Tag Archive: Writing

Yesterday, 25th May, was International Towel Day.

I’ve been harping on about this on Facebook for a couple of weeks and I’m quite sure no-one knows what the hell is wrong with me anymore, but that’s because many of them have yet to have their minds and hearts delightfully corrupted by the wondrous “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” series of books, by the late great Douglas Adams.

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For other like-minded ladies and gentlemen, here is a profound explanation of the importance of towels, as found in Chapter 3 of Adams’ work The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

“A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)”

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There are five books in Adam’s original Hitchhiker’s series, and a sixth novel written by Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer, which I haven’t read and probably never will.  No disrespect to Colfer, but I have such a close relationship with the original books that any semi-official additions seem distinctly sacriligious.

I’m not the only person who feels this way.  These short, humourous science-fiction novels have brought so much joy to readers that they hold them close to their hearts in the way that only a genuinely funny, insightful author could achieve.  The bittersweet tone of the last two books in particular establishes Adams as a writer with great heart.

So what the hell is this Towel Day all about?

It’s a simple commemoration of the author, who was not only a great writer, but a proponent of environmental protection, technological innovation, as well as a respectful (and erudite) atheist.  Adams died suddenly twelve years ago to widespread grief.   The simple towel, as described above, is as good a mascot as any for his commemoration – not to mention that Adams would no doubt love the silliness of knowing that thousands, maybe millions of people around the world are all walking around with towels…

The dedication is huge.  The official Facebook page has some great stories and photos of people across the globe who are celebrating Adam’s life and work in this uniquely peculiar way:

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Thumbing for spacecraft (https://www.facebook.com/towelday)


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kurdistan iraq

Wearing your towel for protection against solar radiation, in Kurdistan, Iraq (https://www.facebook.com/towelday)


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texas 2

Texas – With these towels they do wed! (www.facebook.com/towelday)

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This hoopy frood from Texas already has a ride (www.facebook.com/towelday)

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The answer to Life, the Universe and Everything, from Israel (www.facebook.com/towelday)

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This couple has found the Answer (www.facebook.com/towelday)

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star wars

May 25th is also a Star Wars anniversary, so there are plenty of weird franchise-mixes going on … Stormtroopers celebrate (www.facebook.com/towelday)

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Group celebrations in Argentina (www.facebook.com/towelday)

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A towel as a cape in India (http://imgur.com/6WiQp6T)

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Get this – astronauts on the International Space Station know where their towels are! (twitter.com/AstroSamantha)

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Most of these amazing photos are pilfered from the Facebook page, which I expect will keep running each year.  You can also read about the massive support worldwide at the official site.

There are also numerous shots of pets with their towels, so it’s great to see our quadrupedal planetary co-inhabitants joining in the fun (no dolphins yet though).

I also happened to come across this restaurant whilst taking a walk in Leeds yesterday, so I just had to take a photo:

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The 42 restaurant and bar in Leeds, England

A restaurant and bar, prominent at no.42 on a street in Leeds, England

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Why do I care about all this?

Not because I have an interest in towels, or even for the basic pleasures of supporting a much-admired writer and activist.

It’s partly because Adams suffered from crippling low confidence (not to mention writer’s block), as many of us do, but mainly because his books have always managed to make me laught out loud, even on my darkest days.

No other writer else has been able to do that before or since.



I’m sorry to say that I’ll be ditching Wattpad.  Why?

Because I want to be a writer, and that place isn’t helping.

For those of you who don’t know, Wattpad is a social networking site designed for writers to upload their stories, share them, and get other people’s feedback.  It’s kind of a living workshop, and there are also forums to chat about writing, books and other topics.

I suppose the problem with an “upload-it-yourself” site is that you get a lot of junk.  And Wattpad is FULL of junk.  How come everyone else isn’t sick of One Direction fanfics and terrible, unfinished teen romance novels?  Do the writers of this dross read each other’s dross, or does everyone think theirs is better than the last fifty people’s?

I suppose the natural response would be “Well, it sounds like YOU’RE guilty of thinking YOU’RE better.”  Honestly?  I’m not the best writer on Wattpad.  But I strive for originality and creativity, and there’s so little of those things on Wattpad.

I’ve found some genuine talent on there, and I’m confident that there’s a lot more out there I haven’t seen yet.  If you’re a member, take a look at my profile and the writers I’ve “followed” for some great work.  But unfortunately writers like those are few and far between.

Sadly for me, I’m not learning, and I’m not writing the kind of stuff that people on Wattpad seem to want to read.  If I fall in love with a boyband member and want to describe my first intimate experience with him, I’ll let them all know.

