Something Must Break (Excerpt)

Did he jump or was he pushed? The suicide continued to play on his mind. Not because he cared, but because he couldn’t help but wonder. What could possibly drive a man to take his own life? Could things really be that bad? Steve opined that this question was an absurdity, knowing full well that they could, and often were. Ever since university, Steve’s perspective on self-immolation were subject to a questioning, a cynicism that he didn’t like to rationalise. Back in uni, he’d shared a house with some dropout waster who’s succeeded in becoming a raging alcoholic by the second semester of their second year. They’d started out as friends in the first year, but Adrian had become increasingly erratic in his behaviour, and at some point entirely gave up on sobriety. Before long, he had almost ceased being human. He had probably needed help, but Steve was in no position to offer sympathy. He had his own troubles, for starters. So when Adrian went into the self-pitying mode, sobbing about how no-one loved him, about how he was a loser and a waste of space, and how he might as well be dead, Steve hadn’t bothered to contradict him.

‘Why don’t you just fucking kill yourself?’ he had hissed venomously.

‘You’d fucking love that, wouldn’t you?’ the twat had spat through a veil of tears and saliva during many of his drink-induced crying jags. ‘One day, I will, and it’ll be on your fucking conscience.’

‘Fine. As long as I don’t have to look at you in this state, or listen to any more of your self-absorbed, wallowing, self-pitying bullshit or step in any more of your fucking puke around the house, I can live with the guilt,’ Steve had replied on more than one occasion. He’d been ice cold in his delivery. He’d fucking meant it.

Eventually, after repeated instruction to fuck off and die, Adrian had done as he had been bid. It had been Steve who had discovered him, slumped in his room, a bloated mess of vomit and early decomposition. The housemates had all gone home for reading week. Steve had been the first to return and was perplexed to find the front door unlocked. Everything had seemed normal, other than the house being vacant, or so it had appeared. Shrugging, he had unpacked, prepared himself some food and watched television for a while, before growing curious.

On discovering the corpse, he had been fascinated and repelled in equal measure. Pity hadn’t entered his emotional range, and the sadness he felt in his chest was no more than a fleeting pang. He had called the police, and then poked a boot into the dead fucker’s ribs. Waster. He was no real loss.

The coroner had concluded a verdict of suicide on account of there being no sign of forced entry or anyone else present, and vast quantities of alcohol and barbiturates residual in the bloodstream of the deceased. Steve had snapped a handful of photographs before the services had arrived and removed the body from the premises.

 

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Something Must Break / Dream of the Flood are available in print and e-book format from 1 February 2016 to midnight on 29 February 2016.

The blurb:

‘Something Must Break’: A dissonant tale of mental fragmentation and duality.

‘Dream of the Flood’: A meditation on climate change and possibilities of the near future, of human interaction and solipsism.

Together, these two pieces represent Christopher Nosnibor’s more literary side as he continues to explore narrative forms and voices.

The links:

Purchase the print edition here. (Enter code LULURC at checkout to receive 25% discount and free priority shipping on qualifying orders)

Purchase the e-book here.

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The 29 Days of February Start Here

February 2016 has a bonus day. The month has already arrived in the southern hemisphere, but I’m marking the arrival of the extended leap-year February in GMT and celebrating with the publication of a pamphlet and e-book containing a brace of short stories which will only be available for the 29 days of February.

At Midnight on 29th February, Something Must Break / Before the Flood will be deleted and will not be republished.

 

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The blurb:

‘Something Must Break’: A dissonant tale of mental fragmentation and duality.

‘Dream of the Flood’: A meditation on climate change and possibilities of the near future, of human interaction and solipsism.

Together, these two pieces represent Christopher Nosnibor’s more literary side as he continues to explore narrative forms and voices.

The links:

Purchase the print edition here. (Enter code LULURC at checkout to receive 25% discount and free priority shipping on qualifying orders)

Purchase the e-book here.

2015: A Year in Books

I spend a lot of time writing – music and book reviews, fiction, blogs rants and all the rest. But when I’m not writing, I’d much rather hunker down with a good book than watch television, and generally favour books over films. Lunch breaks and train journeys and well as the wind-down before sleep will invariably find my immersed in a book. Inevitably, some of the material I’ve read will influence or inspire my own writing in some way or another, immediately or much, much later. These are the books I read in 2015, in chronological order. Some I enjoyed more than others, some I read for research or review purposes, some I’d read previously, others I’d started but abandoned and decided to revisit. Sometimes I read two books at a time, switching between sessions. Regardless of the circumstances, these are the texts which provided the literary backdrop to the last 12 months of my life – for anyone who may be interested. Mostly, it’s a record I like to keep which I tend to make public, just because.

