And so the musical connection to PS Publishing continues apace . . .

. . . with scant weeks left until Hornsea Carnival, when a plethora of fairground rides, cotton candy vans, hamburger stands and show-off motorbikes will share groundspace in the park along Cinema Street with wannabe troubadours of varying and sometimes even questionable talent. But, you know, it’s all so colourful and so upbeat with all the fancy dress and laughter. . . it all sounds right and, heck, with the ghostly hum of calliope drifting over the west wall of PS Towers, that’s all you could ever hope for.

Yessir, music is what it’s all about, leastways it is this week.

but we’ve had precedents—hey, come on now, you know we have.

What about, f’rinstance, Liz Hand’s beleaguered band of hapless musicians trapped in the curious Berkshire-based Traffic-style manse known as WYLDING HALL; the stories brought to life in Harrison Howe’s tribute to Bruce Springsteen in Harrison’s DARKNESS ON THE EDGE anthology (watch out for a new trade paperback edition, by the way) . . .

. . . the surprise appearance of wunderkind Al Kooper, standing alongside fellow Rock Bottom Remainder Stephen King in the upcoming PS edition of THE STAND; and now nineteen stories inspired by just one Frank Turner song in Christopher Golden’s and Tim Lebbon’s forthcoming TEN-WORD TRAGEDIES anthology.

What’s this your up to now, Unca Pete?

Well, let’s hand over to those two reprobates, Chris Golden and Tim Lebbon to get the full lowdown. Guys?

And maybe give us a taster of a half-dozen of the entries AND provide a bit of background. First off, how did the whole thing kick off.

TIM LEBBON: When did you discover Frank Turner?

CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN: For those who don’t know him so well, this is Tim, looking for a pat on the back! You’ll get it, mate. Truth is, right around the end of 2014, I entered a fairly depressed period during which I didn’t sleep a single night without taking something to help me sleep. That went on until Halloween, 2015. Sometime around September of that year, I’d just been listening to the same old same old music for a while, and I posted online about needing recommendations for new music. I listed some of my favorite musicians, and two people who know me very well both immediately recommended I listen to Frank Turner.

The first was Matt Bechte (pictured far right with me and Frank), who has a story in TEN-WORD TRAGEDIES. The second, moments later, was you, Mr. Lebbon. Fittingly, I wouldn’t have even been led down the path to Frank if you hadn’t introduced me to Flogging Molly years ago. In November of that year, I reached out to Frank via email to sort of awkwardly tell him how much finding his music had meant to me, and that it had helped me get through a rough time. He replied a couple of hours later with an invitation to come down to Providence, RI, which is about ninety minutes from my house, to see him live with the Sleeping Souls at a small club called Fete. I brought Matt Bechtel with me and saw my first Frank show on December 16th, 2015. I’ve seen him live another six or seven times now, most recently at Lost Evenings 3 in Boston last week.

CG: So how’s about you, Tim because I know you’d been listening to Frank much longer than I have. What’s your Frank Turner story?

TIM LEBBON: Glad you took me up on that recommendation! Mine is a nice story, too. My daughter Ellie is in university now, but back when she was living at home all year round, I'd often pass her room and hear music creeping from the door (she's a big music fan).  She's always had quite a broad taste in music––some days it'd be Beyonce or Mumford & Sons, some days Green Day, and quite a few singers and bands I didn't really know. One day I heard a bit of gentle piano music and a gentleman singing in a very English voice about listening to his music on a portable stereo. I stuck my head in the door and frowned.  Ellie knows me so well, so she said, "Just wait a minute, Dad."  I'm glad I did wait.  With a "Hi ho, hi ho, hi ho . . ." Frank launched into Four Simple Words, and for me my love of his music was instant. I listen to a lot of rock and roll, but my tastes have definitely widened since my metal teens, and Frank Turner's music really struck a chord (if you'll forgive me).  He's such a wordsmith that every song tells a story . . . and I think he'd actually be a great novelist. I've told him that, too. Who knows, maybe his first published fiction in this anthology might lead elsewhere?    

