Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet

Author Archive

Preparing for the onset (2014)

I should make a list
of the people I despise
in case I forget;

start being pleasant.
It’s a side effect of this
I never thought of.

But if i forget
where the list is, or that there
was a list. What then?


Feeling the Pull of the Fringe Magnet

If you are in Edinburgh, Try this out.

melaniebranton

I’m taking my first full-length spoken word show to the Edinburgh Fringe in August (see Forthcoming Events page for details) and I’m going to try to blog about how it’s going, starting from now, when I’m about a month into full-time, serious preparation.

In many senses, my expectations are modest. I know, for instance, that I’m not going to make any money. Edinburgh is always just a very expensive holiday. I’m going with PBH’s Free Fringe, an organisation which doesn’t charge for venue hire, but also doesn’t charge audiences to watch (although a bucket is passed round at the end, so they can pay you if they want to). While this eliminates the single biggest cost of taking a show to the paid Fringe (if you’re paying for venue hire, you can be looking at anything between £300 and £2000 a week), all the other costs involved (accommodation, travel, printing…

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the chief petty officer (2013)

your anger’s like the water in an argos kettle
battering its fists on a cheap lid.
your mouth can’t help it
lets go of anything
not loose lips so much as careless.
they just don’t care.

those socks do you no favours either.
your moaning; it’s professional.
i’d pay good money for someone like you
to moan on my behalf

with your round flat face
like a platter of fried grouch.

there must be good money in that.
you should look into it.


Murderous Reviews: A Reason To Kill – Michael Kerr (2013)

A Reason To Kill (DI Matt Barnes #1)

DI Matt Barnes is part of a team assigned to protect a witness scheduled to testify against one Frank Sartini, a mob boss. Little do they know that a schizophrenic hitman is holding a couple next door hostage and in no short time shoots them, poses as the husband taking the dog for a walk and then slaughters everyone in the safe house apart from Matt, who is left for dead with a shot up leg.
The hunt is on for the killer who soon realises that Matt and the wife from the neighbouring house have survived and need to be eliminated as witnesses.
If one did not know one would hardly guess that this is set in London. There’s very little background atmosphere and not much to suggest where Matt’s police station is. His love interest, Beth, a forensic psychologist, lives in Roehampton. I used to live there myself. It’s a distinctive and somewhat leafy area, but as far as the reader is concerned it might just as well have been Kilburn or Oxford Circus.
My other issue with this is the dialogue which is stilted and unrealistic.
It’s a quick and easy read but ultimately unsatisfying. The killer, Gary, is almost superhuman in his ability to evade detection. This is a common trait of serial killers but is usually offset by a depth of characterisation which gives them a level of credibility. Hannibal Lektor for instance gets away with umpteen unbelievable things before a breakfast of human liver, but there is so much more going on with him that we are able to suspend our disbelief. That extra dimension is missing here.
There’s a higher than average body count, some of them being quite surplus to requirements, as if Kerr felt he was being paid by the murder.
It’s a decent enough read, having said all that, but reads more like a first draft where the author has not really got to know his characters all that well yet.


Murderous Reviews: The Mummy Case (Jim Knighthorse #2) – JR Rain (2010)

The Mummy Case (Jim Knighthorse, #2)

I like Jim Knighthorse. I’d follow him round Waitrose if he lived in Shepherds Bush. Jim is a musclebound ex (American) football player turned Private Eye.
He’s got his angst, having not yet been able to solve his mother’s murder and has a drink problem which he is struggling to keep a handle on.
Balancing that is a ready wit, a sparkling personality and a tolerant attitude. Although it’s not PD James, Rain has created a fascinating world with believable characters and a strong sense of place.
In this second volume Knighthorse is called to the desert to investigate the death of a young researcher who was looking into the mystery of a 100 year old mummy; a body found with shotgun wounds but preserved by the desert’s heat and mineral properties.
As side stories, Knighthorse is helping his friend’s son Jesus (Knighthorse insists on pronouncing this in the Western Christian way rather than the proper Hey-Zeus, much to the annoyance of the boy’s father) track down the individual members of a gang of bullies who beat him up and allow Jesus to exact revenge.
Additionally, his girlfriend, an evolutionist biology lecturer whose name happens to be Darwin, has become the subject of vandalistic attacks by Fundamentalist Christians.
It’s a bit of dichotomy in perspective from the first volume where Knighthorse apparently regularly had coffee with God in McDonalds. I read that long before American Gods was on TV, a fact I only mention because I imagined Rain’s God to be Ian McShane.
God doesn’t appear in this one and Rain, perhaps purposefully, shows no sympathy to the Fundamentalist cause. It’s a shrewd touch, since too much God can be a little wearing, particularly for an atheist like me. I’d rather not have it in my escapism, but with Knighthorse I’ll make the occasional exception. Ian McShane does God very well and I’m looking forward to reading him again.
It’s a short and fast paced piece and quite addictive. It leaves me feeling better about the world and that can only be a good thing.
Will I read more? Oh definitely.