 

Nick Jones – 9987

Ray Bradbury – Farenheit 451

Paul Ewen – Francis Plug: How to be a Public Author

JG Ballard – Running Wild

Chuck Palahniuk – Doomed

Danny King – The Pornographer Diaries

Megan Milks (ed) &Now 3

Ed McBain – Like Love

Ed McBain – Killer’s Payoff

Jim Thompson – The Grifters

Bill Shields – Lifetaker

Jeff Noon – Vurt

Paul Auster – In The Country of Last Things

John Niven – Straight White Male

David Gionfriddo – The Good Worlds are All Taken

Derek Raymond – He Died With His Eyes Open

John J. Niven – Cold Hands

Cormac McCarthy – The Road

JG Ballard – Super-Cannes

Supervert – Post-Depravity

PA Morbid – Gorged on Light

Reuben Woolley – Dying Notes

JG Ballard – Hello America

Mike Meraz – She Poems

Charles Bukowski – The Bell Tolls for No-One

Mark Fisher – Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures

Sue Fox – The Visceral Tear

Chuck Palahniuk – Fight Club

David Peace – Nineteen Seventy Four

JG Ballard – The Kindness of Women

Review: Dr Sadistic’s House of Whorrors by Lisa Dabrowski (Oneiros Books)

Lisa Dabrowski, the pensmith behind the dominatrix, sexual terrorist and demi Goddess that is Mistress Rosie, takes her celebrated kinkiness a step further with this collection. Be warned: it’s a bold work, and while half the world’s still frigging itself silly over EL James’ ‘literary’ creations Dabrowski shows us she knows what real Sadomasochism is all about. It’s not hard to see why it found a home at Oneiros Books, because 50 Shades style mummy porn it most certainly isn’t.

There’s a distinctly ‘vintage’ feel to the whole publication: the narratives are executed in a way that feels like it belongs to a former time in history. This is certainly no criticism: in eschewing the trappings of the contemporary and instead feeding from more historical stylistic tropes, ‘Dr Sadistic’s House of Whorrors’ is imbued with a ‘classic’ and ‘timeless’ quality absent from the majority of contemporary texts. This ‘old school’ feel feeds through into the presentation, far beyond the pen-and-ink cover art an into the very fabric of the text, laid out in a heavy and ornate script that stentoriously announces itself as ‘17th Century’. These are only a few of the book’s many strengths, and Dabrowski builds things well across the series of pieces contained here.

The blurb promises ‘Poignant accounts of male correction that are both arousing and politically subversive’ and ‘Dr Sadistic’s House of Whorrors’ doesn’t disappoint. This is pretty dark stuff. Our first meeting with Dr Sadistic reveals that he’s a character worthy of his name. ‘He opened the door to the lab; I notice on the shelves were what appeared to be canning jars, full of discarded fetuses. I should have run, but curiosity on what his explanation would be got the best of me.’ A such, we’re escorted – with a firm grip on the arm and the unspoken threat of unimaginable pain – into a world of classic psychological horror. I say psychological, because the horrors depicted are those that instead fear and dread. It’s not nearly as much about the fear of physical pain as the torment the images elicit.

‘Dr Sadistic and the Zombie Slaves’ draws on classic tropes and combines it with elements of contemporary horror while also incorporating some sharp twists on genre trappings coupled with some great storytelling.

It isn’t easy to cover this book without giving away many of the essential features which means I should probably halt at this juncture with the admonition that if you’re after something darkly perverse, look no further.

Dr Sadistic’s House of Whorrors is available on line.

