Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Guest Blog with Philip Craggs

I'm handing my blog over for the day to Philip Craggs - Manchester-based writer and editor. He's just edited 'The Casebook of the Manleigh Halt Irregulars' for Obverse Books, which is a cross-genre mystery / time travel anthology for Obverse Books. Here's Phil:

"I didn’t pay too much attention to it at first.

"A Facebook friend was posting updates on the health of his friend Matt who was seriously ill. I tend to read everything that comes up on my Facebook page even if it relates to people I don’t know – it’s like seeing someone you work with out with their friends and noticing the differences in the way they dress and talk. So, I ended up following Matt’s daily fight for life, one day better, the next worse, right up until the day he lost it when for the first time his surname was mentioned – Kimpton. And suddenly Matt stopped being a stranger. I’d never met him, but only a couple of months before he’d submitted the final draft of a short story he’d written for my first collection as an editor. It’s a beautiful piece of work and I’d genuinely been looking forward to Matt seeing what was surely going to be a wonderful reaction from the book’s readers.  There is no doubt in my mind that Matt would have gone on to be widely published had he not passed away, and his passing gave the final parts of the editing process a bittersweet edge.

"I first became involved with Obverse Books when I received an e-mail from its founder Stuart Douglas in 2009 asking me if I wanted to submit a story idea for their second collection The Panda Book Of Horror. I submitted a proposal for a story that was part Most Haunted, part On The Buses, and it eventually appeared as ‘Just The Ticket’. I was working as the fiction editor of an online magazine called blankpages at the time and when I left Stuart asked me if I would consider editing something for Obverse, should the right project arise. I, of course, said I’d be delighted.

"At the end of 2011 he sent me an e-mail asking if I would edit one of the Obverse Quarterly publications for 2012; The Casebook Of The Manleigh Halt Irregulars, based on a group of characters devised by Stuart who first appeared in Paul’s Iris Wildthyme short story ‘The Delightful Bag’ from The Panda Book Of Horror, and who subsequently had been the focus of Nick Wallace’s ‘The Irredeemable Love’ from Miss Wildthyme and Friends Investigate. The basic concept is this; two policemen from the 1920s, along with a widowed feminist writer and a mysterious old man with more knowledge than he should have find their police station can travel through time – a little way backwards, a longer way forwards. They have adventures, save the day and generally muddle through.

"The brief contained some basic do’s and don’ts and some ideas that Stuart and Paul thought might be good starting points for the book, but from the outset I was told that this would be my project, and as long as I stuck to the basic principles in the briefing document everything else would be left up to me.

"This was a great opportunity for someone who’d never edited a book before. I started by writing my own briefing document for the prospective writers. I made a few initial decisions – five stories, four of which to focus on an individual character to introduce them to the readers before culminating with a more collective piece. I contacted various writers and ended up with a good mix: Kati Szavai who had written a wonderful story that I published in blankpages; Eddie Robson who is an experienced writer of Doctor Who audio drama; Nick Mellish who came to our attention via his own self-published work, and Matt who had written some wonderful stories for Obverse already.

'The joy of the project for me was working with four writers with very different prose styles, senses of humour and ways of approaching the project. All of the writers were extremely receptive to notes and feedback and wrote several drafts each to get their stories right. I hope they’re as happy with the results as I am.

"The book is, of course, dedicated to Matt, whose story concludes the collection. While I’m saddened that I won’t have the opportunity to read any more of his writing or work with him again, I’m at least slightly heartened that he’ll be remembered by those who never knew him for a story that is funny, moving, utterly convincing in detail and wonderfully human."

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