Peter Crowther: The Book I Would Like To Be Buried With…

October 4, 2010 by
Filed under: Bury Me With This Book 

The thirtieth and last entry in the weekly incarnation of the Bury Me series (thanks to all who have contributed so far) features an author, editor and publisher who’ll you all be familiar with: Peter Crowther, boss of PS Publishing, a wonderful short story writer and editor supreme; a man whose appropriately titled Narrow Houses anthologies chilled me in the early-nineties. If those titles aren’t books to be buried with, then I don’t know what are…

Something_wicked_this_way_comes_first“You have to have belief in what a book says in order to make it special . . . believe in the possibilities it shows you. That’s my view.

I made the best two friends I’ve ever had when I was reading my burial book: two sides of the same coin—Will Halloway, growing in the sturdy and safe shadow of his father; and Jim Nightshade, a James Dean wannabe, filled to bursting with the possibilities life offers to those who are strong (or foolhardy) enough to grasp for the merry-go-round brass ring. Two boys of around the same age as I then was (and still am, pretty much, even now, way deep down inside, where it matters) who I have never seen or spoken with.

They were ablaze with life, these boys, and re-reading their adventure—as I do every few years—I see they are still the same, their heads filled with wonder and possibility, their existence a shadowy domain of deserted creeks and old houses, their days an endless season of meadow grasses and climbing-trees, their evenings a circus parade of library-book-tales and radio shows . . . and their nights constantly alive with the real possibility that a flurry of loose dirt tossed against one or the other’s window might beckon them outside, out into the world that waits beyond the glass, where the winds blow strange odors you can only smell when the sun has gone down.

My goodness, how I yearned for such an intrusion.

How, on the late evenings when the book had been put down and sleep beckoned, I begged for a hoarsely-whispered voice to call up to me, urging me to run! jump! fly! out of bed into an alternate reality, and drink deeply the heady brew that life’s adventure really held.

How I wished that a dark train might visit the small inner-city conurbation of houses and shops that was Headingley, just a few miles outside the Yorkshire metropolis of Leeds. How I wished that, amidst a cacophony of steamy calliope sighs, it might stop in nearby Becketts Park—though there are no train tracks for several miles—and set up its mystical performing show of tents and rides, all magically gathered and whisked together like candyfloss from the gray clouds scudding the somber night sky.

On the surface, it’s a story about bad guys coming into a town to wreak havoc only to be vanquished in the final reel by the guys in the big white hats. But, that said, High Noon it is not! For these bad guys have one thing that is notably different: instead of simply drifting into town to bully and abuse the residents, they come bearing gifts . . . the single most cherished and desired thing that each of the townsfolk could wish for: a triptych of love, strength and youth.

It’s fair to say that Something Wicked This Way Comes [by Ray Bradbury] is a ‘good guys vs bad guys’ story. But the underlying tale, the story between the lines, the sub-text, the silent spaces amidst the word-notes . . . that is something else again. For the real hero of this book of books is not a young boy at all, but rather a man. A man fully formed. A man for whom ice cream sodas and new sneakers are a thing of the past. A man for whom the finest climbable trees have been exchanged for the easy chair; the old pulp magazine with the gory illustrations replaced by the daily newspaper; the frown-making wonder of possibility contained in the depths of the night-time woodland buried by the certainty and necessity of Job and Bank Balance.

And when the two boys—Will and Jim—must seek help against seemingly insurmountable odds, it is this man to whom they turn . . . this man whom they pull into their world of danger, a world where standard beliefs and proven scientific facts hold no sway at all; a world where only dust and pain are the coins and notes of currency.

In one magical, mystical and altogether terrifying day, Charles Halloway must put aside his own boring but safe domain and return to the shadowy fluctuating realm of myth, magic and make-believe. While, of course, he rises admirably to the challenge, the real denouement of the story is the change it exerts in him . . . the way it leaves him with the gift of understanding—understanding his son, himself and his own place in the world. And though, late that final night, when all of the excitement is over, the world he returns to with the two boys is a more dangerous place, it is also a place of more excitement and more mystery and magic and infinitely more possibilities.

My own father never read Something Wicked This Way Comes before he died. And that’s a shame. I hope, in some way, wherever he is, he gets the chance now, drawn to the book—if for no other (infinitely more important) reason—by the fact that his son has written a few jumbled incoherent words in its favor . . . and has done so repeatedly and without apology. Because this is a story for the boy that still exists in all fathers . . .  just as it is a story for the father that lives deep down inside the heart and soul of every boy.

And so, to that end, I’ve almost got a mind to return to the plot in Lawnswood Cemetery where my father has lain for some thirty-eight years—return with a shovel and a copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes — just to give dad a little something to while away the long lonely hours.

Like I said at the start, all you have to do is believe in possibilities.”


PETE CROWTHERAbout Peter Crowther:

Peter Crowther is the recipient of numerous awards for his writing, his editing and, as publisher, for the hugely successful PS imprint. As well as being widely translated, his short stories have been adapted for TV on both sides of the Atlantic and collected in The Longest Single Note, Lonesome Roads, Songs of Leaving, Cold Comforts, The Spaces Between the Lines, The Land at the End of the Working Day and the upcoming Things I Didn’t Know My Father Knew. He is the co-author (with James Lovegrove) of Escardy Gap and author of the Forever Twilight SF/horror cycle (Darkness, Darkness and Windows to the Soul already available, and Darkness Rising due in summer 2011). His By Wizard Oak And Fairy Stream witch-novel is scheduled for publication later this year. He lives and works with his wife and business partner, Nicky on the Yorkshire coast.


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