TL: Do you remember the first time you heard Mittens?

CG: It was right after you and Matt recommended him to me. You know my musical tastes a bit better than Matt and said I needed to listen to Frank’s newest album (at the time), Positive Songs for Negative People, which had just come out. I love the whole damn album, from first note to last, though given my state of mind at the time it’s certain that “Get Better” will always be my favorite. Still, I loved “Mittens,” and what I loved most about it was that opening verse. As a writer, I was fascinated by Frank’s ability to paint an entire short story just in those few lines about discovering all those old postcards for sale in a New York City thrift shop. The idea that as a songwriter he would buy a box and ship it home for later inspiration stuck with me. I’d like to say the anthology was my idea, but I can’t honestly remember if it was you or me who came up with it, only that we had to do it together.

CG: You’re the one who managed to persuade Frank to send you a box of postcards to choose from for this project. I don’t remember which of us first learned the postcards were a true story, but how did you come to acquire them, and how did you select which ones you were going to send to the contributors?

TL: I remember the Skype when we came up with the idea. I think we were just talking about how great his lyrics are, and one of us quoted those lines, and the other said, "And that's a great anthology." I honestly can't remember which one of us it was . . . we've collaborated so much that we are now, actually, one person. We'd both discovered by then that Frank is actually very approachable, and I think it was you who emailed Frank with the idea. He responded to say that it was a true story, and next thing he was shipping a big box of postcards to me (which I still have . . . I really must return them)! As for selecting postcards for contributors, I went through the box and pulled out the ones that I thought were interesting––whether it was picture, message, or sometimes just a one-word note. Then when we'd established the list, I picked three for each writer, at random, and sent them off.

As for a home for the anthology, PS felt so natural.

PS felt so natural.  I've known Pete for a long time (some people would probably say too long . . . I know he would), and I remember him once saying to me, 'Music makes the world go around'.  I know he's a big music fan, and I'm sure this has created one more Frank Turner fan, at least!

TL: What were the challenges of putting together such an eclectic mix of stories?

CG: It was the opposite of a challenge, really. It was an outrageous pleasure, the kind of freedom that rarely comes along, both for us as editors and for the contributors. So often you get invited to contribute to an anthology that has such a specific remit, or at least is bound by a particular genre. What writer wouldn’t love the freedom of being asked to take a look at three postcards, pick one, and write a story inspired by it—any story you want, in any genre you want, or no genre at all? What a wonderful gift to be able to give the authors, and the readers, and ourselves.

CG: What surprised you the most, as the stories came in? (Aside from how great Frank’s contribution is, which should really come as no surprise to anyone.)

TL: I think it was how different each story was, and also how differently each writer approached the invitation.  Some were quite literal, writing stories inspired by messages or pictures on the postcards.  Others seemed to just allow the postcards to trigger something in their mind, and the stories were only very tangentially linked.  I think it goes back to what you said about the freedom of such an idea.  And as a writer, I know that'd be a great thing.  We've ended up with such a pleasingly eclectic mix.  I'm delighted with how it all worked out!

TL: You've edited a lot of anthologies, was this one relatively easy to put together, or more difficult than usual?

CG: A little bit of both. Coming up with the list of authors we wanted to invite was difficult, as we wanted authors who are inspired by music, who are fans of Frank Turner’s music specifically, and who wouldn’t be terrified of fucking up such an open challenge as this offered. But we began with a core of writers whom we knew would jump at the chance. And the results . . . folks will see for themselves, but the results are extraordinary. I’m as proud of this anthology as I’ve ever been of anything with my name on it.

CG:  What would you say about this book to readers who aren’t familiar with Frank’s music? And what would you say about it to Frank’s fans who may not be familiar with some of the authors?

TL: I'd say to those readers, check out Frank's songs, because his styles and themes are as varied as the stories in this book.  And for those who love Frank's music already, this anthology is not only a great chance to read his first published fiction (how lucky are we!), but also to try out some other writers you might not have heard of before. 

