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  • Clive Gilson

Solitude...

No, not a reference to COVID19 lockdown.


Rather, this is a note about the relative success of different pieces of work. As an author, rather like being a father, I feel that I shouldn't have a favourite story, but there you go... whoever said life is fair was a dreamer and an optimist. I do have a favourite story and it is A Solitude Of Stars.


If there is a God of stories and tales, then I can apologise half-heartedly for this favouritism. If my muse has stepped back and covered a face wracked with pain, then I am almost sorry, but there it is.


And then you look at the sales figures on Smashwords, on Amazon & though Gardners. You look at the author comp statements (as small as they are), and you realise that your first novel, Songs of Bliss, that aged and long surpassed stumble through narrative and dialogue and structure, has comfortably outsold your favourite fictional child pretty much every month since the two of them joined together on the lists.


At first you put it down to fluke and the fact that the new book is exactly that; it is new. You watch and wait, expecting the numbers to rise as people uncover the stories and the word gets out. Now, I'm not saying that Solitude has not found an audience. It is comfortably in the number three slot amongst over twenty titles that I have either written or edited over the last fifteen years or so. That said, though, you look at your favourite, and the rose coloured spectacles start to slip.


None of this really, truly matters, of course. I am privileged. The books are finding an audience and, albeit at a rate unlikely to take me away from the day job any time soon, they generate a little bit of cash. I am basically a happy bunny... just a tad disappointed that my one true special fictional child has turned out to be a regular member of society and not the golden wunderkind that I always assumed it would become.


I clearly failed as a "Tiger Author"...


But I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions:


From A Solitude Of Stars -



...TO SLIDE? NOT TO slide? On all fours, head down, eyes closed to keep the flashing lights at bay. He held himself rigid on a polished parquet floor, his claws digging in to stop his paws slipping out from underneath his body. Stick thin. Clearly defined ribs. All elbows and points and scabs. A neglected hound. He had lost all sense of time, here in the deeps. He was hollowed out. He used the hunger as way of holding on to something that he remembered vaguely as a reality.

The sound of breaking glass, away to his left in a room just two doors down from his own. Miloš the dog, alone, listening to the glass break and the winds of the void sucking at his bones. The sound of glass and wind and faint peals of laughter beyond the door were a repeating theme, one of a number of cycles of hallucination that he had to endure. These were the bouts of madness that dog Miloš had to live through in order to surface momentarily in the real. He was trained. Once upon a time he had been conditioned for this, back in the kennels… No, he thought, that was wrong, but he could neither make shape nor sense of his memories. It was enough that he remained a good dog.

“Good boy.”

He barked twice, hearing words in his head. “Good boy!”


From Songs Of Bliss



...Billy sits alone in paper slippers and overalls. They have taken his clothes for forensic tests. He sits on hardwood. The white tile acoustic. Shoes without laces. The melody is gone and his head is full of random lyrics divorced from their arrangements. Anyway, who needs an audience when you have the only real people in the world within your eye line. The six year old ghost of his beloved Bex is standing to his left. Vic Damone, dashingly-smooth in a dark-grey, double-breasted suit, is standing to his right. This is the day that old crooner's dread, the day that the music dies. While Billy sits quiet and still amid the heavy metal sounds of the custody suite, his companions reach out and take his hands in theirs and the three of them begin to mime and mug like savant idiots, and with the sound turned down, with the picture fading to a single white dot, they start to belt out Billy’s favourite song without shifting a single molecule of air:

Again, this couldn't happen again (6) This is that once in a lifetime This is the thrill divine What's more, this never happened before Though I have prayed for a lifetime That such as you would suddenly be mine Mine to hold as I'm holding you now and yet never so near Mine to have when the now and the here disappear What matters, dear, for When this doesn't happen again We'll have this moment forever…


How? I mean... how can you not..? (Sigh...)


  • (6) Again, Doris Day, later Vic Damone, Written by Dorcas Cochran and Lionel Newman

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