Until then I may transfer some of the free stories on there back to this blog and hope for the best.

Good luck to all the Wattpad writers out there hoping to be “discovered”.  Keep it different, keep it tight.



Thinkin’ Wild

About three years ago I suddenly found myself single and living alone, but for two cats.  It was a quiet, lonesome period, a new age, and I now had more time to kill than I knew what to do with.

Getting home after work was a short routine: feed the two felines, perform some basic chores, maybe read for an hour.  I’d spend the last hours of the evening with a simple meal and a whiskey digestif in front of a film.  All the films I never had the chance to watch with my girlfriend at the time.

These were the usual boys-only affairs.  Bond films.  Tense thrillers.  Science fiction.  Old classics.  Old classic science fiction.  And Westerns.

I spent more time with Clint Eastwood in those first few months than I did with anyone else I knew.  They’re perfect “alone” films, enhanced by awe-inspiring scenery, blue skies drowning the horizon, the lone gunslinger tiny against a backdrop of wind and whirling dust.  It takes a place like Monument Valley to make a man feel small, or isolated.  And they’re often films about a singular man surviving all odds.

I had the mad idea to write a Western one day.

Clint in "For a Few Dollars More"

Clint in “For a Few Dollars More”

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Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman in "Unforgiven"

Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman in “Unforgiven”

Early ideas were derivative spaghetti nonsense involving violent unjustified bloodletting.  Anyone can spin out a yarn of bounty hunters, a savage vengeance run, or the coming a shadowy stranger to free an ailing boom town from packs of outlaws.

I shelved the notion in favour of other projects.  And eventually I wasn’t alone anymore.

Still, the idea persisted.   Every piece of cookie-cutter High Noon trash gave me another idea that I tried to turn on its head and make original (people following my comments on Wattpad forums will know that originality is what I call the holy grail of writing).  I kept finding myself reading Robert E. Howard and wondering whether Zane Grey was really outdated.

There’ve been a few modern Westerns released in cinemas in the last few years.  I remember watching “Tombstone” on TV when I was in college.  And around that time, “Unforgiven” taught us that you didn’t need dull metal implements to scare someone stiff.  There was that cookie John Carpenter film.   Another by Tarantino that also ended up being something other than it started out, in ’96.  Personal favourites in recent years include “3:10 to Yuma”, “Seraphim Falls” and “True Grit” – all remakes of classics I never saw the first time around.

Tarantino hasn’t been able to stay away, actually.  “From Dusk Till Dawn” was a supernatural macguffin, and the director revisited his penchant for Sergio Leone-style Westerns in “Kill Bill”.  This year saw the controversial “Django Unchained” in cinemas to critical acclaim.

Christian Bale promises to have outlaw Russell Crowe aboard the "3:10 to Yuma"

Christian Bale promises to have outlaw Russell Crowe aboard the “3:10 to Yuma”

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White and black hats in a tale of vengeance: "Seraphim Falls" with Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson

White and black hats in a tale of vengeance: “Seraphim Falls” with Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson

It keeps the Wild West in one’s consciousness, even though many critics agree that there are no new stories to be told, and that these tales are outdated (despite timeless themes such as vengeance).

I suppose that now might be as good a time as any to brush off my muse’s old shooting irons and see if I can’t make a Stetson out of my thinking cap.  A certain publisher is looking for short, pulpy Western novels and I’m already putting my brand in the fire.

I’ll keep you all posted on how it goes, if it goes at all.



Give me your idea, I’ll write it for you


Continuing my promise to write a story for anyone who requests it—

 Philip J Mason has commissioned “a tale about a psychic horse”.

Well Phil, you asked for it … You got it.

Click here to open Black Thunder, The Psychic Horse (pdf).  You may want to download the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader and view at 100% for best reading.  This can also be downloaded to your e-book.



How would you like to suggest a short story and have it written for you?

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, but I don’t have too long before I embark on a 7-month journey across India and the Far East.

Not enough time to write a novel;  I’ve 20-odd books I want to read before I go; and I don’t have any short story ideas developed enough to work on.

This presents an opportunity.

How about you tell me what you’d like to read, and I’ll write it for you?  Your story, for your entertainment to keep and to love.  For example:

  • Hey David, write me a story about a poltergeist!
  • Hey David, write me a story set in ancient Japan!
  • Hey David, write me a story about Christopher Nolan’s Batman!
  • Hey David, write me a story about a brother and sister on Mars!
  • Hey David, write me a story in the style of my favourite author!
  • Hey David, write me a James Bond story!
  • Hey David, write me a new ending to film such-and-such!
  • Hey David, write me a story set in the world of such-and-such book series!