 

 

 

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Writing about Writing (Again): A Slap of Reality in a World of Fiction

On TV and in films, and even in many novels, writers are often – if not almost always – portrayed as high-profile media types, living the high-life, traversing here and there in sharp suits and fancy dresses, to interviews, readings, launches and high-profile media events. they’re inevitably best-sellers, and vaguely eccentric, and live in nice, even vaguely grand homes or apartments (if they’re American): they get stopped in the street (and, if you’re Castle, at crime scenes) by fans who simply love your books, live and breathe your characters and want to marry you., or at least have an affair.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that the literary circles I move in are toward the lower end of the industry. By which, of course, I actually mean they exist outside of ‘the industry’. They work regular jobs, have families and chisel out their works in stolen hours late at night and early in the morning. They do it out of compulsion, a need to purge and splurge, rather than for the money. It almost goes without saying I count myself amongst these. Writing isn’t some hobby or light-relief pastime.

The writers I know and associate with are, believe it or not, more representative of writers than the popular portrayals of writers. With a few notable exceptions – Stephen King, JK Rowling, for example – writers tend to be fairly anonymous. Unlike actors, writers don’t get their faces splashed over huge billboards. Writers aren’t usually the most photogenic of people, which is often why they’re writers and not actors. Do you know what E.L. James looks like? Dan Brown? John Grisham? Jodi Picoult? Donna Tartt? Toby Litt? And these are ‘bestseller’ list authors, not the majority of people who constitute the world of publishing in all its guises.

It’s ironic that actors get paid megabucks for playing out the scenes laid out in the pages of books penned by anonymous writers, and earn significantly more for doing so, given that without the writers, the actors would have no scenes to perform. it’s all about having a face and an image that sells. ‘Game of Thrones’ author George R.R. Martin didn’t get rich posting selfies and posing for Vogue.

Fiction is often escapist: it doesn’t have to be fantasy or sci-fi to take the reader beyond the confines of their hum-drum daily existence. And so it may be that even writers who earn royalties of pence and cents may portray high-living celebrity writers in their works. I have no gripe about that, per se, other than the observation that it flies very much in the face of the first principle of writing, which is ‘write what you know.’ This doesn’t mean fantasy and science fiction are out by any stretch, so much as that it pays to at least research scenarios that exist beyond your knowledge, because a savvy reader can spot a bluffer. Research plus imagination is, of course, another matter entirely and can be the very essence of creative genius.

As such, I resist the urge to yell at the TV when ‘celebrity’ writers are portrayed. Of course, my initial thought is ‘when do these people get to do any writing, given the time they spend travelling around to premieres and being famous?’, but the answer is obvious – namely, the rest of the time. Because unlike the writers I know, they don’t work the 9-5, and their maids and the like take care of the kids while they swan round in the name of ‘research’.

Recent research suggests that the prospects of a writing career are pretty dismal if you’re looking to get rich, even if you do achieve a degree of fame: Prospects.ac.uk report that ‘The median earnings for professional writers (those who dedicate more than 50% of their time to writing) was only £11,000 in 2013, and only 11.5% of professional writers earned their incomes solely from writing.’ The Guardian reports that ‘The typical median income of all writers was even less: £4,000 in 2013, compared to £5,012 in real terms in 2005, and £8,810 in 2000.’

This is nowhere near a luxurious salary. It’s not even minimum wage. It’s certainly well below the £16,850 figure the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says is needed to achieve a minimum standard of living. It means that writers don’t live in palatial mansion-type homes, resplendent with antique furniture (unless they’ve inherited it) or plush penthouse apartments. They may have heaps of books on their shelves (the majority likely either purchased second hand or sent to them for review or in trade) but the chances are most writers don’t rise around brunchtime and slip on a silk bathrobe before a serving of eggs Benedict and then chip out a page or so while sipping sherry or 50-year old single malt in their resplendent superbly plush leather-upholstered chair at a Louis XIV desk in the prime spot in a mahogany-panelled library. No, writing is work: hard work, even for ‘successful’ authors. And given that in the region of 99% of all books published sell fewer than 100 copies, what hope is there fore the rest of us to break through to the major league?

The rest of us – the writers who can’t even qualify as ‘professional writers’ and who are obliged to work for a living and write on the side, in their spare time… well, what about us? We may be by and large fringe producers of culture, but collectively account for much of the vital undercurrent that breaks new ground and ultimately inspires the commercial mainstream. We’re the lifeblood. We stay up late, typing with our eye bags instead of our well-manicured fingers, using stolen moments to render those ideas that poke and prod and gnaw at us during the ours of the 9-5 into words that will ultimately purge us of the torment of drudgery.

