You can read the beast here.
Kate Laity slipped me easily. I reckoned I’d collared her in what used to be a HMV but she must have used a side exit to escape me and the muzak. No worries, I saw her hide behind the steam which jetted from the kebab joint next door. She turned and scampered down a side-street – shape-shifted to … Graham Wynd. Damn, she messed with my eyes, but I got a hand on Wynd’s foot as she hauled herself up a drain-pipe. She donkey-kicked and split my lip wide open, streaming red across my crisp white collar. She beamed down, her face all Kate Laity again. She reached the rooftop and danced between gaps in broken glass and barbed wire. She leapt from a gutter just as it crumbled, and rolled off her landing. I kept to her coat tails and ignored my limp the best I could.
There, I had her. She turned, Graham Wynd again. I had her trapped, her back against the wall of a dead-end alleyway. She morphed to Kate Laity for the last time and cocked an eyebrow at me, as if she had me trapped. She slipped a fag in her mouth and lit it. Puffed the smoke in circles my way to target me.
“What do you want?” she said. Her American twang had Scottish flavour.
“I just want to ask a bunch of questions.” I hunched over, hands on knees, dragging air into my wasted lungs.
“Well, why didn’t you just say that, daft lad?”
She opened a brick-shaded door I’d not made out in the low light and invited me into her crime lair. I entered before her, wary of a cosh to the neck. I needn’t have worried. She plied me with rum and settled into the sofa.
Kate Laity is Kate Laity, and she is Graham Wynd. Her work is vast and varied, from noir to witches, to erotica. She wrote one of my favourite short stories ever – A Secret Place, which you can find in her excellent collection, Unquiet Dreams.
A friend of mine doesn’t read fiction, paraphrasing Frank Skinner about it all being made-up and he has no time for any of that. What words do you have for such a philistine?
Kate Laity (KL): Just a heartfelt pity for their blinkered lack of imagination. We construct ‘reality’ all the time. That’s how we got to the mess we’re in. ‘Hey, look at this disastrous thing happening to the economy/education/health care/planet—we need to change our ways.’ ‘LOL, fake news, suckers [starts fracking].’
What must a protagonist have to make you read on?
KL: A sense of humour. Seriously, if they make me laugh I’ll hang out for a good while. Goes for life, too. People who make me laugh are winners.
Do you need a likeable protagonist?
KL: No. What’s the point of reading nice people? I want to live vicarious lives in books, things I would never do because I am more or less nice.
Name a great antagonist, in a novel or movie, and what they do for you.
KL: Because it’s fresh in my mind, Lise from Muriel Spark’s The Driver’s Seat. There is no one quite like her. Definitely not likeable. It’s hard to tell at times whether she is just insane or so outside normal that she can’t even pretend to wear the suit of it. She runs pell-mell into her own destruction with a savage glee. It’s an astounding book. Audacious.
What makes you throw a book out the window?
KL: A writer wanting me to swallow stupidity and pretend it’s not. Misogyny—anything from the catalogue of the usual limitations of small minds. If you’re writing for the Daily Fail’s audience, it’s not for me.
Do you grit your teeth all the way to the end of a dodgy novel?
KL: Oh god no. Life’s too short for bad books. Chuck it and move on.
What gets you writing? Is it a great novel, maybe? Something you saw on the street or on TV? Something else?
KL: Honestly at this point it’s a habit so deeply ingrained I could never stop without going mad. I have a billion ideas every morning and the hard part is sorting out what I should actually write today.
What did you learn about writing from the last book you wrote?
KL: That I can’t always write what I set out to do. Anger is an energy but something more has to fuel it if you want to keep going. A short story can run on a notion, a gripe or a joke, but a novel needs structure and an arc of suspense to keep a reader interested.
What’s your next book, in 30 words or less?
Kate Laity: My giallo-inspired novella Madonna of the Wasps will be out in print soon as part of the Blood Red Experiment from the Near to the Knuckle crew. My next book is out later this year from Fox Spirit. Mangled is a retelling of an old fairy tale The Girl without Hands. It incorporates some medieval texts in its freewheeling scope, but also a wide range of fairy tales and miracle stories. More than a bit grim (or Grimm).
Graham Wynd: Love is a Grift will be out from Fox Spirit later this year; it’s a novella that chases across Europe in pursuit of a femme fatale. Just when you think you can trust her, the doubts multiply. It will be collected with a bunch of short stories. Also my pulpy occult thriller Satan’s Sorority is getting a second life with Fahrenheit 13.
Where can readers connect with you?
Facebook, twitter (@katelaity) and kalaity.com or
Facebook, Twitter (@grahamwynd) and grahamwynd.com
You can get your fingerprints all over Kate Laity’s books HERE,
and Graham Wynd’s HERE.
For a taste of her work, try this short story: Guide Me Soft.
Thank you, Kate.
You can get your hands on City of Forts for a special pre-order price. Buy it here now.
It’s the title which starts the goosebumps in K. A . Laity’s short story collection. Unquiet – sounds like the sort of word an old Victorian lady might say from the shadows, with a shake of her bony fingers and a stare through her veil. Murmuration – maybe her crusty, even more ancient butler would utter such a word if you dared to finger the dusty bone china. The collection makes you nervous, like entering a forest at dusk.
It kicks off with Buffalo Bayou, all Biblical noir, with an old homeless man and the boy he beats. They find an object and stare at it until they project their mystical desires on the material. They imagine it has magical properties until it becomes a source of power for them and attracts other believers to come and stare. All the while, the boy sees a sign to get out of there before something ungodly, or even Godly, smites them all.
It’s a great start and unexpected in its location, if not its tone. From the book’s cover I expected surreal medieval mysteries and horror. What it serves is a mix of eras and locations that are far more satisfying than one setting might provide – though the collection does cast a cracking dragon story at the reader: Lachrymae Draconis, about Colburga and her fiery pal. This story’s theme runs through most of the tales – people looking for something beyond the mundane, searching for magic, or faith, whether it is good or evil. In Mandrake and Magpies, Riley is seeking that magic. The Irishman delves into the underworld for a drug he’s heard in whispers, willing to endanger himself to reach some transcendence above Galway’s “horizontal rain.”
Laity always has you on the edge. You can allow yourself a smile at A Case of Dead Faces and the protagonist’s continuous quest for Buddha’s message, a lay, and the nurturing of his new ambitions. Then you tremble at Emma’s madness in Double Jeopardy – worried if the voices in her head are real, or her way of convincing herself to off her mother. Either way, the voices are leading her from misery. In between, you have the hero Margaret in Fluoresecence, who fights and conquers a sinister shadow at her high-rise workplace. Wahey, you might think, if only the knot didn’t gnaw at her stomach for the guilt she feels in not noticing how many previous victims it had claimed.
The latter story highlights invisible lives lost, wrapped up in a creepy story which lingers. Margaret never noticed the missing workers, and wonders whether she would have caught their disappearances if they had union membership. She seems lost herself.
As tragic as she seems, she pales next to the poor girl buried in the woods in A Secret Place. This is the collection’s heartbreaker. The girl escaped her mum and her boyfriend, as well as bullying at school, by hiding in the attic to lose herself in books, only for a bunch of boys to lure her into the woods and murder her. Now her ghost haunts the place and she takes solace in her chats with one of the boys who visits to atone for his part in her death. It’s a beautiful story about identity and looking for a past to hold onto as her memory fades into the sand.
I couldn’t read another story for a day or two after, almost like I needed to remember the girl for her sake. Great writing.
Everything here is entertaining, even when it plucks your heartstrings, but the two standouts for pure, crackpot pleasure are Touched by an Angel and Another Metamorphosis: A Moral Tale about Obsession. The latter is about a boy so obsessed with dinosaurs he turns into one. He triggers the cops and National Guard into action with some heavy weaponry, all to no great effect – a sly commentary on commercialism and how money can assuage outrage. It had me laughing across its pages. Touched by an Angel will have you listening to your kids just a little more closely. It’s ending will make you laugh and barf at the same time.
Unquiet Dreams is a fantastic collection, full of surprises, and always with a feeling that something is entwining itself slowly up your back and around your neck, all subtle until you realise it’s squeezed the air from you.
Enter its pages with a stiff drink.