Monday 17 October 2022

Andrew Hook, "Candescent Blooms"

Andrew Hook is a European writer who has been published extensively in the independent press since 1994 in a variety of genres, with over 170 short stories in print, including notable appearances in magazines from Ambit to Interzone. His fiction has been reprinted in anthologies including Best British Horror 2015 and Best British Short Stories 2020, has been shortlisted for British Fantasy Society awards, and he was longlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize in 2020. Most recent publications include several noir crime novels through Head Shot Press, a novella written in collaboration with the legendary San Francisco art collective known as The Residents, and his tenth short story collection, Candescent Blooms (Salt Publishing). His website is here and he is on Twitter @AndrewHookUK. He lives and works in Norwich, UK.

About Candescent Blooms, by Andrew Hook

Candescent Blooms is a collection of twelve short stories which form fictionalised biographies of mostly Golden Era Hollywood actors who suffered untimely deaths. From Olive Thomas in 1920 through to Grace Kelly in 1982, these pieces utilise facts, fiction, gossip, movies and unreliable memories to examine the life of each individual character set against a Hollywood background of hope and corruption, opportunity and reality.

The inspiration for the book came after reading "Blonde" by Joyce Carol Oates, which is a fictionalised biography of Marilyn Monroe (and - coincidentally - has just been adapted as a Netflix film). I'd only had a passing interest in Monroe - I'd seen a few movies - but generally those who are idealised have limited appeal for me. I tend to be sceptical of success. Having been recommended "Blonde," however, I wasn't prepared for what an absolutely brilliant read it was: compelling, fascinating and ultimately heartbreaking. It also elevated Monroe above the clichĂ© and rounded her as a real person (ironically,  perhaps, considering it isn't all true, but I always identify greater with fictional constructs than I do with reality). Immediately after reading it I wanted to write my own Monroe story, and eventually I did. That piece, "The Girl With The Horizontal Walk," was originally published as a chapbook through Salò Press, was reprinted in Best British Short Stories 2020 edited by Nicholas Royle, also for Salt, and of course is also included in Candescent Blooms. Before it was published, however, I had already embarked on several stories in the same vein, until ultimately I had enough for a collection. The book was published on 15th October 2022. I sincerely believe it's my best work, but - more importantly - I also believe I've done justice to my subject matter. These aren't exploitative stories, but wholly respectful.

You can see more about Candescent Blooms on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read an excerpt from one of the stories. 

From Candescent Blooms: "The Ice-Cream Blonde" (about Thelma Todd)

Jewel Carmen

My maid informed me that when she discovered Thelma she appeared unduly lifelike in colouration. Her body was slumped against the steering wheel of her 1932 KBV12 Lincoln Phaeton. She wore a cream silk and tulle dress. One of her high-heeled sandals had slipped and was caught under the accelerator pedal. It was a cold December night, barely two weeks before Christmas. Thelma was wrapped in mink. Her jewellery was cold.

The pathologist took me aside to explain that the colourant effect of carbon monoxide in such post-mortem circumstances is analogous to its use as a red colourant in the commercial meat-packing industry. I think he was hitting on me.

I’m not bitchy. I knew and was not concerned by Thelma’s affair with West. They slid and slipped in front of my eyes. I paid no attention to it. When the restaurant began to lose money I might have threatened her. I certainly did if you have any witnesses who say so. I didn’t want any part of my investment squandered. Is that so unusual? It isn’t only Thelma’s death we’re investigating. One of my last films was Nobody. Looks like there’s something to be said for that.

Whatever you might think of me, I am a reliable witness.

On 30th April 1913, 8,265 days before Thelma Todd’s death, the actress known as Jewel Carmen lodged a complaint that two car salesmen had forced her into delinquency. There was the suggestion of a white slavery ring. Charges were not proceeded with when her age was proven to be twenty-three, and not the fifteen years she had claimed.

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