We interrupt our normal service of adverts and other tiresome promotion of my wonderful new book TAKE IT COOL (available from all good bookshops and also by clicking over here —>) to bring you an extraordinary piece of Pinnock juvenilia that I came across at the weekend while sorting out some old files. This opinion piece was written for a school essay competition in which the three “best” entries (and the inverted commas are entirely deliberate) got to be published in The Bedfordshire Times. So this would be my first ever publication, although as far as I remember I didn’t get paid.
The subject of the essay was London’s third airport, a topic of considerable interest to the inhabitants of Bedford at the time as one of the proposed sites was at Thurleigh, not far away from the town centre. My piece bore the bold title THURLEIGH – MADNESS OR MARVEL? Unfortunately, I don’t have the actual cutting from the Bedfordshire Times (my parents having probably decided that it was best not to encourage me too much), but I do have my handwritten original.
This is my favourite bit, wherein I display a precociously practical approach to the problem, although with an alarmingly cavalier attitude to wildlife. Foulness, incidentally, was one of the many sites that have been proposed over the years for Thames Estuary Airport. It’s also one of the best place names ever.
Mrs P’s only comment on seeing this was “I bet you were a right little tosser.”
There are many reasons why ‘Back to the Future’ is a favourite among writers and most of them are, of course, to do with the sheer brilliance of the screenwriting. However, I think we all know which is the scene that resonates with us the most. It’s the scene where the now successful George McFly opens a box containing the book he always dreamed of getting published.
And however many books you write, it never, ever gets old. Especially when they’re as lovely as this one. It even has colour pictures in it.
So, I guess this is as good a time as any to remind you that there’s a button over here –> which will enable you to order a signed copy or two. Or if you’d rather have your copy undefaced, there are some other places you can order it from here.
Go on, you won’t regret it. It’s a thing of beauty.
As an aside in my new book TAKE IT COOL (you did know I had a new book out, didn’t you?) I make the suggestion that we should mount some kind of campaign to give St Pinnock a higher profile by posting this on our blogs every July 15th:
St Pinnock of Liskeard (also known as St Pinnock the Flamboyant, St Pinnock the Pungent and St Pinnock the Trouserless) is the patron
saint of Milton Keynes, Heligoland and headlice. He is also patron of nuisance callers, PERL developers and the worried well. St Pinnock is noted for the so-called Miracle of the Unwanted Cheese, wherein he succeeded in making an entire village’s cheese surplus disappear on a regular basis. He was canonised a few years after his martyrdom at the hands of a group of local dairy farmers following a dramatic fall in sales to neighbouring communities. His feast day is July 15th.
It’s been a long and twisty journey, but today sees the publication of my fourth book, TAKE IT COOL, by the wonderful Two Ravens Press.
I recently found the first draft of the first chapter that I read out at the Verulam Writers Circle, and the file is dated March 2005. However, I must have had the idea before then, because I seem to have started buying Dennis Pinnock’s records again in June 2004 (‘Woman be Fair’ / ‘Fair’s Fair’ from Action Records in Preston, via GEMM). So that makes it over a decade since I started out on this mad quest.
Why did it take so long? Probably because I had no idea who on earth would be interested in such a thing. Sure, whenever I read bits of it out to my friends, they’d say encouraging things, but that’s what friends do. I had no idea if the general public would be remotely interested (I still don’t).
I lost count of the number of queries I made to agents and publishers, but I’m pretty certain it’s in excess of 60. However, it wasn’t as if I hadn’t been through all this before. MRS DARCY VERSUS THE ALIENS went through at least 40 rejections before Proxima picked it up. This is not unusual, by any means. I know a lot of published writers and the only thing they all have in common is that they’ve stuck with it, even when the whole world seemed to be against them.
The good news is that he has come up with something else, and the even better news is that it is just as bonkers. As soon as I heard about it, I wanted to get hold of a copy, but because by TBR pile was already overflowing, I held off buying for a while. But when Scott Pack, who runs The Friday Project, the book’s publisher, was offering free review copies, I could no longer avoid adding to the pile. But just to be sure I wasn’t really adding to it, I snuck it to the top.
The Stonehenge Letters is a similarly peculiar mix of fact and fiction as the first book. The premise is that Alfred Nobel, as a result of an unrequited relationship with the remarkable Florence Antrobus, wife of the heir to the estate that included Stonehenge, develops an obsession with the mystery surrounding the monument. This obsession develops to the point where Nobel secretly offers a further prize to existing laureates for the best solution to the mystery.