As you can see, I’m not fussy about what it is.  I don’t mind what I’m writing, as this is just to hone my flabby writing skills and to pass the time – in six weeks I’ll be unemployed.  It could be a fanfic or a vignette or a bit of fun.   I’ll write it and dedicate it to you.  Call it a little present from me!

Why not leave a message on this blog, or send me an e-mail at spinninglizard [at] yahoo.co.uk.  If you’re with me on Facebook or Twitter get in touch that way.

I’ll post the finished story on here with a dedication to you and a bit of background on any research I might have done.

Just don’t  get pissy if I say “that’s a dumb idea” or the story comes out different to what you expected, or if I can’t be bothered to sit through 200 episodes of your favourite anime to write your fanfic.  I don’t want to write your story about gay vampires, or anything that I’ve written before – see http://www.spinninglizard.com or search the categories of this blog.

But anything else, I’m game.  This is an open invitation for the next 6-8 weeks and I’ll try to get as many done as I can, generally on a first-come first-served basis unless something really catches my attention.  I’d love to put out a good dozen before I leave for foreign climes.

Thanks in advance!

Your friendly neighbourhood charity-writer,



I’ve explained in an earlier post about the chronic spates of creative thirst I suffer from. Non-work (“work” being creative stuff I do at home, rather than the template-driven box-ticking administration of work in the office) is just a period where you don’t realise you haven’t had a glass of water for a fortnight until you’re pretty much dead – and then there is, to destroy the analogy, the sudden desire to write something, immediately and excessively, almost to the extent of recording the minutae of a character’s actions, of his or her thoughts and feelings, of his outward appearance and expressions, that take place in a single minute of his life; and then his interactions with the hundred other characters that must be included, who all inhabit a world with its own minutae to document, fervently.

Clearly I’m saturated by this weird neurosis as I write this (not something I suffered from until maybe three years ago, already in my twenties, and for no apparent reason), being at my wordiest and thoughtlessly speediest – so forgive the redundancies, or denseness, or typing errors, or absurdity of the lot.

But at the edge of the desert where you see the buildings glinting, all you can imagine is the silver plumbing inside and the water it must be full of. You imagine yourself swimming in it and gulping it down. In my desert, this ceaseless focusing on the desired future comes in the form of planning, planning for the next thing to be written, almost always a novel (in the desert, you don’t imagine only an eggcup of water), and all the intricate note-taking and research and frantic scribblings this requires. Sometimes the ideas come so fast your handwriting turns to indecypherable Arabic, and knowing this you draw a picture instead (“X = 1k wds”) because you’ll be damned if you’re going to lose the five other ideas you need to write down just because you were thinking of how best to describe that one cinematic moment you imagined.

I had a similar outbreak, let’s call it, a month ago, inspired by my completion of a dreadful book called “Sandworms of Dune“, being one of two sequels to the great Dune science-fiction series by Frank Herbert. His death left the incredible series apparently unfinished, and his son, being one of those Christopher Tolkein-esque relatives who can’t damn-well resist, ressurected the franchise to write the two ‘finale’ books that have corrupted a near-perfect literary vision.

So disgusted was I by the dilution and contamination of the senior Herbert’s creation, and so badly written it was too, that I acted upon one of my “fuck me if I can’t do a thousand times better than that” moments and decided to end the series myself. Having recently re-read the six originals, I could remember very well the characters and themes and significant events that drove the series. With this bigger picture in mind, I felt that I could faithfully see where Herbert was going and constructed a breakdown of my own version of “Sandworms of Dune”. But it is only when you realise that you’ve scribbed twenty pages of dense notes, reminders and tiny images, all at your desk at work, that you’re suddenly aware of how noticable your fervour must have been to those sitting around you, and, oops, how valuable your job is.

I suppose we should be supremely grateful for these creative trances (“we” being the half of you who, I realise, are also creative types of your own kinds, and hopefully can relate), because they are the combusting coals that we need to then slow-burn our way through that 100,000 word novel, or 30 hour painting, or endless nights of programming. But damn if they aren’t an inconvenience, like an erection on a bus, being probably extremely useful in another time and place, but otherwise utterly inappropriate.



Next month is an exciting month for aspiring writers.  November is NaNoWriMo, more properly National Novel Writing Month.  Set up in 1999 by writer/reviewer Chris Baty, this annual project aims to get writers to overcome the anxiety of starting a new, big project by banging out a 50,000 word novel … in the short space between November 1st and November 30th.

