Tuesday 28 November 2023

Michael W. Thomas, "The Erkeley Shadows"

Michael W. Thomas has published nine collections of poetry, three novels and two collections of short fiction. His latest poetry collections are Under Smoky Light (Offa’s Press) and A Time for Such a Word (Black Pear Press); his latest fiction titles are Sing Ho! Stout Cortez: Novellas and Stories (Black Pear Press) and The Erkeley Shadows, a novel (Swan Village Reporter).  With Simon Fletcher, he edited The Poetry of Worcestershire (Offa’s Press).  His work has appeared in The Antigonish Review (Canada), The Antioch Review (US), Critical Survey, Crossroads (Poland), Dream Catcher, Etchings (Australia), Irish Studies Review, Irish University Review, Magazine Six (US), Pennine Platform, Poetry Salzburg Review, The Times Literary Supplement and Under the Radar, among others. He has reviewed for The International Journal of Welsh Writing in English, The London Magazine, Other Poetry and The Times Literary Supplement, and is on the editorial board of Crossroads: A Journal of English Studies (University of Bialystok, Poland). He was long-listed for the National Poetry Competition, 2020 and 2022, and long-listed and short-listed for the Indigo Dreams Spring Poetry Prize, 2023. His website is here

About The Erkeley Shadows, by Michael W. Thomas

1967. The Summer of Love. Not for Jonathan Parry, perhaps, but certainly a time of big change. Soon his family will emigrate to Canada. But he, at least, won’t be leaving the old country wholly behind. In his heart he carries a dreadful secret, and its consequences track him like an implacable assassin from teenage to manhood, from the Canadian Prairies to the Maritime Provinces and back. What he endures could fill a book – and does. His life-story finds its way into the hands of Will Apland, an officer with the Saskatoon police force. Initially, Will treats it as a diversion, something to while away a Hallowe’en weekend alone. But, almost imperceptibly, Jonathan’s tale begins to infect his thoughts – one man’s history rubs up against another’s. So it is that, by the time he reaches the final page, Will is a man transformed. For him, this strange tale has become a call to arms, an exhortation to seek vengeance – or worse.

You can read more about The Erkeley Shadows here. Below, you can read an excerpt from the novel. 

From The Erkeley Shadows

(This extract, from chapter 2 of the novel, is the opening of Jonathan Parry’s self-penned life story: the very first thing that Police Officer Will Apland reads once he’s settled down with Jonathan’s ‘bulky folder’).

I thought I'd go batty (the guy began) if Mum said it once more: 'Just think, Jonathan—cross-country ski-ing and that kind of lacrosse they do and all sorts.' I couldn't care less about sports at the school I was leaving; a new country wouldn't make any difference. She didn't say much else to me that summer and nor did Dad. Evenings found them surrounded by all that paperwork, except when we did the rounds of goodbyes—Macclesfield, Kettering, Builth. Aunts and uncles full of awe and nostalgia and speculation, saying the same things over and over till I'd have given anything to grow skis and vanish: 'All that space, Jonathan, all those mountains—bigger than Snowdon, some of them, easy.' 'You could say goodbye to someone on the prairies and still see them walking off an hour later. You try it, lad.' 'I was in Winnipeg just after the war. Should have stayed. I was that restless.' Uncle Sid, the Kettering Sid, not the Builth one, ruffled my hair: 'Well, young 'un, give my love to Rose Marie and the Mounties. They always get their man.' That's true. They will again, this man, though not quite how Uncle meant it. 

I tell a lie about Dad. He did say something to me that summer: 'Turn off that blasted Good Night, Midge. I can't think straight.' He never explained Good Night, Midge, though he sang it. He was always singing, stuff from the war, ditties about pumping ship and The Rodney Renown. So I assumed that Midge was more drollery of the ocean wave. He sang it to the start of Three Blind Mice—or to put it another way, the way he so much objected to, the start of 'All You Need is Love,' which pretty well melted on my turntable. Not their best single but, for me, their most magical, probably because of how they recorded it, at the end of 'Our World,' the first global TV hook-up, which went out one Sunday night and wound up at Abbey Road. John, Paul and George were perched on bar-stools with those mikes like Skyrocket lollies. John chewed gum as he sang.

I had to placate Dad. He controlled the electricity, which he wasn't above cutting off to dramatize a point. Most of the time, though, he was hunched over forms or the telephone, or arguing with Mum about how to word some reply to the Consulate. Always 'The Consulate,' never the Canadian Consulate or the High Commission of Canada. Both of them handled the word as though it were 'Eden' or 'Xanadu.' And it was, to them, especially whenever Mr Walden, Dad's prospective boss at Manitoba Power, entered the picture. Communications from him were beyond sacred. He'd interviewed Dad—both of them, in fact—in London, an experience which, going by Mum's star-struck account, made an audience with the Queen seem like a quick nod in our local pub. 

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