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Friday, April 19, 2013

free fiction

Gary Fry

The following author biographies have been extracted from selected editions of the annual anthology Year’s Best Spooks, edited by Simon Jackson. They are presented here with no editorial modifications.


Extract from Year’s Best Spooks, 2012

Gordon Franklyn lives in Leeds with his wife, Harriet, and their two young children, Nadia and Toby. Fans of ghostly fiction need little introduction to Franklyn’s work. His frightening first novel Truth Twice Removed was a supernatural treat and won a stack of awards the world over. And so we’re delighted to welcome him to this, his first appearance in Year’s Best Spooks. Despite the nature of his work, Franklyn claims to be a sceptic about the “other side.” He writes: “I find the supernatural genre imaginatively appealing in an emotional sense, but it’s certainly vulnerable to intellectual analysis. Its power, I think, derives from its ability, when done well, to peel away rationality. Under its surface, life is disconnected fragments, and that frightens us. And ghosts can serve as a powerful symbol for that fundamental uncertainty.” What follows is a creepy tale some might say lays waste to the author’s scepticism. The story came to Franklyn, as often the case, in the form of a playful idea: “I’ve long been drawn to the notion that a living man can become a ghost to others on the basis of negligence, or perhaps as a result of detached tyranny. That forms the core of this story. The absentee factory owner haunting his staff is based loosely on a guy I used to work for, before my writing became successful. Christ, never let it be said I haven’t earned my right to make some money out of this game!” In his mid-thirties, Franklyn likes cigarettes, fine food, drink, and – when he’s not writing – walks with his family.


Extract from Year’s Best Spooks, 2013

Gordon Franklyn lives in Leeds with his wife, Harriet, and their two young children, Nadia and Toby. Franklyn’s second supernatural novel – Lott’s Mirror more than fulfilled the promise of his first, the genre-defining Truth Twice Removed. Indeed, we at Year’s Best Spooks predict big things for this author, and that’s why we’re delighted to see him back in our annual anthology. Another reason is that he tells one helluva scary story . . . and the one you’re about to read is no exception. Franklyn writes: “On the strength of sales of my novels, I recently quit the day job – Lord, never put me in a classroom again! – and moved into what me and the family consider our dream home: a lovely, secluded 17th Century property in North Yorkshire. And does this place have ghosts, I hear readers ask? Well, I’m afraid to say that, despite my wife and kids reporting a few spooky incidents, I’ve personally encountered nothing that cannot be accounted for by reason. Which is not to say the house isn’t a source of inspiration. Solitary walks in the surrounding countryside have done much to stir my creative juices, and I now have enough dark material under development to inform years of work.” I think fans of supernatural fiction will agree that, in the tale that follows, Franklyn shows little sign of losing of his touch. Its ruthless narrative about a man haunted by a former owner of his new home with a penchant for liquor is incongruously powerful in its brief span, and hints at more of the novel length fiction we crave from this sterling new master of terror.


Extract from Year’s Best Spooks, 2016

Gordon Franklyn lives in North Yorkshire with his wife, Harriet, and their two children, Nadia and Toby. It’s been a while since we welcomed him to the pages of Year’s Best Spooks, and that’s because he’s been writing a number of increasingly popular supernatural novels. After showing early promise in Truth Twice Removed and Lott’s Mirror, Franklyn has published Still Waters, The Family Man, and Nothing Changes, all well received by readers and critics alike. Nevertheless, it troubles him that certain sections of the supernatural community, originally defenders of his work, have recently accused him of selling out. Franklyn writes: “Any fool knows that commercial success involves concessions to markets that pre-exist the artist. Hell, I worked long enough in the real world to realise that life is often about compromise, especially when economic survival remains so challenging. It’s my working class background, much of it spent in the mean streets of Leeds, that makes me fond of fast cars. I also have a family to clothe and feed. So come on, guys, give me a break here.” Fighting words, we must surely agree. Indeed, Franklyn has lost little of the boozy rage that fuelled his early fiction; by way of illustration, witness the following tale. “On doctor’s advice, I recently quit smoking,” Franklyn explains, “and that involved a month of hell for me and others. I found myself feeling intolerant of many things, even my wife’s belief – unsuspected until this stage of our marriage – in the supernatural. This got me thinking about psychological demons. Imagine a guy who so vehemently denies the existence of a ghost haunting his partner that it shifts its attention to him . . .” The tale you’re about to read, dear readers, shows that commercial success has done little to dull Franklyn’s sinister disposition. He remains as exquisitely warped as ever.


Extract from Year’s Best Spooks, 2019

Gordon Franklyn lives in North Yorkshire with his wife, Harriet, and their two children, Nadia and Toby. Since his last appearance in Year’s Best Spooks three years ago, Franklyn has moved away from the supernatural genre, writing crime novels in an attempt, he candidly admits, to “remain afloat in a market unsympathetic to [his] previous fictional focus.” Nevertheless, despite rumours of its death, we at this annual anthology believe that our field is in rude health, and we offer this latest collection as proof. Unsurprisingly, Franklyn’s story is one of its strongest offerings. We can only assume that the tale, a harrowing depiction of marital and paternal abuse, is based on Franklyn’s childhood, which he’s alluded to in many frank media interviews. His depiction of a husband and father haunted by a brutal, ale-enraged ancestor is a bold attempt to understand an abuser’s behaviour from the outside. Perhaps it's time for Franklyn to address these issues; we know from public statements that his father – from whom he’d been estranged since teen-hood – died recently. In an interview earlier this year, Franklyn said, “Despite my contractual commitments with the novels – they alone pay for petrol and put food on the table – I’ve never lost my love for short stories. They offer me the opportunity to take risks, to dig a bit deeper into life.” When asked about his infamous scepticism concerning the afterlife, he added, “As I get older, I become less certain about many things, and the supernatural is one of them. Let’s just say I’m more open-minded now than I was even a decade ago.”


