As regular readers of my blog know (hello! And thanks) since the start of the year I've written a roughly-monthly column over on bookslam.com. Having run excellent live literature and music events for the past nine years, in 2011 Book Slam (London's best literary night club - TM) published their first short story collection - One For The Trouble - featuring stories from a stellar line-up of event alumni. The book is cloth-bound, hard-backed, has one of those cool lil dangly ribbon page-markers, and each is signed by every one of the contributors (the likes of Hari Kunzru, Helen Oyeyemi, Joe Dunthorne, Irvine Welsh, William Boyd...). One For The Trouble has always sat on my 'special' stack of books in my writing room, reserved only for the finest volumes, so imagine my DELIGHT when I was asked to contribute a story for the second Book Slam collection... titled TOO MUCH TOO YOUNG.
The brief was the same as last year - to write a story inspired, closely or loosely, by a song. That's the kind of thing I could happily spend weeks, months, years deliberating over, but in the end I plumped for ME AND BOBBY MCGEE. Much as I love the drawly cowboy notes of Kris Kristofferson's original, given the name of the anthology I took the Janis Joplin version. She recorded it just a few days before her death in 1970 and it was released in 1971, her first number one and a posthumous one, at that. I've always loved it (my dad used to play it on his guitar when I was growing up) and it's a song that's bursting with story - the footloose romance that came and went; wistful, celebratory and sad, all at once. I played it over and over, and an idea for my own story started to form... whatever happened to a guy like Bobby? As Janis sings: 'One day up near Salinas, I let him slip away/ He's looking for that home and I hope he finds it/ But I'd trade all of my tomorrows for just one yesterday/ To be holding Bobby's body next to mine.'
TOO MUCH TOO YOUNG features brand new stories from David Nicholls, Diana Evans, Jeremy Dyson, Marina Lewycka, Nikesh Shukla, Jesse Armstrong, Jackie Taylor, Craig Taylor, Patrick Neate, Salena Godden, Chris Cleave... and I. Now you can see why I'm so excited. I've written about the collection over on the Book Slam website, and I reckon my assessment of it is only about eleven twelfths unbiased. Seriously, you're in for a treat... you can read what I thought of it HERE.
If you'd like to pre-order the collection (it publishes on 27th November), you can do that HERE. Just as before, each copy is signed by all of the authors (I took a not-so-speedy 4.5 hours... but each 'Emylia' is written with big love and no little joy). There's currently a sweet offer where if you pre-order TOO MUCH TOO YOUNG you can get two free tickets to any one of the three (yes, three!) launch events on the 27th, 28th, and 29th of November. As the lovely people behind it say, 'Book Slam was founded almost a decade ago to support a diverse reading culture and stand against what is, for us all, an increasingly monolithic cultural life.' I vote YES to that, don't you?