I’m pleased to welcome M J Wesolowski to my WordPress this week. He is a horror writer
who has had success with his short fiction and has recently released his first novella The Black Land which I reviewed when it first came out. I have also had the chance to interview him and as an aficionado of all things dark, and someone who has recently started his own WordPress, he is well worth checking out for those, like me, who like a little edge in their fiction.
For his guest post he has explored the idea of darkness and how it can add to fiction and reality.
Within the Dark Mind
By MJ Wesolowski
“All the beautiful things in the world are lies. They count for nothing in the end.”
Patrick McCabe – ‘The Butcher Boy’
That’s what they used to call me in school. Vez. It was quite a cool name. He made it sound synonymous with shit.
“Are yee bent?”
There was laughter.
First day of year ten GCSE English, the teacher wasn’t there yet and I was trying my best to be invisible. Wayne had seen me though. Wayne with the shaved head, the toothy grin and the sharp fists.
“No.” My mouth was so dry it came out like a puff of air.
“What was that, Wayne?”
She had arrived. The nick of time. She had arrived the second before I felt the edge of one of Wayne’s fists, for being ‘bent’. Of course I was bent, I was gangly, skinny and awkward with long hair and band names tipp-exed on my bag, who wouldn’t want to punch me?
I didn’t know it then but that English teacher would play the one of the most significant roles in my life.
“What did you ask Matthew, Wayne?”
She had never met us but she knew our names.
“Nowt.” He was sullen, party over.
“No.” She said, staring. “What did you ask him?”
We didn’t know her yet, she was new. Wayne grinned around at the others.
“I said, ‘are yee bent?’” Emphasis on the final syllable. He spat it onto the floor. There were giggles again. Advantage Wayne.
She didn’t even blink.
“No Wayne, that’s not how you ask.”
“Eh? What do you mean?”
“If you really want to know Wayne, you have to ask properly; ‘Matthew, are you homosexual?’”
This time no one was laughing. It was Wayne’s turn to go red.
“Go on then.”
“Go on then. If you want to know the answer to your question, you have to ask properly, Wayne.”
The pendulum had swung, she had swung it. Wayne was scarlet. There were more giggles, the spotlight was on Wayne.
He did it. His voice was tiny.
“No.” I said.
It didn’t even matter.
“There you go Wayne, there’s your answer. Now, can we get on with the lesson?”
That was the end of being picked on by Wayne in English lessons.
When I dropped out of school with only a GCSE English and very little else, that same teacher passed me a little slip of paper.
“You might like this.” She said.
The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe it said.
That book changed my life.
The night-black narrative of McCabe, like the long lost mutant brother of Roddy Doyle that has been kept in an attic, introduced me to a whole new genre I could never quite place. ‘The Butcher Boy’, ‘The Dead School, ‘Mondo Desperado’, ‘Winterwood’, their protagonists are dark, damaged people and we’re allowed to walk with them, treading carefully in the strange and terrifying aeons that are their minds for these books’ duration whether we want to or not. There’s mental illness, death, delusion and misery but is it horror in the traditional sense? I don’t have an answer. I don’t suspect there is one. McCabe’s books never quite leave you when you read them, they leave lasting damage to your nerves and burn black, twisted shapes into your heart. I don’t care what genre they are; these books have depth, these books matter.
There are others too who write with a grim and blackened narrative that grasps at you with a terrible hand that, you realise when you look down, has no scales, no pale skin, no rotting flesh, but is as human as your own.
Niall Griffiths is a good example. His use of the Welsh countryside lends his narrative to a hollow dystopia that deals with drugs, violence, sex and a generation without hope. These books do the same damage as McCabe’s. Try ‘Sheepshagger’ a title as stark as its content before moving on to ‘Kelly and Victor’, a love story of sorts that is not for the faint hearted. These stories are about our dark, desperate sides, the side that dwells within us all.
Jon King – ‘the Football Factory’, Yes, forget the travesty of the film that contained Danny Dyer. King’s narrative comes from a deep, raw place. Don’t fancy a book about football? Don’t be so soft. Just do it. Read the other two in the trilogy, ‘Headhunters’ and ‘England Away’. The football is simply a backdrop to a wonderfully real world of violence, booze and the rusted edge friendship. That description is a sorry cliché before a set of books that stretch far beyond either football or hooliganism.
If you still feel snobby about the football aspect, try ‘The Prison House’; that’ll leave a mark. I promise.
David Peace, probably the best known of these sorts of authors. His ‘Red Riding’ series isn’t something to be taken lightly. They’re the sorts of books that make you need a hug when you’ve put them down.
Finally, Jack Ketchum. There’s not a lot I can say that hasn’t been said already. The master himself. I will never forget ‘The Girl Next Door’, not till the day I die.
I’m going to leave you now with another sorry cliché about how true horror is the horror within ourselves aren’t I? For that though I make no apologies. For me, Wayne asking me if I was ‘bent’ in front of the whole class was more terrifying than the darkness on the landing after reading The Exorcist, Pet Semetary or The Amityville Horror. (and believe me, those three take some beating)
Horror for me encompasses a healthy dose of reality. The supernatural/monster element must be like the fruit compote in a Müller corner, small and concentrated. The white part needs to be unspeakably real. Within that white, yoghurty reality (perhaps I’m stretching this simile a little too far?), someone needs to face that horror too; someone needs to face that terror dead on, look it in the eye and teach it some damn manners.
Just like Ms. McCormack-John did all those years ago.
M J Wesolowski: I am an author from the UK. I write predominantly horror. My short stories have been published in Ethereal Tales magazine and the Midnight Movie Creature Feature anthology [May December Publications]. My debut novella ‘The Black Land’ is available through Blood Bound Books. I live in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne with my family.