the state of things
The Mythical Curse of Barney Thomson
by Elvis Shackleton - 14:31 on 02 July 2012
Rumours have long circulated in the crime fiction world of a mysterious and unfinished 8th Barney Thomson novel, which author Douglas Lindsay reputedly abandoned as a lost cause, long before his eventual disappearance. Now reports coming out of Boca Rotan, Florida, suggest that a manuscript has been unearthed that shows clear signs of being the author’s work, and scholars are just now beginning to suggest that this may indeed form part of the mythical lost book, THE CURSE OF BARNEY THOMSON.
However, Professor Norman Connery of Glasgow’s Institute of Special Things is warning against any undue excitement. ‘So many novelists leave unfinished work, but work that is suggestive of a whole, or is in a fit state to be finished off by another competent novelist. But The Curse of Barney Thomson is no Weir of Hermiston or Colonel Sun. What we’re talking about here is fragments of ideas, the usual barbershop buffoonery, the usual soupcon of bloody murder. But if it even amounts to a third of the novel that some have suggested, then we’ll be lucky. Terribly lucky.’
Scholars at Oxford University have released the opening passage of the book, to almost universal agreement that this is indeed Lindsay’s work, and not some pale imitation. Nevertheless, Connery once more warns against expectation.
‘What we have here is the clear sign of a waning of the powers, of a writer fighting against the mind’s decay. There is great sorrow sitting over this scene and it’s no surprise that the work was ultimately discarded.'
Reports that literary scholars have also unearthed Lindsay’s fabled mummy porn episode of the Teletubbies, remain to be verified.
THE CURSE OF BARNEY THOMSON - opening scene
Low cloud, a grey calm. No sound. A strange, melancholic serenity hung over the bay. A few gulls circled high in the sky above the water, but even they seemed wrapped up in the mournful quiet of early morning. The sea barely made a sound on the shore, the only cars on the road were those that had been parked overnight. Away to the west, the isle of Bute blended into the sky, the hills of Arran were lost in the cloud.
Barney Thomson, the sole survivor of the Scottish Barbershop Enlightenment movement that had rocked the foundations of hairdressing in the early days of the new millennium, handed the small sachet of Heinz tomato ketchup to the woman who was next to him on the bench. They were sitting by the old boating pond on the east side of Kames Bay, having come out to enjoy the still of early morning while they ate breakfast.
Coffee, orange juice, muesli and a bacon sandwich, the bacon kept warm in a small food flask
‘I predict a riot,’ said Sgt Daniella Monk, as she looked across the bay to the town of Millport.
They could see two other people on the move. Old Man McGuire, out for his morning stroll, and a woman walking her dog.
‘You think?’ said Barney. ‘When do you suppose it’ll start?’
‘The next couple of days,’ she said. ‘It’s been quiet around here for too long. Something’s got to happen eventually. There must be some sort of Law of Inevitability.’
Barney bit into his bacon roll. He had fried the bacon to such perfection that it had easily withstood twenty minutes in a flask while they’d eaten muesli.
Monk held her bacon roll up and made a gesture of satisfaction.
‘Thanks,’ said Barney.
The riot, if it was to come, was looking elusive at this point. The dog walker disappeared from view, and now old man McGuire was the only person in sight.
‘We did have a series of brutal murders a couple of years ago,’ said Barney.
‘Old news,’ said Monk.
‘Then there was the Holy Grail in the cathedral.’
‘You’re sworn to secrecy on that,’ said Monk, and Barney nodded.
‘But, you know, they qualify as stuff happening,’ he said nevertheless. ‘In fact, mass murder and the Holy Grail being discovered in the town is a pretty potent combination for a small place. That surely surpasses your Law of Inevitability. That’s some kind of Law of Weird Shit.’
‘You have your own personal Law of Weird Shit,’ she said.
Barney nodded again. He couldn’t argue with that.
A seagull let out a mournful cry as it flew low overhead, heading away from the bay, over the hill at the back. A wave made a small splash on the rocks down in front of them. A car drove past behind and continued on around the bay. It was what passed for action on a cold, grey, autumnal morning in Millport.
‘I predict a riot,’ said Monk after a while. ‘Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow. But soon…’
‘… and for the rest of your life?’
‘Riots never last that long.’
‘Unless you die in the riot.’
They drank coffee and watched the morning come in on the land.
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