We're thrilled to be launching the book at The Lexington, on Pentonville Road, London, on 10th July.

And we're even more pleased that Frank will be doing a short acoustic set at the launch, and then signing books. Tickets will go on sale soon, and cover price will include entry and a copy of the book. They'll be hot property, so keep an eye on mine and Chris's Twitter feeds over the next day or two.

And now a few samples . . .

. . . the first one being ‘I Am Here’, also the first story in the book, from our good friend Michael Marshall Smith who, for those with good memories (not to mention exquisite taste), wrote THE VACCINATOR, one of the first four novellas for the fledgling upstart imprint whose umpteenth volume you are about to read an extract.

Go for it, Mike.

Many things happen when someone dies. There are the obvious ones, the pressing concerns, actions that must be immediately undertaken even if the death happened at home and was not unexpected. You phone the hospice nurse, who arrives at the house an hour later. You stand there in a room that now seems all corners and shadows while she confirms that yes, regretfully your mother is genuinely dead, and the cause of death will be recorded as organ failure caused by multiple advanced cancers. The nurse is kind but businesslike and helps arrange transportation to the mortuary. 

      Over the next few
days you make arrangements for the funeral. You contact people to let them know where to come, and when. You make decisions over flowers and catering, and concoct an Order of Service in accordance with what you believe she would have wanted, and meanwhile empty the fridge in her house and water her plants and obtain a death certificate. There will be times during this process when you cry savagely. The rest of this period will be spent on numb, efficient auto-pilot, at times accepting the help and support of your husband and daughter, and assisting with their own grieving processes, at others wondering who these other people are and why they are in your house.
     Eventually you will attend the funeral and say a few words and shake hands and accept hugs and later tip uneaten egg salad sandwiches and potato chips into a refuse bag and tie it neatly and put it in the trash and stand in the twilight afterward feeling worn out and faded and terribly unhappy but also guiltily relieved. The first part is over. The next part begins. 

     The part that lasts the rest of your life. 

And now here’s the remarkably titled ‘She Forgot Them All, She Could Not Remember Anything But Longing’ from Kelly Braffet.

At the junk shop, Mig spent ten cents for four postcards. The one from Alaska she put away, in case she ever needed it; the one from Atlantic City, she sent to Father Brian. “Here for a weekend with the girls from work! Thinking of you often and hope you are well.” She was not in Atlantic City and there were no girls from work. There was no work. She had not written to Father Brian in a while. She was in Clifton because Karen was in Clifton, and if not for Father Brian she never would have met Karen, so in that sense, a kind of gratitude: yes, she did hope Father Brian was well.

Next up is Josh Malerman with ‘From The Living Room of Cottage 6.’

Of all the perks and privileges people look for in a bed and breakfast, a hotel, an overnight stay, none are perhaps as desired as the view. To most vacationers, a bed is the place where the world stops spinning, or begins, depending on the number of drinks. A couch will do. And while a spacious shower helps settle the nerves of the night before, a view does the same thing, but better.
     A view lasts all day.
     Andy and Cathy Banner didn’t know they wanted one such view until their good friend Donna told them of one in a place called Forge, Maine. From the living room of cottage 6, Donna said, the world was breathtaking. She added that she hadn’t seen it herself, but had good sources. Classic Donna. Adamant, but always for others.

And from Delilah S. Dawson, ‘I Hate to Leave This’

When your life is a cold, lonely thing, it’s only natural to pine for sunshine. That was me, once— a hard little seed trapped in the darkness, deep underground. And then a postcard showed up to brighten the Pennsylvania winter, and it gave me an idea. 

     There were words on the back, but they weren’t very interesting; nobody ever said anything good on a postcard. It was the picture that was important: a horse racing park somewhere in Florida. The aerial shot showed a whole lot of nothing around the track, the land razed and seared amber like the sugar crust on a cake—that’s what got me. I wanted to feel that sun on my cheeks, tilt my head back as the humidity undid all my careful curls. I ran my thumb over the worn paper, thinking about how far it had traveled.

