Sunday, 10 July 2011


Writing can be a very peculiar business. I'm sure non-writers think that I just tap out a tale, send it to a magazine, and that's the end of the business. Hardly. A good few years back, I wrote a story called 'The Very Edge of New Harare.' I conceived it as a science fiction tale. The central character is called Lieutenant Abel Enetame, and he inhabits a federalised Africa of the not too distant future. I originally sold it to a small press mag called Maelstrom. The editor there sat on it for about two years, then wrote to inform me that the magazine had collapsed.

I then showed it to the notoriously fickle editor (no names) of a British SF magazine. He said he'd take it if I shortened it a bit and changed a couple of small elements. I only ever do that when I can see that someone has a point, and he did on this occasion, so I made the changes. Sent it back to him. Never heard another word from the guy on the subject. Weird.

But finally I got to thinking, 'Hold on, the central character in this story is a cop. And in the course of the story he investigates some mysterious deaths. So I might be thinking of it as SF, but it's a mystery tale too.'

Now, I haven't even submitted anything to Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine for -- I just went and checked -- twenty years! But I duly printed 'New Harare' up as a double-spaced manuscript and sent it off, expecting nothing. Six months passed. That seemed to confirm the 'nothing' bit. Then -- blow me down! -- Linda Landrigan, AHMM's editor wrote to me, apologising for taking so very long, and saying she loved the tale and wanted to buy it.

I've said it before and I'll say it again ... this is the world's most unpredictable business.

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