Strangeness on a Train

I’m writing this the night before I appear on the Radio 4 Today Programme to talk about my writer-in-residence-on-a-train gig. I’m scheduling the post to publish just after I have finished. You will know, dear reader, if I have made a tit of myself, talked garbage, or forgotten what I was saying mid-spout. I have that yet to discover.

Strangeness on a Train is the short story that resulted from my East Coast London-Harrogate-London writer-in-residence tenure. It’s a dark tale about what happens when a woman hungover from her disastrous fiftieth birthday celebration meets the fellow-passenger-from-hell on the London-Harrogate train.

Like I seem to be saying about all my writing these days: it doesn’t end happily.

The story was inspired by events on the train and the landscape we passed, as well as memories of other train journeys. I also crowd-sourced, asking the twittersphere what annoyed it most about fellow train passengers.

Quite a lot, it seems. I am not alone in my intolerance.

But I have to hold my hands up and say there was no one annoying on my journey to Harrogate. Now, I don’t want to bang on about this, but, as you may have gleaned from the post before this one, I had been put up in first class. My normal mode of travel is, of necessity, economy, and there is always at least one tosspot on every journey who I could quite easily throttle. But not so while I was writer-in-residence in first. Perhaps it was just my lucky day, or could it be to do with the space, the free drinks, food, wi-fi and solicitous and cheerful stewards they lay on for you? Surely it’s not that first class travellers are inherently more civil than those in economy? Surely not? My inner socialist is getting restless that I even dare to think these thoughts.

The key event on the journey was that on alighting at Harrogate (half-way in terms of writing time), I exchanged a few words with one of the stewards and found that he knew exactly how many people were due to get off the train at this, its final destination.

Author gold dust, that.

Strangeness on a Train will be published by Headline as an e-book on Thursday 19 July, available to download free on Amazon and i-Tunes.

Publication coincides with the opening of the fabulous Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. East Coast will be distributing printed samplers of the story on the London-Harrogate route during the preceding week. The festival runs until the 22 July, with over eighty of the best UK and international crime authors appearing at over twenty events. And they’ve got me too! I’m on a panel called Deadlier Than The Male, on Saturday 21 July at 2pm.

If you’re in the area, do come along (and if you’re not in the area, why not take the train so that you are?). I was there last year and it was about the most fun time I’ve had since Caroline Lee’s party when I was thirteen. But that’s another story, and there are no trains involved at all.


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