Friday, October 27, 2006

Spooked by a cough

It's great to support your writer friends, isn't it? Hm...

I've had a stinking fluey cold, which is why I haven't even been writing my blog, but last night I felt better, which meant, Great: having missed Nick Royle's launch during the Literature Festival, I could go to his reading with Conrad Williams in Didsbury Library. I kind of knew Conrad, too: I'd met him once, though I couldn't remember where, London, I think, and now, it turned out when I got there, he had come to live round the corner from me.

Nick and Conrad both write stories 'on the dark side' - stories which touch on the surreal and on alternative realities - so this reading, the brainchild, I gathered, of the Manchester Libraries fiction buyer, was intended as a Halloween event. It was intended also as a test of the viability of a series of readings, though as a one-off receiving consequently minimal advertising, it was not expected to be full. Huh. It was packed! They had to bring extra chairs and people had to sit just outside the reading area...

Lucky me, I got there early, making it through the chilly wind and revelling in the fact that I was no longer sneezing and coughing, and got a seat slap-bang in the middle. Nick began, a chilling story about strange events in a lonely pub. Then Conrad: another short spooky story, followed by a longer, seemingly realistic story about a wedding. It was just as you realised that there was something ghostly happening - just when the tension racheted - when, oh no, my throat began to tickle, and the uncontrollable coughing began. Oh no, I'd have to leave, stand up right in the centre, distracting people just when the story was at its most tense, and I did, I walked out, and fled off down the library towards the foyer, whooping and spluttering in a way which the library ceiling seemed to hollow and exaggerate. And, oh no, here came a kind librarian with a cup of water - what a fuss I was causing! - and at last the coughing stopped, but only just in time for the break, and I'd missed the end of Conrad's story.

Worse - in the second half I sat near the edge in case it happened again, and it did, and those lovely librarians chased me with more water, and when that didn't work a sticky toffee, and when that didn't a Strepsil tablet.

How to ruin your friends' readings without even trying...

I don't really think I did, though: the audience seemed thrilled by the readings, and the fiction buyer said that the success of the evening meant that a series was definitely on the cards.

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