The idea is that it’s better to write a mediocre something than a brilliant nothing.  Which is fair enough.

Really, the challenge is just to get something written – the harder work of editing, cutting, pruning and refining can come later.  And it is a challenge, rather than a competition: you ‘win’ simply by hitting your word target, which is no mean feat.  No prize, other than the pride.  No reward but the accomplishment itself.

The project has grown rapidly over the last 11 years, starting in 1999 with just 21 participants, and only six ‘winners’ who managed to submit their full 50,000 words by the deadline.  The next year there were 140 participants; in 2001, there were 5,000 … Last year there were a massive 167,000 writers registered to write a novel in a month.

Although I didn’t intend to promote the project here, it’s worth advertising in the hope that even a few more people previously intimidated by the prospect of writing a whole novel jump right in and see what they’re capable of.  50,000 words is a tough objective, but not unachievable – most mainstream novels fall between 70,000 and 100,000 words.  My novel ‘Half Discovered Wings’ is roughly 130,000 words weighing in at 500 pages; what will hopefully be the second of my fantasy novels, ‘Ifrit Town’, was originally a biblical 250,000 words before I had at it with the editing ax.

But I won’t be participating in NaNoWriMo this year.


Before I heard about NaNoWriMo from a friend last month, I had already tasked myself with a certain big challenge for November.  It’s been a few weeks since I finished the first draft of my latest novel, and some time to go before I’m free to begin another big project.

The space between novels yawns every time, stretching first into a mild discomfort, then an irritating itch that has you fidgeting as your mind wanders, and finally the twitchy, restless phase where ideas are like weights in your mind and you can’t concentrate on anything else.

Usually I use this simultaneously restful and dreadful period to think up new ideas and bang out a few short stories to fill in the gaps on the publishing history.  This time however I’ve committed myself to something much more ambitious, and actually faintly stupid.

Thirty short stories in thirty days.

It would be a little easier to say that between the 1st and the 30th I promise to have written thirty full short stories, each a minimum of 1,000 words.  But instead, quite impetuously, I’ve already committed to writing one story a day for that entire month.  So I won’t even get a day off for good behaviour.

I once went on holiday for two weeks to Portugal, and had the first 40,000 words of a new novel done by the flight home.  So I know it’s possible.

… When you have an inspiring landscape … And no job to go to … And no responsibilities beyond taking regular toilet breaks.

But there it is.  The gauntlet has been thrown down.

My own gauntlet.  At myself.  By myself.

And now I’m wondering what I’ve let myself in for.

Those of you interested in witnessing the train wreck as it happens can pop in from time to time – or daily, if you really want to keep my on my toes.  I’ll likely post the stories on the main website, http://www.spinninglizard.co.uk, for which a new page will be created shortly.  Blog posts will keep you informed, and there is a subscription option on the site that will let you know when a new story is announced.  The stories will be available for a minimum of thirty days – I’ll take them all down for a thorough editing on December 30th and you’ll likely never see them again unless they turn up in an e-zine somewhere.

Lend me your good fortune, for I shall need it.



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Edit 13/10/2010: The website has now been updated to show the new Challenge page, which can be reached from “Stories”.  Distressingly, there are now thirty empty links on this new page that need to be filled with short stories, each no less than 1,000 words.  ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!


People who play video games love Yahtzee Croshaw, the sardonic bringer of wit and shit of ‘Zero Punctuation’ fame.  If you don’t know his style, you can visit him here:


And the Facebook group with to-the-minute updates here:


Yahtzee released a novel this month, “Mogworld”.  I was all prepared to do an amusing Flash video review utterly slagging it off, but as it happens I wasn’t up to the challenge (or rather, my mic turned out to be rubbish), and so I’ve given up and posted the script as a review on Amazon instead.  It’s here in all its not-very-funny glory–

— It’s in the delivery, mostly.


Ben ‘Yahtzee’ Croshaw is best known for his scathing Zero Punctuation video reviews of computer games, routinely ripping out their innards and squeezing little poo-nuggets of ironic humour all over them, although apparently he’s done other things including actually writing for games, so he’s at least partly vindicated for slagging them off so thoroughly and then moving onto writing his first novel.

“Mogworld” is an easy slice of light fantasy, although it crosses genres regularly like a tram-hopping college-droppout.  You’d have to be a bit of an idiot not to realise that the GAME-REVIEWING Yahtzee writes a book about MAGES and NECROMANCERS and LEVEL 60 SPELLS and NOT realise that this is set inside a VIDEO GAME, so I shouldn’t be spoiling anything for you here.

