FREE FICTION: The Stinker by Colin Harvey

Following up from last week 's free short story with introduction by its author Alex Clarkson, here's another chance to read the first ever Pulp Idol winner from back in 2006. Novelist Adam Roberts described Colin Harvey's tale The Stinker as "an excellent story, with an intriguing premise that makes you want to read on to find out what's going on, and which concludes the narrative in a satisfying manner… creating a mellow and effective tragicomic tone". With Colin's permission we're giving the story away again free here online, with an exclusive foreword he wrote for us a few weeks ago. Don't forget to look out for this year's free Pulp Idol book of short stories later this month!

Introduction to The Stinker

I’m enormously proud of The Stinker. It was the first short story I ever had published and it kick-started my fiction writing career. I wrote and rewrote it over quite a few weeks, as far work commitments and my baby son would allow. Stylistically, I knew I wanted it to have a gothic feel, and to be darkly humorous, so I wrote it with Edgar Allan Poe and MR James at the back of my mind.

Looking back, my partner was pregnant with our second child and I think that influenced it on some level: the idea of something living inside you is a pretty weird one. You’ll be relieved to know she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl just after The Stinker was published…

I remember being anxious after I’d finished it that the front end and the back end didn’t match up stylistically: there’s no direct speech in the first half, while the second half is totally driven by it. The finished piece felt a bit like one of those dodgy cars that’s actually two different cars welded together.

Rereading it now I don’t think that’s such a problem: the dialogue is all of a piece with the descriptive stuff. The great thing about the short story form is that it’s so malleable: it lets you get away with stuff that just wouldn’t work in other kinds of storytelling. And don’t let anyone tell you any different.

Two things irk me, though: the pacing towards the end is off-kilter and I should have made more of that cake knife (a set-up without a pay-off if ever there was one). But I’m still dead proud.

Colin Harvey (Pulp Idol Winner 2006)
July 2008