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In a long ago and far away time, before the internet changed the world, I joined a writing folio called SCRIBO. Having been allocated a place in a portfolio, about eight of us submitted a chapter each, posted it on and received feedback from the rest of the group. Debate was lively, informative and sometimes a tad controversial! And I think for most of us it was the first time we’d either given or received an opinion of our work from our peers.

 SCRIBO had a number of portfolio groups and thought I don’t know what happened to most of the writers, our group did score quite a bit of success. I turned to a life of Crime, my friend Stuart Hill now writes YA fantasy  (The Icemark Series), David Amerland write books on SEO, marketing and other techie subjects…… and then there’s Gary William Murning and he’s a bit harder to categorise.

Gary writes slippery books. Just when you think you’ve figured out where he belongs, into what little box you might be able to post him, he changes direction and you’re lost again.

I suppose, if I’m going to assign a label, I’d call him a Literary Writer, in part because of his style, but also because of the way he makes so free with property usually claimed by other genre.

Now, let’s be clear. I hate the snobbery that surrounds this Literary/Other genre divide ( and it cuts both ways; writers of popular genre can be just as guilty). I don’t believe that so called ‘Literary’ writing rises above all other genre in that kind of aspirational way some critics would have us believe, but what I do find interesting is the freedom the Literary novelist has to borrow from all the rest, to use the tropes and memes and expectations of whatever genre they choose and throw them into the pot. This is pretty much what Gary does.

Gary’s books are hard to categorise. His first, published by Legend was ‘If I Never’. It focuses on a dangerously dysfunctional relationship, which is both horrifying and involving to watch as it unfolds, develops and shifts. It is also darkly funny, multi layered and kind of epic in a weird way.

Having achieved conventional publication he decided that he’d go it alone and founded GWM Publications. The response from publishers with his follow up book had been ‘love your book; have no idea what to do with it’ so in many ways this was a wise move. The next book was Children of the Resolution and was based loosely on Gary’s own experiences of disability, labelling and educational reforms – though that makes it sound dull, and it’s not. Uncomfortable at times, funny, outrageous and often very moving, it is a book that challenges us all to question what we really think and feel, not just about disability but also how and where any of us fit into the world.

 The Realm of the Hungry Ghosts is a hymn of praise to the horror genre – before it became schlocky. In my opinion there are influences of early Stephen King, it is possessed of that same cool, calm, detached tone that creeps into your unconsciousness – until you suddenly realise you are actually just a tad scared and would quite like to put the lights on…but that would mean leaving the safety of your chair and crossing the room.

And then there’s The Legacy of Lorna Lovelost. I’ve got to admit I read this with extreme nervousness. The premise looked too saccharine sweet to work; I was sure that I was going to hate the smaltzy, romantic heart of it. And it is sweet and it is sad and romantic, but it’s also funny, unexpected and challenging….and I wanted to slap Bob more than once (and I’m not really given to violence, despite the sort of thing I write about.)

Lorna is a book about loss and memory and love and redemption – to use an overused and clichéd word. Love really does conquer all, but does so with grace and style and sex and humour and in the end subverts not just the readers’ expectations, but Lorna’s too. I’ll be writing in more depth about Lorna soon – and interviewing the author here, on the blog, just before the book is published. The Legacy of Lorna Lovelost will be published in early October and I think Gary’s many fans will be very happy.

Gary and I once tried to collaborate on a novel – or was it a screen play…. that was half the problem, we couldn’t quite decide which way we wanted to go and so developed both at once. The other half of the problem was that we were having far too much fun – ‘can’t we have just one more werewolf. Surely another one can’t hurt. Or a hovercraft; you don’t get many of those in London…’

Ok, so I’m lying about the hovercraft, but that was the flavour of the conversations we were indulging in.

Actually, what we did manage to produce reads well and I now don’t have the slightest idea who wrote what because the deal was, we wrote 300 odd words (often very odd words), the other person edited it and then carried on. – and we were not allowed to object to the editing.

It was fun, but if we ever get back to it, I think we’ll need an external editor, armed with a Big Red Pen – and probably a whip and a chair to keep the pair of us in order.

 That wasn’t the only daft idea we had. Misguidedly, we once thought it would be a good idea to start a small press magazine…that resolution lasted for one issue, by which time we’d worked out just what hard work it was and how little time it left us for anything else. Our intention was to fill it with short stories, artwork, interviews, photographs and anything else that took our fancy. Ironically, I think it would be a much easier proposition now…but no, Gary, I’m not about to suggest it.

 The thing is, Lorna Lovelost really had her genesis back then. Gary wrote a short story, Broken Angel, about a woman falling, which we included in the magazine. It was sad and haunting and incomplete – not in a bad way, but because it left hints of untold stories and lost backstory. This now becomes an arc in the novel. It has evolved and developed and the missing elements are woven into the structure. And I’m glad of that. I hope Gary promotes the short story alongside the novel, because it is a part of its genesis and history and readers like to get the complete picture.

The Legacy of Lorna Lovelost is available from October 5th and I’m planning on interviewing Gary for this blog just before the release. In the meantime, go and check him out.

The Amazon paperback page (now available for preorder) here

And Gary’s blog is here