The twist is that not all the character necessarily realise this.  It’s a sort of ‘edge of the world’ scenario without the benefit of the readers undergoing this revelation WITH the characters, leaving you disappointed that they were too stupid to figure it out sooner.  In fact it couldn’t have been more obvious if he’d stapled it to the side of a stegosaurus and paraded it through Hull on a market day.
The inclusion of pirates into this gameworld early on in the book seemed a bit strange, until they all started talking about becoming undead pirates and then it begins to come together.  It’s like Yahtzee is DELIBERATELY prancing along the fence of cliché, with the unoriginality goblin beckoning him in  and his proper writer/critic self occasionally shouting NO YOU IDIOT and hurling his mighty boot of common sense.

The characters might be flatter than Paper Mario’s credit card, but at least they’re proper characters with individual personalities instead of blandly merging into one another.  This would be great, but one major problem is that they’re all so ANNOYING, and the fact that the protagonist acknowledges they’re ANNOYING doesn’t make them any less ANNOYING.  The first half of the book is like sitting on a bus surrounded by  half a dozen people all with their iPods on too loud listening to boybands, Slipknot and ASWAD.  There’s the jaded main character who, like the best and worst of web-comics, is the only one who acknowledges how strange everything is while everyone else blithely slither through the linear plot; there’s the chirpy one who comes down to reality at the end; a fire-and-brimstone religious nut who never shuts up; a sneak-thief who constantly talks in the third person; a villain with his own silly dialogue-related idiosyncrasies; and a smack-talking wise-cracking mutated otter-weasel sidekick … Okay I made the last one up, no-one would create a character is THAT annoying.

In the interest of fairness they DO develop some depth as the story progresses and as a direct result of the events of the story, not just something insipid like ‘falling in love’ or just through a sequence of trials like the laziest storytelling.  The best characters come with the best gags about a third of the way in, being closer to real-life people than the zombie/mage/blah-de-blah hacks, but sadly only get a few lines here and there in amusing e-mail or instant messaging format which made me SAD because they were actually very GOOD.

The writing is hardly spectacular, but this isn’t a literary venture so it can be forgiven, and apart from the odd atrocious lines like ‘We descended into a sort of disused basement-sewer type chamber’ he manages to not to COMPLETELY mangle the almighty English language.  In fact there are a number of cracking sentences worthy of Douglas Adams (or at least an unworthy rip-off sequel), and it definitely has a more Hitchhiker’s feel going for it than a Terry Pratchett one, which is a good thing in this case because I prefer my humorous fiction WITHOUT the bland caricatures, but this brings us back to cliché and it’s a sticking point with me that with this kind of semi-parody is the laughs derive from the archetypes – Doctor Evil’s cat wouldn’t be nearly as funny if you hadn’t expected it to be fluffier than a fledgling barn owl.  But unoriginal is still unoriginal, even if it IS trying to be funny.

Maybe it’s out of his system now and he’ll go back to doing what he does best; you always know you’re in the wrong part of town when the bus shelter’s been kicked in and you’re standing in someone else’s orange vomit.


If anyone shows any interest I’ll update with some screenshots of the nearly-finished video review, in the Zero Punctuation style.

Incidentally, the book is alright really – about 6.5/10 if you’re into his humour … and shit fiction about video games.

– db

Help the old farts understand what video games are really about

“The Authentic Donkey Kong”

An Authentic Story by David Brookes





The great ape counts to seven: one two three four five six seven.

It is seven storeys high; the wind rips through its coarse brown hair, across the broad leather expanses of his chest and stomach, where the scars remain.  Below is a cacophony of noise that the ape does not understand: clanging metal reverberating from concrete posts and the dull, rough partitions formed between girders.  It is a construction site, a place of creation.

In the creases of the ape’s immense hands, the man-wife’s blood remains.  It encrusts under the ape’s black fingernails.  He picks apart the bloodstuck hairs on his forearms as the man-wife mewls in her torn dress like a baby.

The ape remembers its own baby.  It remembers its mate: slender and dark, sleek-furred and agile.

The whining man-wife had been halfway between asleep and awake during the ascent.  Now her eyes widen to white, frantic globes.  She takes in the grey sky on all sides.  Directly beneath her, the layers and broken beams of the unfinished structure.  And, seven storeys below, the construction site.

She screams.

In agitated response, the great ape bares its yellow fangs.  Its cupped paws beat and beat against its hurting breast.  It slams one fist, then the other, against the brittle girder that supports them both.  The concrete support columns spit out puffs of crumbling mortar with each massive impact: one two three four five six seven.