September 2009

Summer decays like a love unreturned.
Greens will fume to bruises, gaping scars
vexing warm with rage till they crumble, just
something we want to pass away, to die.

Half of September left now, the sun’s heart
still rages red, but waning. It lessens
like pain from a burn or a wound. He drags
his hot feet, gone all awkward to leave us.

I imagine me, holding my back to you.
We can’t set the leaves from their crimson turn
before they bleed into forgetfulness.
‘Oh well,’ they say, ‘That’s life,’ through parchment lips.

I count the leaves like sheep that will not jump,
or even try. Just wait there, shaded. Stained.


the golden age (2009)

half my life is lived in space
between the stars, between the painted covers
of a thousand books
by writers mostly dead.
i never feared, but boldly tread
the paths that sorns and triffids trod.

the golden age of science fiction
is they say when you’re fourteen
if so, i’m still there behind that door
in seventy-four;
my mother’s platitudes about ‘fresh air’
falling on creatures with no ears
who followed me around for years.

the other half is lived down here
between the stars of the apprentice
and my patient human lover,
walking round this planet laughing
at stupidity and strife.
i’m an astronaut with a bag for half a life


Christmas repeats (2008)

Like a dysfunctional clock
you could strike at ten past four
or five past two

Your ghost and you
have no respect for time
just leap into my head as if
a signal bounced
from number nine
had changed the channel
back to you
for the last three minutes of a sitcom
so familiar that I know the words
and mouth them like
a ritual of resurrection

Mostly it was set in my place
though there was that one hotel
and the day I came to your house
like a final Christmas special
full of fire and love and laughter

As you drove me to the station
we could see the credits rolling
up the windscreen at the back to zero

I’m glad you come and visit in my head
it’s only reruns but they’re still sublime

I too have no respect for time


Murderous Reviews: Rope Enough – Oliver Tidy (2012)

Rope Enough (The Romney and Marsh Files #1)

Romney and Marsh? It’s a little contrived, although as DI Romney and Sergeant Marsh are based in Dover it’s a nod to the location. Totteridge and Whetstone? Lemington and Spa? Newcastle and Upontyne?
To be fair I once invented an Algerian Detective called Theydon Bois, but as he hasn’t solved any cases yet, the less said about that the better. All I can say is that it’s distracting. You’d think, to add a touch of reality to the piece that some villain might snort during an interview and say ‘Romney and Marsh? You’re having a laugh governor!’ but nobody does.
However, Romney and Marsh are summoned to a garage where an employee has been assaulted and his female colleague tied to a table and raped. The rapist was described as having an Eastern European accent and was wearing a balaclava.
The case is complicated by the fact that the victim is the girlfriend of local villain Simon Avery.
The narrative is very much focused on Romney. He is renovating a property, collects first edition books and is having a not too serious relationship with a woman called Julie. Of Marsh we know very little, although she features in the action just as much.
There’s not a lot of character exploration elsewhere to be honest. Tidy has some interesting characters to work with but here they’re a little two dimensional. There’s also a lack of tension between characters. It’s good to have someone working against your hero, or a bad apple at the police station, or a nasty boss. There’s none of that in Dover. All the police are very nice and a trifle dull as a result.
It’s a short and satisfying read though, and kept me enthralled. I would have liked to have seen some resolution to a related case of suspected murder, and although it is suggested that this would be resolved due to evidence discovered in the finale we don’t get complete closure.
Will I read further novels? Yes, probably. Tidy needs to work on his characters but I’m happy to read the next one.

 


Dress Code Demon (2008)

She wants to implement a dress code now
having slithered in just a week ago,
claimed a desk with a view of the orchard.
She’s started sending e-mail like a friend.

And she sings like the snake from Jungle Book.
Her coils are lithing round my office chair.
They leave pale scales, abraded, on the floor.
She’s squeezing me, constricting me to rage.

We’ve met her before in other gardens;
different faces, different sexes even.
It was her, that dead-behind-the-eyes look
as she hissed out ‘implement the dress code!’

Her name is Legion, or maybe Wardrobe.
‘Trust in me,’ she sighs. Holds out an apple.