Sunday, July 11, 2021

10 Writers in Search of a Story

Zoë Sharp


Back in 2012, I took part in the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, which takes place annually in Harrogate. Stuart MacBride was the Chair that year, I seem to recall, and he asked me to take part in a round-robin story he’d been asked to write. The story was going to be called SPECIFIC GRAVITY, and the idea was that Stuart would ask ten different crime writers to pen a chapter each, then he would attempt to make sense of the chaos by knitting it all together again into some kind of ending.


I dimly remember that there were some vague guidelines for the tale. As T&R Theakston—brewers of the aforementioned Old Peculier—were the title sponsors, I was told they were very keen that nothing untoward should happen at the brewery itself, nor should there be any suggestion that there was more ‘body’ in the beer than one would normally expect.


I’m not sure Stuart got the memo on that one, if his opening chapter, The Head, was anything to go by…


I duly wrote my follow-on chapter to that, entitled The Hands—for reasons that are obvious when you read it.


Laura Wilson was up next. She came up with The Torso for chapter three.


NJ Cooper followed up with chapter four, The Feet.


Then came Martyn Waites with The Brains for chapter five.


Chapter six, The Legs, was penned by Martin Edwards.


Followed by Ann Cleeves with The Teeth for chapter seven.


Dreda Say Mitchell wrote chapter eight, The Fingers.


Chapter nine, written by Allan Guthrie was The Unmentionables.


Charlie Williams wrote chapter ten, The Bottom.


And Stuart rounded things off with chapter eleven, The Heart (and Soul).


My hat goes off to Stuart for carrying off the literary equivalent of herding cats. And in some style, I might add.


A sampler containing the first three chapters was available at the Festival that year, but I never quite found out what happened to the story after that.


It was only recently that I resorted to Google and discovered the whole thing was available online via the 36stories website as one of their Fifteen Minute Reads. Sponsored both by Harrogate International Festivals and Transdev, the idea is that there are fifteen minutes between services of the No36 that runs throughout the day between Leeds, Harrogate, and Ripon. As the website says, ‘With the help of our Fifteen Minute Read, the minutes between services will disappear completely.’


So, if you have fifteen minutes to spare, and you fancy being entertained by the twisted imaginations of ten crime writers, why not give it a whirl?


This week’s Word of the Week is pauciloquent, meaning to use few words in speech, laconic. Earliest use was mid-17thcentury, from the Latin pauci meaning little or few, and loquent that speaks.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Lorraine. How Stuart managed to pull it all together again leaves me in awe of his imaginative talents!

  2. Don't have 15 minutes right now, but between now and tomorrow I'm sure I can scrape them together.

    However, I doubt your 'word' will find much traction in these parts. I mean, come on: Writers? Few words? Hah!

    1. Hope you enjoy the story as and when you have 15 mins to spare, EvKa.

      Us? Loquacious? Surely not...

  3. And up until now I thought "pauciloquent" was a misspelling of how most rationale thinking Americans regard the Covid advice delivered by America's most trusted spokesman on the pandemic.

    1. No, it's actually how The Last Guy spelled Pocohontas in one of his tweets...