Enraged, the enormous beast, wrists worn bald by the broken chains it left behind, roars with all the rage and hatred felt throughout its long years of captivity:

[Press the ANGRY APE button on your soundbook now!]

Now turn to p.2 / 7 …





The mighty bellow resounds through the hollow, unfinished skyscraper.  It drowns out the shrill cry of the captured man-wife.  She crawls as far away from the animal as possible, frail white limbs sore with the bruises implanted there by the ape’s impossible grip.

Somewhere amidst the clamour of manufacture below, and answering cry rises on the wind from across the bay.  It is the Master.

In the mists of memory, like the coiling vapours of the western lowlands, there arise the distinctive faces of the ape’s troop.  Most vividly – black, smooth, glistening with morning due, eyes bright and beautiful, lips pinching the fresh shoots from a trembling branch – its mate.  In her crooked arm, the ape’s tiny son.

And shattering the memory with a single sharp sound, the crack-crack! of the master’s rifle.

Hey kids, turn to p.3 / 7 …!





Rage fills the beast’s scarred body.  The Master.  Always moving, always busy, but for those first days when he and the man-wife lay about by the ape’s cage.  But after that: busy – and the third day: busy – and up until the last day of the cycle: busy and frustrated by a week’s fruitless trade, tired of studying its caged and chained pet, weary of dressing it in human clothes like the strip of red cloth he ties frequently about its throat, like a noose – the Master vents his pent-up frustrations on the widower ape.

The great ape counts the days that make up its cyclical torment: one two three four five six seven, and beats the crooked girders with its already split knuckles.

And below, the Master is beginning his ascent.  Another flimsy non-ape.  Another frame for the ape to crush and mangle in its enraged paws.  It is weak and encumbered by fat, and gaudy layers of inhibitive clothing; not at all like the powerful, muscular frame of the determined gorilla.

The enemy approaches:

[Press the JUMPMAN 1 button on your soundbook now!]

[Press the JUMPMAN 2 button on your soundbook now!]

Uh oh!  Turn to p.4 / 7 if you dare!





Stiff hairs bristle on the shoulders of Gorilla Gorilla Gorilla.  Its thick lips pull back from its yellow teeth and long fangs; the black tongue curls back in the maw like a twisting slug.  It bellows again, feeling its own hot breath at the corners of its blood-flecked mouth.  In anger at the approaching Master, the ape once again thunders its split knuckles against the riveted girders.

A noise from behind: wood creaking against wood.  The ape sees the curved edge of a barrel, steel chine-hoops glinting orange in the dusklight.  The fit of rage brings the ape’s arms swinging against the heavy barrel, knocking it sideways.  Thick, black fingers grasp the fallen cask.  Lifting it high over its head, the gorilla roars and hurls the object at the warped slope of mangled beams, where it rumbles over the man-wife’s dropped and forgotten possessions: umbrella, bonnet, bag.  It rebounds from a concrete pillar and caroms out of sight, a rolling weapon racing towards the resourceful Master.

Now turn to p.5 / 7 …







Donkey Kong Classic


Smash the Monkey -- For Mother Russia(Image via www.Halolz.com – Original artist unknown)

Turn to p.6 / 7 to continue…!





The great ape’s barrage does not stop there.  There is little conscious thought in its destruction of the construction site.  The damage is only a product of its frustration and fear, which builds within its scarred breast like a swelling balloon.

It remembers the unbroken cycle of torment; the gruesome scowls of its wrongful Master, whose gloved hands thrust roughly through the bars of the ape’s prison, grasping at tufts of coarse fur and yanking, yanking, or teasing the animal with sharp tools of his trade.

There can be little room for blame in the ape’s conical skull, and yet it has learned to hate the murderer of its family, this bitter man whose motives and innermost thoughts are forever excluded from the ape’s understanding.  It is a smart beast, but not a man.  It can only recognise its suffering and vent its hatred on the people and objects around it.

From somewhere below, the sound of shattering wood.  It comes like a burst of lightning, hard and brief.  The barrel the ape has thrown is no more – it appreciates that much – and so it heaves another down the slope with all its considerable strength.

This barrel does not hit the concrete pillar.  It is thrust aside by a silvery blur somewhere along the girder’s truncated length.  Wood and thick, black oil splatters the wall.

A figure is climbing onto the girder.  The heavy black head of a hammer swings like a pendulum to and fro in the Master’s grasp.  The man-wife, trapped behind the gorilla’s massive bulk, screams for her saviour, whose brows knit in fury above his bright eyes.  His mouth is a down-turned tear of split lip and tousled moustache.  Blood encrusts the hairs of his upper lip from the frantic moments following the ape’s escape.

