Maurice Gartshore on ‘Lads’

I was an English teacher for many years during which time I wrote pretty awful poetry. After I retired I joined several writing groups and was encouraged to write short stories. I began to ‘send out’ and eventually I was published in some decent magazines. Looking back I think teaching good literature scared me a little as I was reluctant to write drivel and ended up painting instead. But I’ve always had that impulse that starts with a rhythmic line and ends in something better, whether it’s poetry or prose. 

     After being published a few times I wrote a crime novel and self-published it, because I didn’t believe in it enough to wait in the forlorn hope of conventional publication. Slush piles are mountainous. The MLitt at Stirling has re-ignited my desire to write short stories and I wrote ‘Lads’ after seeing a documentary about a group of young men terrorising an estate somewhere. 

     Originally it was called ‘Rats’ but I decided against such a pejorative term to describe the boys, settling instead for ‘Lads,’ suggestive perhaps that there might be redemption ahead. Rats, bless them, are just rats and will continue to do what rats do. 

     The story is told through the eyes of a third-person observer and traces the events of an evening in which a householder is beaten up by a gang whose amusement comes from terrorising the community. It isn’t like any other piece I’ve written in that it is almost driven by a rhythm which seemed to dictate the words. I’m aware that some readers might take a moral view and accuse me of lacking some social sympathy, but then that wouldn’t offer much of a tale. 

      I hope readers will enjoy the rhythm and be interested enough in the language to persevere with the story. These things happen and I hope I may have captured some of the anger and despair suffered by those on the receiving end of what might justifiably be put down to social injustice. 

     I wouldn’t say I’m inspired by any authors but the voice that whispers in my ear is a demotic one. Perhaps Steinbeck, Bukowski and Orwell might be said to be early favourites, but I read as widely as possible and just write the way I write, listening to the voices! 

     I’m going into my second year of the MLitt and the course has got me writing after a period of being stuck. It has made me take my writing more seriously and it has broadened my interest by introducing other non-fiction forms which I have fallen in love with. 

My ambition is to be published again of course but I’m realistic enough to know the hard work that lies ahead before that can be achieved.   

Time and Tide is out now

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