My brief stint as a commissioning editor saw two issues of The Finger, a journal
of politics, literature and culture. My last novel, Who’s Afraid of the Booker Prize?,
won the 2015 Quagga Prize for Literary Fiction. My latest novel, Across the Rebel
Network, was longlisted for the Guardian 2015 Not the Booker Prize. Poems published
or forthcoming in Battersea Review, Fulcrum, Literary Matters, The Brown Boat, The
Criterion, Ink, Sweat & Tears, The Liberal, Horizon Review and Epicentre Magazine.
Fiction has appeared in Valparaiso Fiction Review and The Four Quarters Magazine.
The Finger, a journal of the arts, literature and culture, enjoyed a brief starburst
in the closing quarter of 2005, running to two issues. Published by CentreHouse Press,
and edited by Peter Cowlam, it featured the work of writers Val Hennessy, Allen Saddler,
Mari Garcia, Jack Degree, Richard Hillesley, Bob Mann, Brian Poilly, Robert Vint,
Jo Larsen, and Sam Richards.
'The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ, / Moves on...'
Issue 1, October 2005; Issue 2, November 2005. Collector’s items!
New King Palmers. Set in the late 1990s, in the months up to and after the death
of Princess Diana, New King Palmers is narrated by its principal character Humfrey
Joel, a close friend of Earl Eliot d’Oc. The earl’s ancestry is bound up with the
Habsburgs and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. D’Oc is a member of the British Privy
Council and a close friend of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. In the months preceding
Diana’s death, he commissions a young theatre professional to develop a play. The
play’s theme is constitutional issues surrounding Prince Charles, with the heir’s
interests served by UK withdrawal from the EU, before it becomes a federal superstate.
The commissioned play is called New King Palmers, and d’Oc maintains rigorous editorial
control over it. When d’Oc’s death shortly follows Diana’s, Joel is named as d’Oc’s
literary executor, with the task of bringing the play to the English stage. Supposedly
written into the text is an encoded message from the British Privy Council on behalf
of the House of Windsor, addressed to the stewards of the EU. When news of this leaks
out no one in the British literary and theatrical worlds believes it. In fact most
come to see Earl d’Oc as an invented character behind which Joel shields himself,
when his own motives are themselves sinister. So sinister, an MI5 spook is put on
Across the Rebel Network. Anno centres a federated Europe in an uncertain, and not-too-distant
digital future, when politics, the media and mass communications have fused into
one amorphous whole. He works for the Bureau of Data Protection (BDP), a federal
government department responsible for monitoring the full range of material, in all
media, posted into cyberspace. The BDP is forced to do this when rebel states are
seceding, small satellites once of the federation but now at a remove from it, economically
and socially. A handful of organised outsiders threatens to undermine the central
state through a concerted propa-ganda war, using the federation’s own digital infrastructure.
It is this climate of mutual suspicion that to Anno makes inevitable decades of digital
guerrilla warfare. While his department takes steps to prevent this, he doesn’t reckon
on the intervention of his old college sparring partner, Craig Diamond, who is now
a powerful media mogul. The two engage in combat conducted through cyberspace, in
a rare concoction of literary sci-fi.
Who’s Afraid of the Booker Prize? Winner of the 2015 Quagga Prize for Literary Fiction.
For Alistair Wye, assistant to ‘top’ novelist Marshall Zob, Zob makes just two mistakes.
First, he plans a commemorative book celebrating the life and work of his dead mentor,
John Andrew Glaze, whose theory of ‘literary time’ is of dubious philosophical pedigree.
Second, Zob turns the whole literary world on its head through the size of advance
he instructs his agent to negotiate for his latest, and most mediocre novel to date.
Secretly Wye keeps a diary of Zob’s professional and private life. Comic, resolute,
Wye stalks through its every page, scattering his pearls with an imperious hand.
An unsuspecting Zob ensures perfect conditions for the chronicler of his downfall.
Marisa. The plot’s central time frame is the 1970s, when Bruce takes over a financial
consultancy firm founded by his father, and Marisa inherits property. Love, lust
and money are the things that drive them both, until their relationship meets its
first challenge. Bruce retreats further into the world of commerce, while Marisa’s
frequent departures have social and political ramifications.
Twenty-five years on from their affair, a chance entry in one of Bruce’s business
listings shows that Marisa is now boss of the Rae Agency – a media PR concern. Bruce,
as he recollects their tumultuous relationship, is torn between his harmonious family
life, and renewing contact with Marisa. Finally, when he does decide on a course
of action, he has to face the truth of not having grasped the cultural separation
their two different views of the world have wrought over the last quarter century.