I’ve been playing guitar since I was fifteen. It feels a long time. I’ve known so many musicians, professional and amateur, famous and unknown, that music, and the people who play it, seems a very natural thing to write about. 'Fergal’s First Gig' was my fledgling attempt at returning to fiction. It’s based loosely on my friendship with a schoolmate guitarist, now my oldest friend, whose playing seemed miraculous by our then teenage standards, and still does to me when I think back. The story won second prize in the Bedford International Short Story Competition 2014, which, thank you dear Bedford, encouraged me to continue. It's since been redrafted, but you can read the original version via a link on my Stories page.
Oktavists are very rare creatures indeed. They sing an octave below bass and seem to exist mainly in Russia, hence the 'k' in their name. My second published story, 'My Friend the Oktavist', which appeared in The London Journal of Fiction, describes the experience of two boys, born in small adjacent towns in England, whose voices plummet freakishly at puberty, causing difficulties. They bond and look out for each other in consequence as their lives go in different directions. Well worth Googling 'oktavist' if you've never heard one. Sadly the LJF seems to exist no longer, so unless you have a copy of their second edition, this story isn't available at the moment, although I'm currently trying to find it another home.
'Guitar Strings, People Strings' tells the tale of an ageing metal head, now reduced to playing weddings, but still hell bent on having an impact. I've come across a number of such and they hold a special place in my heart. This story was shortlisted in the Bedford International Short Story Competition 2016. If my career as a writer of stories fails, it will certainly not be due to anyone at Bedford.
'Getting Our Heads Together in the Country' has yet to find a publisher. It's set in 1969, and describes a group of teenage musicians recording a double album while communing with nature in a field in deepest Somerset (younger readers, I promise you things like this really once happened). The narrator remembers the whole experience, with mixed feelings, as a lost idyll. For some reason I've never submitted this story, but any editor who finds this intriguing please get in touch and a script will be with you forthwith.
Regarding my own playing, I had the very good fortune to learn directly from several of the iconic acoustic players of the sixties and seventies, including the founding father of the British steel string guitar, Davy Graham. Davy’s utter originality was reflected in his lifestyle and character, which was singular to say the least, but it was an unforgettable experience to go to his home and soak up knowledge and inspiration. I described how it all started in an article for Acoustic Magazine. To read it click here
I currently (as of June 2018) find myself 17000 words into what could be a novel about a group of touring rock musicians, set in the early seventies. This is by far the longest piece of fiction I've written and started off as a short story, taken from a dream-like memory of sitting in a café on a rainy day in my teens. The radio was playing and I had no idea where life would take me. Strange how some images stay with you. Without any planning, or in fact plotting, it continues to grow as a sort of respite from the darker themes that sometimes appear in my short stories. I said I'd never write a novel, but it's begin to look as though one's appearing anyway.