The Master hefts the hammer atop his shoulder, and speaks from deep in his powerful chest:

[Press the FURIOUS ENEMY button on your soundbook now!]

Whoa!  Turn to p.7 / 7 for the explosive finale…!





Mortal enemies clash atop the unfinished structure.  The wind tears through the air between and around them, rippling hair and denim, freeze-burning skin of pale white and deep jungle black.  The ape throws down its arms and the Master dodges between them, boots squeaking on the strained iron.  His hammer describes, through the cold evening air, an arc of pain.

The hammer crunches into the ape’s shoulder.  A clavicle splits like a twig and bursts out through the skin.  The shoulder joint becomes a useless pulp of bone and tenderised flesh.  Bellowing resonantly – a bellow heard for miles around – the gorilla is incensed at this act of crippling.  It does not understand how such a small thing can result in such sharp, insistent pain, nor why its limb hangs so heavy and immobilised by its side.

The Master flings his hammer again, causing sparks to ring off the metal platform.  

The ape twists away and hurls all its weight against the sloping platform.  The vibrations throw the Master off his feet; immediately the gorilla takes advantage.  It wraps its great arm around another barrel, the rough pads of its fingertips gripping tightly to the grain of the wood, and heaves it up against its chest.  Its ruined arm dangles pathetically.  Ropes of muscle contort up the length of its body as it hurls the cask–

Splinters of wood and dark splashes of oil, like spilled blood, explode across the wall and gangway.  The Master has avoided the worst of the attack, but spinning shrapnel has caught him against the temple.  Dizzy, he struggles to stand on the inky smears of oil under his boots.  Gloves blackened and slick, he drops his hammer with a whimper.

The ape attacks.  There is enough rage in its tormented body to fuel the ape for days.  The man-wife’s blood tastes fresh on its plump lower lip.  There is precise muscle-memory all through its body: the violent throes of predatory instinct – the chase, the capture, the kill.

With one fist of broken bones, the ape pounds the struggling human body.  The Master’s chest is already a caved-in pulp of red meat and protruding bone.  Life quickly leaves the corpse, but the ape keeps beating, the man-wife’s screams in its ears.  The might fist strikes the grisly bruised face; it strikes him on the ear, on the limbs.  Finally the ape lifts the fresh corpse into the air by its mangled leg and hurls it, dripping and limp, from the seventh floor of the unfinished structure.

Tiny knuckles drum its thigh.  Turning, the ape moves in a position to grab the thrashing frame of the man-wife.  She shrieks in the ape’s ear, a milky white animal squirming amongst the tatters of its bright yet bloody clothing.  The gorilla flings her over the side too, watching her pinkish form disappear into the smog-laced yard far, far below.

There is liberation in revenge.  Even an animal understands this.  There is peace is liberation – but not yet.

With only one working arm, the ape climbs higher.  Step by step, metre by metre by metre:

One two three four five six seven.


You’ve reached THE END!


RESTART       Y / N ?

City of Steel

People ask me whether I write about Sheffield much.  I live in Sheffield.  I wouldn’t say I know it inside and out, but I know it pretty well.

I suppose I do kind of love this town.  It’s a love derived from familiarity. But being familiar with it, very familiar, I take it for granted.

One day I’ll probably leave Sheffield for another, more exciting town.

What a dick

Because of this, stories set in Sheffield don’t appeal to me.  They aren’t as interesting as tales built around bustling London, which I’ve visited but never lived in; or exotic South America; breathtaking Japan; or the rugged, mist-drowned mountain ranges of Tibet.

It would be like taking photographs of your own kitchen cupboards. You just don’t do it.

To see the world in a grain of sand, or an apartment in a mirror.

This is Sheffield for me:

— Magpies picking at bread in the early morning after a rainstorm.

— Overweight mothers in sweatsuits screeching at their bored, insolent toddlers.

— A fifth-floor view over old redbrick buildings, brown rooftops, decrepit industrial sites reduced to hollows, smokestacks and steeples.

— The old Stan Lee lookalike on the shopping promenade who wears a yellow safety jacket and waves a placard quoting the Bible.  I call him the Placard Hell man.

— Eva, the Evangelical.  Don’t know her real name.  She’s an ebony herald of the Lord who can often be seen outside the Boots, wandering by the bus stops around Chapel Square or riding the bus itself.  She preaches like a lunatic.  She sings like Whoopie Goldburg.  Can I get a ‘Hail Mary’?  She makes me alternately joyful and supremely irritated.

