A Grungy Novelist


I wonder about the credibility of the crime writer who’s giving two workshops at the World of Words Festival in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire on Saturday 8th September. According to the publicity for the events, his ‘grungy novels are set across Scotland, with his first set in 1870’s Aberdeen’. Basically, I’m asking myself ‘would I want to go to find out about the genre from someone like that?’

In fact, Wikipedia tells me that ‘Grunge Lit is an Australian literary genre usually applied to fictional or semi-autobiographical writing concerned with young people living in suburban or inner-city surroundings. The genre characterises itself by examining “gritty, dirty, real existences” where life revolves around a nihilistic pursuit of vices such as sexdrugs and alcohol’.

But this guy’s novels are all set in Scotland, which means none of that applies. So what are these ‘grungy’ novels he writes? I’ve heard the word applied in various contexts so, just to be sure, I checked the online dictionary. Yes, ‘grunge’ is primarily ‘dirt; filth; rubbish’. Next, it’s ‘something of inferior quality; trash’. Basically, the dictionary suggests it’s maybe a combination of grim, sludge and drudge.

So what would I expect if I were to go along?

Well, the smell would hit me as I went into the room and there he’d be, slumped across a table, a fag in one hand, a glass in the other. His dermal dereliction would have spread flakes of skin all over the table and his books where it would merge with the dandruff into an unsavoury grey coating. As yet another mucus-laden cough racked him, his rheumy eyes might be raised to look at me and he’d drag a sleeve across his nose to remove its discharges.

The only other people there would be a vagrant, sleeping across three chairs at the back and two Jehovah’s Witnesses smiling at the wretched writer. The struggle I felt between not wanting to offend the man and preferring to spend my time anywhere but there would be quickly resolved and I would leave with his profanities ringing in my ears and clutching some pamphlets handed to me by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

But wait, as I look again at the publicity blurb, I see that his name’s the same as mine. Exactly the same. Bill Kirton. The Alternative Dimension which featured in my last novel has become a reality and, on that Saturday in September, I will be the creature slumped across that table leaking fluids, shedding bits of my epidermis and haranguing the empty chairs, vainly trying to justify myself for having insulted the reading public by producing words and works unfit even for our already overflowing sewers.

If any of you do come along, please be gentle with me for, clearly, I have sinned.

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