Who the fuck is Pat Black?

Pat Black’s short-ish story The Bridge will appear right here on this very website over the next five days. We thought it only fair to warn you upfront.

Who the fuck are you? Just another clown in human make-up.

I have nothing to declare but my genius and … About 800 ciggies.

I said “ciggies” rather than “fags”, because I am trying to be sensitive.

I should also declare my new short story collection. I’m going to call it You Be A Pirate, I’ll Be A Cowboy. It’s not released yet. It features a few stories which finished second and third in a few competitions. Sometimes they were long-listed, the equivalent of a wee pat on the back and perhaps a fly squeeze on the bum from a moist-eyed old man on the judges’ panel. I feel like the Jimmy White of short story contests. I guess you’d rather be Jimmy White than Tony Meo. That holds true for Bobby George in darts. Always Be Bobby – that’s my motto. Though I’m not as big a fan of jewellery and have no aptitude for the building trade.

I’m also going to promote a short story “single” ahead of a horror story collection. The single will be called “The Sullen Dead”. The collection will most likely be Shadow Plays, but I might change that if a better idea comes along. It’ll be heading to Kindle alongside my last major thing (drum roll… drops sticks)… the debut collection, Suckerpunch.

Why the fuck should we care? To be blunt, you shouldn’t. There’s a million of me. I have no idea why I still write. I dreamed of being a superstar author when I was a child – say, like Barbara Taylor Bradford or Judith Krantz, in full drag, breathless, hammering at a typewriter as big, grey and clunky as a 1950s school matron – but now… writing is a compulsion, nothing more. I can’t stop. But that doesn’t mean you should care.

What the fuck do you care about? It’s difficult to care about anything in this blasted universe. HP Lovecraft had this question nailed. There are obvious answers: wife, baby daughter. If the things you can’t live without are in jeopardy you’d soon find out what you care about. That’d wipe the stupid smirk off my face. “That’ll learn ye!”

But ultimately we’re all meat for the flies. And sooner than we think. What’s that buzzing sound?

This sentiment wants to make me behave recklessly. To cast the tumbler into the fire; to encourage my baby to follow suit with her sippy cup. But I can’t go through with that. I know it’s wrong. Responsibilities. Hard work. Sticking to the plan, following the rules. “Don’t you think that about me, boy!” The Irish Catholic and the Scottish Presbyterian are forever wrasslin’ in my very DNA. I’m not sure who’s on top in this struggle but it does mean I have to use a very high factor sunscreen.

Tragically, I also care about writing. It fills up a lot of my inner hard drive, an embarrassing amount of contemplation and industry that would be better employed elsewhere. I have a recurring fantasy in which my descendants finally decode the ancient computer files containing all my writing, long after I’m dead, like Howard Carter crow-barring his way into the Tomb. So they read it, and… “What the hell is this? Why did he waste his life on that? Whit a wank!”

Oh yes, and the Celts. I care about the Celts. Forever and ever, I’ll follow the Bhoys.

If you could murder any best-selling author and get away with it, guaranteed, who would you kill? And how? I’d say Dan Brown, but not for the reasons you think. I’m no snob – I love genre, I write a lot of it, and it would be amazing to have the kind of freedom that great success allows you. I enjoyed his work. Fair play to Dan Brown, and that goes for EL James, too.

But I came to bury Dan Brown, not to praise him.

I’d kill Dan Brown, because I would have planned something absolutely fiendish and medieval for his demise. Then I would have leave lots of supplementary clues strewn around in exotic locations, hinting at ancient historical evils, possibly perpetrated by people with certain pigmentation conditions, or perhaps a bad late-1990s bottle blond dye job.

Dan Brown’s death would be the ultimate literary mystery. Perhaps the lead detective in the inquiry would have a clever, gamine woman in her 20s as a sort of amanuensis-cum-fuck-buddy. I’ve heard that’s rife in the police.

And it’d be the perfect mystery – one with no solution. It’d secure his legacy for generations. If he was terminally ill, I bet he’d go for it.

Hey, I’ve just come up with this great idea for a story.

I’m coming for you Dan*. You must see the logic in this!

Dan! Dan! Dan! Dan!… Dan! Dan! Dan! Dan!

*NB, fine members of the legal profession: I’m joking.

I have seen the future of fiction and her name is … I can’t really do this without looking like a toady, or blatantly plugging my friends’ books. So with that in mind I’ll say Liz Tipping, Five Go Glamping!

Nah, the trouble is I don’t read enough books. New books, anyway. Two big reasons for this: I drive to work now, meaning there’s no commute read, and secondly, I’ve got a sprog, so if I’m up past 11pm and cracking open a book, it’ll mean she’s at her grandma’s. In which case I will be up past 11pm, but probably drunk, and not reading. 

What is next for you? I’ll go on till I crack it, or until I die. I’ve got to edit more than 150 short stories and stick them out in about three or four volumes. I’ve also got five volumes of essays to stick out on Kindle. Never has one person laboured so hard on something of so little consequence. I’m also writing two TV series and a film script. Then I need to polish off Run With Me, a YA/fantasy novel I’ve been masticating for more than two years. It’s at 65,000 words, and the big exciting bits are just around the corner… but I’m stuck. I’m sick of the sight of it. Governments have fallen, I’ve lost family members and popped out a new one of my own, in the time I have been writing that bloody book. It’s still there, a reminder of… I dunno, something. I’ve run out of bad figures of speech. So, yeah, all that.

Tell us a secret. There is a good chance you have read words I have written every single day of your life for at least 10 years, without knowing it.

More Pat. Much more.

Pat Black is a journalist – grievance procedures pending – and author. He has written for a number of websites including www.booksquawk.com, http://www.hodderscape.co.uk, and this one. He was part of the Authonomy (RIP) community for a few years and even got a gold star for Snarl, a novel you will probably never read. He fully understands how silly it is to be writing in the third person about himself, as he is here. He was named one of the six winners of the Daily Telegraph’s Ghost Stories competition in 2010. He has been shortlisted or longlisted for a few awards, including the Bridport Prize, and has been published in a number of magazines and websites, including Chase the Moon, McStorytellers and others. He came second in the 2014 Bloody Scotland crime writing competition, and will be published early in the new year in the Moth crime writing anthology.

He writes allsorts, though, and yes, he’d take a deal to write anything. Hey, he’s a working man.

He is Scottish but he’s probably never going to live there again. No direction home, as the man said.

Website: The Ox

Short story collection, Suckerpunch

A collection of essays, Paper Cuts

Pankhearst single for February 2015, The Wrong Guy


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