreams shows a glimpse of his sub conscious thought furnace in action.
Paul – ‘The Hedonism Return‘. One of Paul’s other 900 club submissions paid homage to Iain Banks, one of his/our favourite authors. This story reminds me of a Banks novel. It is slick, sexy, edgy and it draws you in. And like all the best Iain Banks novels, there’s a sting in the tail, literally.