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File Under Fiction: Martin Locock

November 26, 2009

File Under Fiction is a debut collection of short stories by Martin Locock.

In Change and Decay, an archivist’s visit to a crumbling gentry estate reveals a history of sharp practice and opportunism belying the elegant exterior, and he becomes embroiled in their current intrigues.

Exchange Mechanism is a science fiction story exploring what would happen if we could see inside other people’s minds.

Candle on the Table follows a frustrated solicitor’s obsession with a perfect family, unaware that it conceals dark secrets.

The world of a maverick PR man and the Toronto Mafia collide in The Gift of the Gab.

In The Time Zone Rule, two colleagues are sent at short notice to Morocco; they find the romance of the situation irresistible, but one night’s folly changes their lives for ever.

All the stories explore moral issues within a framework of spare narration and realistic characterisation, overlain by sardonic humour and elegance of expression. They have been described as “funny, accurate and deeply cynical.”

Martin Locock is an author and poet who works as a project manager at the National library of Wales. Previously he had worked in commercial archaeology, publishing extensively on a range of obscure topics. He was born in 1962 and has lived near Swansea since 1991. He is married with three children. He writes a blog, A Few Words (http://locock.blogspot.com).

I have a small emotional attachment to this book: its author lives in the same Welsh town where my grandfather was born and foolishly this gave me hope that the book would be good. Sadly, I was disappointed.

I did appreciate the errata which the author provided which read, “Corrections. A battle of wills between author and a subversive spellcheck program has led to the replacement of some words with ‘emoraliz’.” Sadly the errata is not quite extensive enough: both ‘emoraliz’ and ‘emoralized’ make appearances, accompanied by those little empty squares which appear in various computer programs when a special character is saved in a format which the program doesn’t support: a good edit would easily have found this problem; its appearance implies problems with the person who typeset the book rather than a rampaging spellchecker; and as this book was printed via Lulu (which is exclusively POD) there was almost certainly no print run of defective books: the author felt that these books were good enough to go out with this error in place. And on that point, I strongly disagree.

The punctuation was erratic, particularly the use of dashes (hyphens are often used where dashes are required, with odd and inconsistent spacing around them); a couple of punctuation marks escaped from the quote-marks which should have enclosed them; and there were a good few surplus commas scattered throughout the text.

The writing provided me with the biggest disappointment: it was flat and dull and unengaging and no more than the barest attempt was made to catalogue the events presented. The characters had no life; the events were dull; there was no depth to the work, and no texture, apart from a couple of places where the author’s voice, and opinions, intruded. And there, too, was a problem: I couldn’t agree with the opinions he voiced, and they were presented in jargon-cluttered language which made them difficult to decipher.

On top of all of that there were issues with the grammar too. I read just nine out of a total of 187 printed pages and hope that this writer polishes his work much more thoroughly before he considers publishing anything else.

(This book doesn’t appear to be listed on Amazon so I’m unable to include a cover image or a link to its sale page.)

  1. November 28, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Hi – the author here. The truth hurts!I must admit I was mortified when I realised how many mistakes tehre were – in the euphoria of finishing the writing, I had skipped over checking and revision. I have now fixed the layout and punctuation. Readers deserve the courtesy of a clean text.On the more fundamental question of the content, your comments have given me pause for thought. I'm going to have to thaink about whether fiction is a medieum I should puruse, and if so, how I can make it more effective.

  2. November 28, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    I wish you was in the USA, I have a a wish http://wishuponahero.com/wishes/?id=453949 I have a couple people say they will help but there not writer , I have wrote my story but it needs A LOT OF WORK

  3. November 28, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Audrinna, I would recommend you sign up for a writing class rather than get someone else to polish your writing for you– the skills you need to tell your story can be learned.If you find yourself in a position of being about to sign a contract, with anyone, for anything, check them out first at http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/which is a website that keeps track of frauds and unscrupulous operators in writing and publishing.

  4. November 30, 2009 at 1:01 am

    Martin,You may want to proof when you post on blogs:)If you need help marketing your book check out my sitewww.boostbooksales.comI help self-published authors.Good luck!

  5. December 10, 2009 at 9:54 am

    It is quality that counts.However, I like Martin's poetry! I worked with the author once in Aberystwyth.Please, Martin – do not give up your good work! I like the way of your thinking and then expressing your thoughts. I treasure the copy of your poetry you have once given me.Alas, even some comments contain spelling mistakes.

  6. December 10, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    Martin, thanks for commenting here, and sorry I've taken so long to respond to you.You do need to work a little harder on proofing your work (including your blog comments!), but if it's any consolation you're definitely not going to win the title of Writer Of The Worst Book Jane Has Read For Her Blog. If you really want to get your work up to scratch, I'd advise you to join a writers' group and work on your writing, first and foremost. Copyediting can come later. You could try the Share Your Work section of the forums at AbsoluteWrite.com if you don't have a local group nearby–it's a huge forum, and you're bound to find a corner which fits you. And thank you for responding to my review with such generosity. It's rare that writers come here and demonstrate such grace, and it's much appreciated.

  7. December 11, 2009 at 8:44 am

    Dear Jane Smith, I agree with your comment. AbsoluteWrite.com is a very good idea. What time is concerned I think, joining a writing class can be difficult.I am always honest, Martin, I think you are a good writer.As the Welsh say, "paid a rhoi ffidill yn y to", do not give up because of criticism. I have had it myself and criticised others. In the end they achieved more. It is better to be honest.I do not like "Anonymous" comments in general. I do not know why people do that.

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