And then the fun starts, as various luminaries – from Theodore Roosevelt to Marie Curie – pitch in with their submissions, ranging from the highly plausible down to the frankly daft (Rudyard’s Kipling’s contribution is particularly feeble). Sigmund Freud also provides an entertaining commentary via footnotes.
This isn’t by any means a conventional novel at all: there’s no plot development to speak of, and no real conclusion at the end. But the whole confection is great fun as well as informative and oddly thought-provoking. I’m still pondering what a weird old fish Nobel was, and how extraordinary it is that the prizes named after him are still so highly thought of. Highly recommended.
I meant to do this when DOT DASH came out, but I didn’t have the time and I thought it was a bit self-indulgent. Well, I still don’t really have the time and it’s certainly still self-indulgent, but I’ve done it anyway. I’ve created an entire Wiki devoted to DOT DASH, explaining how all the stories came into being. There’s some fascinating stuff in there, such as this entry on The Amazing Arnolfini and His Wife, which went from an exceptionally lacklustre initial showing to a slot on BBC Radio 4. Have a dig around anyway and see what you think, and pass it on to all your short story writing chums.
And now that I’ve got that out of the way I can think about what I’m going to do by way of a website for TAKE IT COOL…
Didn’t have time to post about this before I went off on my hols (and very nice they were to, thanks for asking). Anyway, here’s my poem “Paradise Found Wanting” up at the ever-excellent Ink, Sweat and Tears. Don’t think it really needs much by way of explanation…
Not much else to report, apart from the fact that my frankly rather puerile flash “The Sixth Generation” is going to be included in the forthcoming National Flash Fiction Day anthology “Eating My Words”. There will be more details on how and where to purchase in due course. Having been one of the judges for the 100-word competition, I can say with hand on my heart that there will be some seriously good stuff in there. As well as my piece.
Take It Cool is now feeling a lot less exposed, because it now has a back cover as well as a front one. And apart from that picture of yours truly, it’s rather spiffy, is it not? All we need now is the book to come out and for loads of people to read it.
Many thanks to Pete Sutton for some very nice comments there.
Meanwhile, back in short story land, I had an acceptance yesterday from the people at the very excellent Unthology for a rather odd story of mine called “Hay. Pee. Ah. Wrist.” Not sure if it’s going to be Unthology 6 or Unthology 7, but either way it’s going to be extremely cool to join that list.
In case you’re wondering, yes, I still do enter writing competitions. However, my success rate has been somewhat less than stellar lately. No idea why – these things happen; I’ve had stretches like this in the past and I’m sure I will again.
So I was somewhat relieved to find out over the weekend that the drought had ended with a shortlisting and a longlisting in the prestigious Fish Poetry Prize (that’s the one with the €1000 first prize, so not to be sneezed at).
The shortlisted poem is called Lines from an Ape and the longlisted one is called (deep breath, and look away if easily offended) On Going to Watch a YouTube Video of Charles Bukowski and Being Forced to Sit Through an Advert for Fucking Saga Holidays. Both of those arose from a recent writing challenge held on The Write Idea forum, requiring the participants to write a poem a week to variety of prompts. Try and guess what the prompt might have been for the longlisted poem…
Now I need to decided what to do next with them. Put them back into competition or go for publication? I think I might give them another outing or two before retirement.
TAKE IT COOL has been edited, proof-read and finally typeset (coincidentally by my chum, the excellent Calum Kerr), and will be published on July 14th. I’ve now reached that point with the book where I’m completely and utterly convinced that no-one is going to buy it, no-one is going to review it and it’s all going to be horribly embarrassing. This is entirely normal.
I’ve reactivated the Hiveminding blog, now that my bees seem to have survived the winter. If bees are your thing (or indeed if they aren’t), do take a look.
And then I’ve got to think about what to write next. The problem, as ever, is not a lack of ideas. There are just too many things I want to do, and none of them has any continuity with anything I’ve done before. So what’s new, then?
My name's Jonathan Pinnock. I lead a dual life. In one half of this, I run a software development company called Jonathan Pinnock and Associates. If you've come here looking for that, here's where you need to go.
However, if you've come here to find out about the other half of my life, as a writer of fiction and non-fiction, you've come to the right place.
If, on the other hand, you've arrived here by accident whilst searching for Japanese Tentacle Porn, I suggest you try using a different search engine.
If you'd like to contact me, my e-mail address is jon AT jonathanpinnock DOT com.
The bio-historico-musicological-memoir thing Take It Cool was published by Two Ravens Press in July 2014.
The Scott Prize-winning short story collection Dot Dash was published by Salt in November 2012.