Extract from Year’s Best Spooks, 2021

Gordon Franklyn lives in North Yorkshire with his wife, Harriet. Fans of genre fiction will realise that this has been a demanding one for the author, and we at Year’s Best Spooks don’t intend to add to media speculation about the challenges he and his wife have faced. Needless to say, we wish them both well during this period of recovery, and hope our inclusion of a new story by Franklyn in our latest anthology is a way of supporting them. Not that the tale doesn’t earn its modest fee. It’s often said that writers’ best work comes from duress, and that certainly holds true here. One wonders whether Franklyn’s latest novels, alluded to in rare interviews, have also returned to the frightening territory of his early work. We can only hope a publisher snaps them up soon. In the meantime, we have this treat to savour, and it’s one that seems more autobiographical than Franklyn’s usual portraits of haunted men whose circumstances are quite removed from his own (formerly) idyllic lifestyle in North Yorkshire. The central character likes fast cars, hard liquor and even psychotherapy. One might say he’s racing from his past, and his sudden shift from gad-about-town to a cripple’s carer is certainly disturbing. Perhaps the cocky ghost of a man killed in the same crash that disabled the carer’s wife serves as Franklyn’s attempt to castigate the person he once was: arrogant, rash, intolerant . . . Understandably, Franklyn didn’t reply to emails asking for comments about this piece, but he made a telling statement in the last interview he gave before suffering his familial tragedy: “All of us haunt; we haunt everyone around us and the places we occupy. We’re all ghosts.”


Extract from Year’s Best Spooks, 2026

Gordon Franklyn lives in Leeds with his wife, Harriet. Life hasn’t been kind to the author, especially when, half a decade ago, his two children were killed in a car accident that also involved his wife. Franklyn alone, driving the fast vehicle, escaped the flaming melee unscathed. Unpublished for several years, the author now lives back in his native West Yorkshire, caring for his disabled wife on a full-time basis. It’s a tragic story as unsettlingly heartbreaking as those with which he once thrilled a generation of genre fans. Nevertheless, this forgotten man of supernatural fiction has never been less than surprising, and imagine our delight at Year’s Best Spooks when, during our 25th Anniversary, we received a brand new submission from this living legend. And if it isn’t one of the most horrifying pieces we’ve ever had the pleasure to read! As usual in Franklyn’s last few contributions to this anthology, the author was unavailable for commentary, and so we must let the tale speak for itself. One thing that will strike readers familiar with his work is the shift from his characteristic third-person narrative to the more intimate first-person. We think this lends the fiction much more power. But Franklyn’s depiction of a drinking man haunted by past shadows that darken his path is as subconsciously accurate, analytically dispassionate, and unwittingly illuminating as anything he wrote during his all-too-brief professional career. The demons on the fringes of consciousness now take centre stage, in what the author might once have described as the nebulous mind. And so let us raise the spotlight of our mind’s eye: unblinking, obsessive, moist with unquenchable grief. Behold . . .


Extract from Year’s Best Spooks, 2029

Gordon Franklyn lives in Leeds. That’s pretty much all we now know about this reclusive author. The return address for e-payment that accompanied the story you’re about to read was of a street full of tenements in a rundown area. We understand that the author’s wife has recently died, following medical complications. The only other clue about Franklyn’s circumstances on the note attached to the following tale was a single, enigmatic message: “I was wrong – about many things. But wrong about this, especially.” And does he refer here to the supernatural? That certainly seems plausible, particularly after reading the following piece, Franklyn’s first fictional output since his last contribution to Year’s Best Spooks . . . But is this fiction? That’s the question readers will surely ask themselves. The setting seems authentic: the house the author once occupied in the splendid Yorkshire countryside. But the time is all wrong, because the spooks that haunt this latest abusive, alcoholic in a Franklyn tale could never have existed there. That was once a happy, family home. And this is no happy family. We speculate that Franklyn, struggling as a result of hard experience, regular drink, and a twisted state of mind, could be planning an autobiography and has simply got some details wrong. The ghosts surely belong elsewhere: where the author now lives, in a dilapidated city. Nevertheless, these creatures are no less frightening for their tranquil rural location. They make one believe – as we at Year’s Best Spooks have always believed; as even Gordon Franklyn, once such a wry sceptic, has possibly come to believe – that the supernatural is real. We hope that you, dear readers, also share this sentiment. And so turn the page and lapse again into Franklyn’s world. He might never have been more frightening, nor have created such potent beings. The vicious behaviour of the two vengeful children, and perhaps worse, the hideously mangled wife, contain an element of autobiography, of unforgiving accuracy, of experienced horror . . . Gordon Franklyn is a haunting and haunted man. And we hope he gets by.




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