The Pyromaniacs Guide to the Homes of Suffolk Writers by Roger Ley

A failed Suffolk writer plots revenge against his more successful contemporaries in Roger Ley's black comedy.

The one hundred and thirty-eighth rejection of Riley's zombie novel was the straw that broke the camel's back. Other writers offering far inferior work could get published, why couldn't he?

Those bastards, those smug, self-satisfied bastards. They'd taken their books to the fabled 'Palace of Publishing,' snared an agent, captured themselves a publisher, got an advance and stepped into the express elevator to literary success. They thought they were so clever, with their story editors to smarten up their plots and copy editors to smarten up their punctuation. And here he was, still grubbing around outside, hawking his first three chapters to literary agents, who brushed him aside or condescended to take his lovingly prepared proposal and dump it in the waste bin as they entered their offices. It would probably end up shredded, pulped, and used to make the paper for the books of the authors he hated so much.

Things were going to change though, he'd show them, he'd show the lot of them. He had their addresses. They'd been published by mistake in the brochure of the annual Suffolk literary festival. He had the petrol, the rags, and the old-fashioned, wide mouthed milk bottles. He'd found them on a farm rubbish pile in their galvanised crate. Very useful, it made them easy to transport as they rattled in the boot of his Honda Civic.

He knew who would be first, that bastard Mike Wattam. He didn't need the address list to find him, he'd known him for years; his house was in a village only a few miles away. Four books he'd published, all detective novels, all earning the handsome royalties he talked about every time they bumped into each other in the local supermarket. Bloody detective novels, not even literature, he might as well have been writing bodice rippers or chick lit under an assumed name - in fact, he probably was. Why should he have all the gravy though?

It was midnight and Riley had driven to Wattam's village and parked the Honda as close to his house as he dared. He opened the boot, poured petrol into four bottles, stuffed in the rags and lifted his Molotov cocktails into a supermarket shopping bag. A nice drink to share with the 'Great Man.'

The thin hedge scratched at him as he pushed through and into the author's generous garden. The house loomed, a darker patch against the midnight sky. Wattam had only afforded it because he'd married the right partner, a spinster of the local close-knit farming community. A dumpy woman who hung on his every stupid word and probably thought he was a bloody genius. Good luck!

Riley approached the back of the house, stopped on the lawn and placed the bag of incendiaries at his feet. He took out a bottle and shook it to wet the rag. He lit it up, drew back his arm to throw it through an upstairs window but then remembered the thatched roof. How could he have forgotten that the house was thatched? What a blaze it would make. The fire services would never get here in time to put it out. It would be visible from his own house, three miles away, once he'd left the scene.

He threw the flaming missile, and it somersaulted lazily upwards and onto the roof. The thatch should have lit instantly but it was still soaked from the recent heavy rain. The blazing rag stayed in place as the bottle rolled down the steep incline, bumped over the gutter, fell two storeys and smashed over the head of the unsuccessful writer.

Instantly Riley was a man of flames, running in circles shouting 'Mike, Mike, help me, help me,' before he crashed screaming back through the hedge and onto the lane. He struggled blindly towards the bridge, hoping to douse himself in the village stream, but after a dozen steps he fell to his hands and knees, crawled briefly forward, then collapsed and lay still. The flames slowly died and smoke drifted from his blackened flesh and charred clothing.

Back at the house, a light came on in an upstairs window. It creaked open and Wattam's tousled head, supported on his scrawny neck, thrust out. He peered myopically into the darkness, as he struggled with his spectacles and sniffed the air.

'Rather late for a noisy barbeque,' he called out grumpily at whoever had disturbed his sleep. He paused and listened; when no answer came he grunted, withdrew his head, closed the window and pulled the curtain. The light went out.

The moon rose and shone brightly over the timeless Suffolk village, with its stream, its humpbacked brick bridge and its round-towered flint church. Nothing moved in the author's garden or the churchyard it adjoined. There was peace, silence, and a surprisingly appetising smell of roasted meat.

25 comments:

  1. An amusing take on the baser instincts of literary classes. Thanks,
    Ceinwen

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  2. Very good satire. Well done. (Like Riley.)

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  3. I have borrowed Martin Riley, he is the protagonist in my time travel novel Chronoscape.' He gets into all sorts of scrapes on different timelines.

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  5. Great imagery, and a story well told.

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  6. Thank you Arthur, I appreciate your comment.

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  7. A clear story of a universe in correction. Nicely described and that ending, ugh!

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  8. I hope you enjoy your next bbq! There are a lot more of my published stories at rogerley.co.uk

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