— Most recently, the monstrous ferris wheel that hunkers at the confluence of thoroughfares in the city centre, lurching to the tune of £6.50 a pop with – currently – 42 empty capsules swinging like bloated bluebottles on a knackered pinwheel.

How'd you like to be a big wheel?


— If one were to bore through the Earth, suck out the air, and jump through, it would take you only 42 minutes to reach the other side.

— There are 42 gods and goddesses of Egypt.

— It is the number with which the Hebrew God created the universe.

— Rule no. 42: “All person more than a mile high to leave the court!”

Don't Panic!

There’s not much rhyme or reason to Sheffield.  The roads are one-way and criss-cross, intersect or loop around one another.  The bus routes zig-zag wastefully from one side of the city to the other.  Even the buskers loiter uncertainly, trying to pinpoint a place where the pedestrian traffic flows with any kind of consistency.

In Sheffield I have heard:

— Accoustic guitars

— Electric guitars

— Eucalales

— Banjos

— Harmonicas

— Accordians

— Bass drums

— Bongo drums

— Tin drums

— Tin whistles

— Oboes and bassanellis

— Saxophones

— Bagpipes, panpipes and boatswains pipes

Most of these people could play.

Not many of them could sing.

It’s a funny town.  I wrote about it in a story called “Hidden Homeless”, currently being considered by the BBC as part of a radio drama ‘competition’.  The homeless are everywhere in Sheffield. You see the obvious ones walking about like drunkards.  Actually most have perforated eardrums.  You would be forgiven for thinking the former.

One – I called him Geoffrey – constantly flicks his fingers beside his ear and smacks his gums together.  I realised, after many times of seeing him walk past the grotty cafeteria where I eat a greasy English breakfast before work, that he is mimicking the people he sees around him – talking on mobile phones.

He is observant, our Geoffrey.

There is Gilmli.  He’s a short fellow, rotund, bald on top like a stouter Clive Anderson, with long thin locks of hair hanging flaccidly from the back of his head. He is the dwarf and the wizard and the sneak all in one.  He wears a stripy sweater and never carries less than four plastic carrier bags full of who-knows-what.

There is Howzah.  I met her selling Big Issues one week, then bumming change off me the next.  I never asked what happened to the Big Issue work.  She asks me for forty pence for a cup of tea on the Monday and stops me again on the Thursday, never remembering me.  As far as I can tell.

She must drink a lot of tea.

She looks like a heroin addict and has dark rings under her eyes.  One week I chatted to her outside the Mediterranian-looking stand by the Monstrous Wheel that sells good cheese-and-tomato paninis.

Incidentally, the plural of panini is panini.

The singular of panini is panino.

You ask this guy for a panino he’s gonna look at you like you’re fucking cracked.


This week I ordered a cheese-and-tomato panini.  Howzah seemed to know one of the guys.  One of her black rings seemed to have swollen around her eye, down her cheek, as far around as her ear and as low as the corner of her mouth.

Howzah always looks fucking miserable.

I lend her forty pence for a cup of tea often.

These are obviously homeless.  But there are hidden homeless.  You wouldn’t know it to look at them.

The story is at the short-list stage.  If it fails to impress the BBC further, I will post it for free at Spinninglizard.co.uk.

I wrote about Sheffield in a novel of mine. “Spinning Lizard” would be the fifth of my published novels, should the ones in between ever see the light of day.  I describe Sheffield as faintly grotty, largely empty, alienating, confusing, arousing, invigorating.  There is a night-life and it usually entails getting the shit beaten out of you.

I have a nugget of hard flesh in my right ear from a dizzying punch. The swollen cartilage never went away.

In “Spinning Lizard”, the brother of Nicola Sorensen has been missing for some time.  Nicola gets a letter from the South Yorkshire Police, who have given up the search.

I retyped the letter, in full, from one that I received following the nugget experience.

I do write about Sheffield, sometimes.

Half Discovered Wings” has scenes of racial intolerance, of class prejudice, of an endless cemetary in the desert, of a claustrophobic network of stale values and smouldering underground hatred.  The sun shines on Sheffield too, sometimes – usually through a layer of white cloud, I must admit.  There are brighter days and intermittent festivals, fairs and markets.  I’ve lived her for most of twenty-five years, and I still live here.

The pudding itself is proof!

— db


EDIT: A few people have asked for photographs of Placard Hell, the Stan Lee lookalike, and of Gimli, Geoffrey and Howzah.  I’ll do my best to take a few sneaky snapshots next time I see them!  If only I could get an audio clip of Eva …