Friday, May 08, 2009

Launch of The Real Louise by Ailsa Cox

I love Liverpool. It's this kind of place: last night at 6.15 John was parking the car near Lime Street Station and I was studying the parking meter, and a chap who was crossing the street several hundred yards up took the trouble to divert towards me and call, 'It's free after six, love!' And I love the way the roads swoop up hills and round bends and the wind whips off the Mersey and round your shoulders - well, it was doing that last night.

We were on our way to the Bluecoat Gallery and the launch of The Real Louise (Headline Publications), a first collection of stories from Ailsa Cox, with whom I once edited the short story mag metropolitan. Ailsa is a wonderful writer: her acuteness with language casts an immediate spell, transporting you instantly into place and psyche. There's gratifying surprise in her stories in the way they get under the surface of experience, yet they also make you want to say, 'Yes, that's how it really is!'

As Ailsa's publisher Gladys Mary Coles said in introducing her, Ailsa has played a large part in the recent renaissance of the short story, through her own academic works and the founding of the prestigious Edge Hill Prize for a published collection, this year's shortlist for which has just been announced. Ailsa gave a wonderful reading and then she and Gladys Mary held an interesting discussion with the audience about the short story.

I had a great time: there were several people I knew and hadn't seen for ages, and I was very pleased to meet once more Robert Shearman, whose own great collection, Tiny Deaths, was shortlisted for last year's Edge Hill Prize and went on to win the World Fantasy Award. Afterwards some of us went out for a Portuguese meal, and it was pretty late by the time John and I made it back along the M62. Even so, I couldn't sleep until I'd had a couple of paracetamols, and you know why? Because even though I vowed not to wear high heels any more after my accident last year, I went and wore them again, and halfway along Parker Street I went right over on my ankle and was in agony by the time I got into bed.

Vain, moi?

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