Some, perhaps maybe many, harbour ambitions of the palatial mansion-type homes or plush penthouse apartment with a capacious library suite and luxurious office. Maybe they’ve bought the fictional representation of the author, like the office temp I worked with once – a guy in his early twenties who was convinced he could pen a novel that would become lauded as a literary masterpiece, after which he would never have to work again. I didn’t delight in shattering his illusions, and equally, I don’t delight in the author’s plight, because it’s my plight as much as the next minor-league author’s. This isn’t about highlighting that plight, either. It’s not a grumble and grouse about how artists don’t reap the rewards they deserve, but a meditation on the vast disparity between the fact and the fiction. And what beggars belief is that the fiction, as presented in the media, of the wealthy, famous and esteemed author, is propagated by authors at all levels. After all, ‘big’ films, TV dramas, series and the like are as likely to be penned by breakthrough authors, who are accustomed to the real world rather than the privileged world of the top flight. Where do they get these ideas from?

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality. Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see… Originality is dead. Legend and myth isn’t the life of the author. You’re not Stephen King, you’re not Castle. This is not ‘Murder, She Wrote’. This is life. Now write it.

 

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Cramped, cluttered and anything but the image of a palatial literary person’s writing space…. the ‘office’ of part-time literary nonentity Christopher Nosnibor, today.

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk.

Review: Playing Chicken With Thanatos by Díre McCain (Apophenia Books)

I had the great and rare privilege of reading a manuscript version of this book some time ahead of its final draft and subsequent publication. Then, it had a different working title and a number of changes would follow which made tracing some of the identities of the real-life characters who populate the book rather more difficult. But even in its not-quite complete stage, I was struck by a number of things, not least of all the vibrancy of the narrative, the immediacy of it all, how relatable and accessible the narrator was.

Now, I’ve known the author – virtually, at least, and over Skype – for a number of years: under the auspices of co-founders Díre McCain and D M Mitchell, Paraphilia Magazine generously published my work from the very first issue at a time when no-one else would (a situation that continues, if the truth be known) and have been immensely supportive through the years, long before I clambered aboard as a contributing editor. Díre also graced the Clinical, Brutal anthology I edited for Clinicality Press in 2010 with a piece that was stunning, not to mention truly brutal. So I had an inkling of her abilities as a writer, and indeed of her turbulent formative years. But none of this could have really prepared me for her autobiographical novel.

It’s everything you want from a novel: the narrator drags you along on the journey: at times you sympathise, at others, not so much, but that’s how it is with friends, you take the rough with the smooth. It’s the raw honesty of Díre’s narrative, delivered in a strong, individual voice, that’s so compelling and so human that means you forgive, and you worry about what will happen, you’re there in the moment.

It’s also the fact that however bad things get, however badly she’s treated and however low she sinks, she never plays ‘the victim’, and herein lies the book’s greatest strength: she just tells it straight, and never uses sensationalism to detail sensational events. In this way, Playing Chicken With Thanatos doesn’t sit with the contemporary vogue for memoir, but instead belongs to a strain of classic American autobiographical reportage: Bukowski’s Post Office springs to mind; Jack Black’s You Can’t Win; Burroughs’ Junky, and from over the pond, Colin Wilson’s Adrift in Soho and Terry Taylor’s Baron’s Court, All Change. What all these books share is an episodic approach to storytelling and a lack of pretence.

There are moments that are utterly terrifying, and the happy-go-lucky easy rollin’ of teen experimentation with whatever substances are on offer takes a turn into extremely dark territories, and the later sections of the book are indeed harrowing. But it’s by no means a depressing book: even through the bleakest sections, the way the words simply flow is a joy, and the author’s sharp intellect and extensive vocabulary set Playing Chicken With Thanatos leagues apart from any drug-addled confessional. And, despite placing a clear distance between her past and present, at no point does Playing Chicken With Thanatos become a vehicle for anti-drug rhetoric, high moralisation or preaching: the fact Díre doesn’t insult the reader’s intelligence – or mar the narrative – with such interjections is another aspect of what makes this book such a great read.

It’s from a purely objective mindset that I say that this book is special, bursting with life and emotional resonance and that for these reasons I give it my strongest recommendations. So do as the preface bids: ‘fasten your fucking seatbelt and hold the fuck on….’

 

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Link: http://www.paraphiliamagazine.com/diremccain/playing-chicken-with-thanatos/

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk