Yep, this week saw September’s Speakeasy hit Drink Shop Do, and with it, an absolutely vintage crop of wonderful authors.
Up first was Janina Matthewson, with an utterly charming reading from her debut novel, OF THINGS GONE ASTRAY (give yourself the gift of buying it here). Following her was Maia Walczak, with a beautiful extract from her first novel, THE COLOUR BLACK (buy it here, right here).
Before we went to the interval, there was the not-at-all small matter of the Short Story Challenge to decide. For the first time ever, we also offered the power to Twitter, with anyone wishing to suggest a theme just having to do so via the hashtag #speakeasy. Difficult as it was to turn down ‘Frogs who love mushrooms’ and ‘Something to do with moths’, our winner, by quite a margin (the Quercus table in particular made their feelings known) was ‘Alarming conversations overheard on public transport’.
After a short interval of refuelling and creating, Amy Key kicked off the second half with some truly joyous poems from her collection, LUXE (which you absolutely must buy right here). Rounding off the show was – and let’s take a moment to say this again, New York Times bestselling – Hester Browne, who treated us to a hilarious reading from her latest novel, THE HONEYMOON HOTEL (buy it here, smart people).
Then all that was left to do was to reveal the masterpieces our teams had produced on the subject of ‘Alarming conversations overheard on public transport’. And here they are:
Team Ellard (Walczak, Matthewson, Ellard)
‘Damn these creatures!’ said the driver to his boy. ‘An hour behind already, and we’ve yet to meet the London Road. When we arrive, Terrence is for the glue man.’
‘Oh,’ said Terrence, a horse, to Bertram, also a horse.
Terrence had been pulling the Bath-to-London stagecoach for near seven years, without so much as a whinny of complaint. Bertram turned his head, hoping Terrance wouldn’t notice.
‘Psst! Did you hear that?’ he said to Penelope and Calliope, two more horses. ‘Driver says Terrence is for the glue man.’
‘Let’s kill him,’ said Penelope, who, you’ll remember, was a horse.’
‘Terrence?’ said Calliope, the stupidest of the four horses.
‘No, you stupid nag,’ said Penelope. ‘The driver.’
‘We can’t kill the driver,’ said Bertram. ‘He’s the boss.’
‘But did you ever stop wonder why he’s the boss?’ said Penelope, who was fairly subversive for a horse. ‘We never agreed to this.’
By chance, at that moment, the London Road passed by a field of wild horses. Bertram looked longingly upon their frolicking. Penelope was wanging on about insurrection and the rights of the working horse, but Bertram was not listening. He could think only of the warming sun and the delicious, nourishing, soft, wet grass.
‘Fuck that,’ he said. ‘Let’s kill the boy.’
It would be seven hours before a passing highwayman discovered the wreckage of that stagecoach – the caved-in head of the little boy, the nibbled hair. He stole what he could – he was not a horse, remember, he was a highwayman – and in his delight, he failed to notice that four of the frolicking horses had blood-stained leather bridles still trailing behind them.
Team Cloke (Browne, Key, Cloke)
‘Hi babe! How are you?… Okay, okay, right, listen, listen – the best thing to do is to find somewhere to lie down… Just chill, babe, chill. Is Dave there?… Great, great. Can you ask him to get some tea towels, some newspaper, that kind of thing. Hot water probably good too…
Has he done that? Great, okay… It’s alright, it’s easy. I know this isn’t how we planned it, but I’m gonna talk you through it, it’s going to be okay… Right, is Dave there again? Tell him to get the… no, no, you’re going to need a knife… Yeah, the sharpest one. No, not that one – yeah. Okay, at this point, he might want to have a shot… Because you only want to do one cut – we wanna get this right, we don’t want any butchery.
Okay, keep breathing. Keep breathing. Plunge – and I mean plunge – the knife in the hot water… Right, give Dave another shot – tell him he doesn’t need to look if he doesn’t want to – ready? Are you sure you’re ready?… Breathe… AND CUT… … … Is the ice cream still frozen?… Yes? YES! You’ve made a baked Alaska, babe.’
Two fine efforts, I think you’ll agree. We put it to the audience, and the audience voted. It was a close call, but despite Team Ellard’s wonderfully inventive interpretation, Team Cloke just nudged it. Which takes the score to 8-6. It is, as always, all to play for in October.
And October, Challenge Fans, is an extremely exciting thriller special, hitting DSD on Tuesday 14th. More info to come… you just wait there, on the edge of your seat.