Set in locales as diverse as Italy and the Falklands, Siberia and Golgotha, these fourteen stories teem with as much life as the oceans on which many of them were written. The author’s background as a merchant seaman and teacher provide the canvases for these absorbing, plot-based stories. Most have won prizes in international competitions.
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In the title story, Those Gorgeous Ghosts, an aging bachelor is employed in the local crematorium. Since the municipal hospital opened an abortion annex 20 years previously, he burns the discarded embryos and distributes the ashes among the graves. When he is sacked his ‘little ones’ have prepared a surprise for him.
In The Siberian Swimmer Jack d’Evelyn is stopping over to address a dinner at his Oxford Alma Mater on his way to Stockholm to receive a Nobel Prize. Foremost in his memory is his old room-mate from what was then the Soviet Union. Ivan is a mystery until the day of the Isis Ten- lap Swimming Derby when he chooses to reveal his secret in the interests of college glory. Jack d’Evelyn hasn’t seen his friend since that night when the KGB men arrived to take him back to Russia. Is Ivan at the welcoming dinner?
Quintus Kirkwood’s modest life-style in Auckland, New Zealand gave no hint that Quintus was among the world’s wealthiest men. He is no sooner dead, however, than a tsunami of speculation inundates the country because his will, which ‘contains surprises’, is to be opened and read in public in the city centre.
A Coven of Cowls and The Exorcising of St. Anton are stories set in monastic communities. The first is in Italy where two monasteries amalgamate to the chagrin of both sets of monks until the new abbot devises a simple ruse to ensure unity. The other tells of a foundation in Southern California where the monks are despondent when they find the land they have accepted as a gift is barren until they discover a valley fashioned by nature to welcome the cultivation of mushrooms. In time a group of young men present themselves and are admitted into the novitiate. Before long the old monks stop their geriatric chanting to allow the rich young voices to fill the choir – that is until the abbot, who has been in hospital, returns to St Anton.
A cargo ship’s voyage from Ecuador to England via New Zealand is the background for The Protest of Abel which involves two sets of identical twins, except one is dead, aborted at the beginning of the second World War while his brother was unwittingly left in the womb. But not even death can cut the cord that binds the brothers.
Fausto Batista is a handsome young Brazilian priest new to a Lisbon parish. A cynical prostitute accepts a challenge to seduce him, with unnerving results.
Our Lady of the Icehouse. Little Thomas’s simplicity means he is categorized as a retard. When his mother follows his wealthy father to the grave Thomas, and the fortune, are left in the hands of his mother’s brother, C.L. a young actor. The father’s family is determined to take Thomas, and the money, into its net but is thwarted by the gentle, ethereal Thomas.
The Death of Father Appleston examines the mind and heart of an 80 year old priest on his deathbed.
Golden Gloves is set in a New Zealand Catholic School in the early sixties. It centres on the relationship between the secular headmaster and a student, David Kingley. The headmaster tries to expel the young man but Kingley quietly refuses to leave as the matriculation exams are about to begin. The climax is reached on prize-giving night when Kingley’s Maori boxing partner devises ‘condign retaliation’ for the headmaster.
Elizabeth, one of The Falkland Twins, is discovered hiding in an Argentinean truck during the conflict in those South Atlantic islands in the early 1980s. She is about to be raped when she is rescued by the intervention of her brother who, inexplicably, was elsewhere at the time.
The crucifixion as seen through the eyes of one of The Other Two who were executed with Christ.
In The Kambala Buffaloes Nicholas , a striking looking academic has been deserted by his wife when he meets an Indian, Zamir Dev. They strike up a relationship even though Nicholas is conscious that the physically unprepossessing Zamir is using him to attract women. As the tale progresses, Zamir commissions terracotta buffaloes which, come to represent the evil of beauty turned malicious, like the beauty of Lucifer.
In a Portuguese village an old bishop tells of a Bogus Confession made many years before.
The Will of Quintus Kirkwood, 1st prize in the 2010 Hay-on-Wye Winter Festival Competition.
The Will of Quintus Kirkwood, 2nd prize Yeovil Short Story Competition 2010.
The Will of Quintus Kirkwood shortlisted for Fountane Book Publishing 2010 competition.
The Will of Quintus Kirkwood, 1st prize Dream Quest Writing Competition, Chicago, Il. 2010.
The Will of Quintus Kirkwood (as Where There’s a Will) 1st prize Moyama Competition 2010; Published in Moyama Annual Review 2011.
The Will of Quintus Kirkwood (as Where There’s a Will) , 2nd place Calderdale Short Story Competition 2011.
The Other Two (as Dismas) and Those Gorgeous Ghosts published by The Logos Review (Florida, USA).
Those Gorgeous Ghosts (as Brighter Than New Coins) 1st prize Chudleight Pheonix 2012 Short Story Competition.
Those Gorgeous Ghosts published in the September 2013 issue of Catholic Life magazine.
The Bogus Confession (as The Old Man From the Garden) Ashby de la Zouch Writers’ Club 2010; 3rd place.
The Bogus Confession published in the October 2013 issue of Catholic Life magazine.
The Seduction of Fausto Batista, shortlisted, New Writer prose prize 2010.
The Kambala Buffaloes, 2nd place in University of Plymouth Press Short Story Competition 2011.
The Kambala Buffaloes, Eric Hoffer Awards finalist; published in Best New Writing 2013, Hopewell Publication, New Jersey, USA.
The Kambala Buffaloes, 2nd place William van Dyke Short Story Prize 2011.
The Kambala Buffaloes 1st runner-up Colonnade Writing Contest 2011.
The Bogus Confession, 3rd prize, Deddington Writing Competition 2011.
The Protest of Able highly Commended in The New Writer 2011 Prose & Poetry Prizes, Cranbrook U.K.
The Siberian Swimmer. Runner-up The Fulton Prize, Adirondack Review 2011.
The Other Two, 1st prize, The Write Helper Story Contest 2011.
These are stories with a beginning, a middle and an end – closer to O. Henry than Chekov. They each have, as the sub-title indicates, a Catholic flavour though that may vary in tone and perspective.
I included the adjectival prize-winning after a deal of deliberation. The short story form, like poetry, has excellence in its DNA but can so easily be lead to navel-gazing.
Anyway, I hope they make moral points without hammering them home with quotes from Isaiah and Alphonsus Ligouri. The audience I envisage doesn't read Isaiah or Alphonsus Ligouri. I still think strongly that if a writer wants to influence a readership he must meet it on its own territory.
When I was registering Those Gorgeous Ghosts as an ebook I had just been reformatting my children’s books. Children’s books must have been on my mind because, as some of these stories would mean nothing to kids, I ticked the box that said Adult. Only after receiving letters from Fatima devotees upbraiding me for publishing pornography did I cotton onto the mistake. Ah well! "Honi soit qui mal y pense!"
The tombstone in the grounds of EWTN in Ironside, Birmingham, Alabama, which gave the idea for the story, Those Gorgeous Ghosts.
Racing the buffaloes in Kambala on the south west coast of India. which gave the title to The Kambala Buffaloes.
The Popular Fatima Prayer Book is now available in Portuguese and Spanish as well as English - each with supplementary material suitable for pilgrims from countries speaking these languages.
All available at the same price. For discounted bulk orders (more than 10 copies)email firstname.lastname@example.org.