      I wondered what blood would feel like, mixed with that hot, golden sand.

And here’s another contender for ‘Best Story Tilte Of The Year, this one from Paul Tremblay “Howard Sturgis and the Letters and the Vanand What He Found When He Went Back to His House”

Howard Sturgis received the first perplexing letter from circe group in early June. He was in the middle of final exams week. For the weary students, summer was no longer an impossible dream. For Howard, the end of another academic year was a clanging toll of a bell that would one day soon stop ringing. Howard taught mathematics at Bishop Fenwick, a Catholic High School in Danvers, Massachusetts. Having officially retired from public school teaching three years prior, Howard supplemented his modest retirement income by teaching part-time at the private school. Howard was sixty-eight years old and was a slight, bird-like fusspot, but a kind one. He couldn’t have been more out of touch with youth culture and his students’ world, and to their delight he used earnest phrases like, “Isn’t that wonderful?” after computing a derivative or integral. Howard arrived at school by 4:30AM each morning (thereby avoiding any traffic on his commute) and he spent the bulk of his before-school hours helping other teachers’ students, and by help we mean he would do their homework problems for them. He lived alone in a small ranch-style house on a wooded lot. He wore wool suits that he dry cleaned three times a year. Howard told his newest colleagues nothing of his family or of his past. Suffice to say his joys and regrets were perhaps equal, but never felt equal.

And, ending these samplers in the same position he earns in the actual book, Frank Turner with "Royal Gorge"

They say it's the highest bridge in the world. Twin towers carry wooden planks one-thousand-two-hundred-sixty feet across a gorge, with Colorado’s Arkansas River a thousand feet below. The bridge cuts through the clean, dry mountain air like a bold streak drawn by an artist, a line drawn under the obstacles nature throws in our way. The sky is shockingly blue over and around the red and grey rocks.
     Route 50 lazes its way up to the drop like a sketch, and at the
roadside there's a tourist centre and a gas station.
 Route fifty. 1950. A new year, a new decade, maybe a new start, for me, for America, for everyone. Mary and I saw in the New Year at some dive motel on the drive from Des Moines to Omaha, out in the middle of the snow-smothered prairie, in a place the world forgot a long time ago. Those are the kinds of places we have to stick to now. We’d bought the car for cheap a few days earlier in Davenport. The old guy gave us a deal because it was coming up on Christmas. Plus we were paying cash.

Hey, folks, anthologies come and anthologies go and we’ve produced a whole host of literary gems this past 20 years . . .

. . . simply because we’ve been supported by a whole host of stupendous editors and writers able (or willing) to take on the spirit of the work in question. Even surrounded by the wealth of PS anthologies on offer this one is special. TEN-WORD TRAGEDIES is going to be one heck of a book. To make sure of a signed copy go here: you know the drill by now.

And to get a ticket to the launch gig at the Lexington go here.

And if you’re not sure in either case then first off read through the half-dozen extracts we hi-lighted and then, if there’s still even the tiniest frisson of uncertainty, well, I guess the only thing is to let the man speak for himself.
Well, that’s about it on that score. Look after each other and happy reading.

Me, I’m gonna go play some music.


* * * STOP PRESS * * *

It's been a busy week at the warehouse with arrivals of reprint copies of Mike Moorcock's PEGGING THE PRESIDENT and John Connolly's HORROR EXPRESS.

As for new titles, we've also received the trade paperback edition in Steve Jones' ongoing anthology series; BEST NEW HORROR #29, and INSIGHTSthe third installment in Eric Brown and Keith Brooke's Kon-Tiki Quartet.

Carol and the warehouse crew are busy packing pre-orders, some are already on their way to you as I write this. We hope to get the remaining orders out in the post folllowng the bank holiday.

PS Publishing

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