I came across Steve Atkinson’s novel Ludec by Facebook chance, and while the concept of Ludec is highly intriguing, the important thing is that the novel introduced me to Steve’s short stories. I read some of them and realised that these are very good short stories indeed. Learning a little about Steve’s background, I wondered if his 30 years experience as a Fleet Street journalist may have influenced his short stories, so I asked him. In reply, he wrote the following piece.
A newspaperman lives through dozens of stories every day. Touching, often harrowing, tales that bring tears, at least on the inside, laughter, pain and sometimes passionate fury. It comes with the job, like milk comes with the milkman.
If you didn’t experience enough life in thirty years, on what used to be called London’s Fleet Street, to cram at least 10 books to bursting, then you were probably on the Obituary Column.
A lot of my stories – but not all – come from exciting snatches of other peoples’ adventures. I’ve had my own, too, and inspired by these two factors, my imagination goes into overdrive.
We all absorb what we see and feel around us from day to day, and with me, it all comes gushing out when I sit down in my study and start to write.
Photographers take pictures, artists paint landscapes, and I plumb the depths of my memories for inspiration. There’s a goldmine down there and all I have to do is wrap it all up in some carefully chosen words and wham!…we have a story.
I’m looking at my study wall as I write this, and the framed pictures of newspaper stories I have covered: the last words of a victim gunned down by a gangster in a shocking revenge killing, on manoeuvres with the British military, training with RAF jet fighter pilots (dumped in the wintry ocean before a dramatic helicopter rescue), a day on the motor racing circuit, ski-ing, a venture aboard a two-man hot air balloon ending in near disaster, spy stories, crime stories, love stories, celebrity stories – I seem to have covered the whole gamut of our modern world.
Lots of people have done these things and perhaps keep diaries and albums to store them in. With me it’s more a case of wrapping them up in storylines and packing them off to a sympathetic publisher.
That’s where I live, in those books. From the Californian redwoods and surf cities (Old Grumpy and Wipe-out!), the dusty High Atlas mountains of Morocco (Innocents Abroad), Sixties London (Puppets) and even way back in my very own childhood, Reflections in a Hubcap.
Another story (Cokum) is much closer to home, exploring the edgy relationship between a craggy old Sussex fisherman and his son who has no desire to fish. It is set entirely in the small town where I live and is a kind of homage to a bygone age, now pretty much swept away on the waves of time.
Most of my stories have a shock twist at the end, because that was what always impressed me as a reader. I didn’t want to know what was happening after just a page or two; predictability was pure poison. Now, as a writer, I want people to reach the last line, drop the book and say: Wow! Didn’t see that coming!
It wouldn’t have worked with any of my news-editors but I believe it works well in fiction. They used to say ‘tell the story straight and true.’
Not me. I like to keep ‘em guessing to the very end.
Reflections in a Hub Cap appears on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=Steve+Atkinson+Reflections+in+a+Hub+Cap