John Logan was introduced to me via a good friend of mine. He is a true gentleman and an outstanding, award winning author. I hope you enjoy the following.
His work has been published internationally in anthologies edited by A L Kennedy, John Fowles, Ali Smith, Toby Litt; and he has been invited to read his work at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. He wrote monthly columns and film reviews for the magazine, 57 NORTH, in Aberdeen, where he was also president of Aberdeen University’s Creative Writing Society for three years, while attaining his MA (Hons) English degree there, which included study under the novelist, William McIlvanney.
There was an old road that had no name and very few people ever walked on it. Littered and abandoned at the sides of this road were many vehicles. Tractors with high, rusted metal, moulded seats. Vans that had been depended on to deliver fish or groceries. All left here now, to countless seasons of rain and snow. Frozen vehicles on an old road where no-one went any more. Birds would land on the metal surfaces, stand and sing, then fly off to somewhere more attractive. Sunlight would sparkle on chrome and steel, though there was nobody to see it. The weight of the vehicles, over decades, had compressed the earth below. Metal wheel rims had punctured rotted rubber tyres, then the wheel rims had shoved deeper and deeper into the beleaguered ground’s surface.
And from that brown surface, it seemed now to Thomas as he stared, something old and unhappy with the situation could almost be seen to seep out of the earth’s guts, like a barely visible gas emission. He assumed it was a trick of the light, or his own faulty and tired perception, but the air really did seem to shimmer just beside where the metal wheel rim broke the ground. Thomas sniffed and walked over to the wheel. He kneeled down and sniffed again, thinking if this really was some gas coming up from the earth he would smell it surely. But there was nothing to smell. He reached forward and positioned his hand hesitantly at the centre of the shimmering area. He felt a quick smile come to his mouth as the air danced coldly, just at the edge of his fingertips. At that moment he heard a whirring at his right ear, then a large white butterfly flew straight at Thomas’ twitching fingers. The butterfly’s wings kissed the side of Thomas’ index finger. Its white form passed through the shimmering air, then lifted suddenly, gained height. Thomas looked up to follow it. It rose higher and higher above him, then he couldn’t see it any more. He was staring up now at the bronze and copper leaves growing from the thick outreaching branch of a tree overhead.
“Thomas! Come on! I’m cold.”
Thomas looked back at where he had seen the gas coming up from the earth. There was none there now. He bit his lip and stood up straight, taking a deep breath. He turned and jogged along the road’s rough and broken surface, until he caught up with Lea and took her hand.
“What were you doing?” she said.
“I thought I saw something.”
They drove back to the city on that car-packed road beside the water. Lea was quiet. Twice Thomas thought she had fallen asleep she was so quiet, but when he looked over her eyes were open, focused out the window, on the rippled water.
After the second time he looked over, when his eyes returned to the road, he saw the next corner closer than he had realised. He slowed down and went into the left turn, but he knew he wasn’t quite in control, felt the car’s weight shift to the right. Half-way through the turn Thomas saw, just ahead, a lorry and a car, abreast, filling the road. Thomas could see the young male faces above the car’s red bonnet, understood instantly the gamble that driver had made, overtaking just before the bend. The nose of the car ahead was exactly even with the nose of the lorry’s huge, broad truck bed. Again Thomas stared at the two male heads above the car’s red bonnet. The driver had a bird-like hooked nose and something hawkish about his eyebrows. The passenger had a straight black fringe and the jaw of a heavyweight boxer. Thomas saw their heads float above their car’s red bonnet like white eggs on a red dish and he thought you’ve killed us
Thomas didn’t have time to look at the lorry driver above the truck’s thick grille. Instinct told Thomas there was no time for either himself or the bird-faced car driver to brake. There was nowhere for either car to go to Thomas’ left, it was just a high embankment of thick trees there, tight to the road. Thomas couldn’t believe he was doing it as he raised his left wrist sharply on the steering wheel. He turned into the lorry’s path, accelerating, bursting through a short stone dyke with the Toyota’s nose. Thomas heard Lea scream at the same moment the lorry struck the rear left wheel of the Toyota, turning the car’s long dive towards the water below into a spinning and twisting which made Thomas’ gut whirl. He had time to blink jerkily and open his mouth while the car fell. He meant to turn to Lea, look at her, but his neck was frozen. Instead, between each blink, Thomas saw the white butterfly again, its wings fluttering as it ascended. The car hit the water with a sound that had nothing wet about it. Weightlessness, like a sorcerer’s spell, ended. Thomas only knew that the seat-belt had stopped his head being battered against the Toyota’s roof. Thomas heard himself breathe out. He turned to look at Lea. She was staring at him, unseeing, eyes bloodshot, her hands shaking and darting around. Thomas saw she was trying to undo her seatbelt. He nodded and reached across, but her hands were in the way. He wanted to slap them out of the way, but there was some restraint stopping him. Then it seemed something enormous and merciless was sucking air out of the car. Thomas looked ahead, up, out the windscreen which was starred with the pattern of broken glass, but still intact. The windscreen was like a portal into the real world, a circle of sky and cloud and sunlight at the centre. But encroaching at the edges, the black water. Then the circle of sky vanished. Thomas felt the car sinking. All light was gone. He felt Lea’s hand strike his face, heard her scream. He tried to lean toward her again, find the seatbelt release. Her hands again, flailing. He batted them out of the way. The car was sinking and twisting in the deep water, already several metres down by the time Thomas gave up on Lea’s seatbelt, brought his hands back to the side of his own waist, easily found the seatbelt release there. Thomas heard the Toyota’s frame screech with the pressure, then the windscreen burst in and Thomas could not tell how much of what hit his face was glass and how much was cold water.
The Survival of Thomas Ford on Amazon.com:
The old stories don’t need to be repeated endlessly. The ancient knights can be allowed to fall from their horses, lumpenly, and die. Even the horses, though with more grace, may be allowed to fall over and turn limp on the grass. Thus, in a moment, they are permitted their release from this arena. Their struggles forever on record, for perusal later, at a safe distance.
The woman had that thick, black hair I have always loved. Even her skin was alive strangely, as though some thick juice was flowing through it, near the surface, as my eye gazed. Desiring the woman was a normal response. The mind turns from knights on their horses, towards women with their hair and skin, easily. The woman’s mind was locked on some course, purposeful, the eyes directed forward, a rigidity there. I didn’t let that put me off. I kept looking at her. Then she sensed me and looked back. I had to look away. I chose the clock, gazed up at it, then mimed the action of raising my wrist, lifting my jacket sleeve, checking the time of my watch against the time on the clock. I looked back over at the woman. Now she was sitting on a bench, her legs crossed neatly. Her shoes were red, scarlet, and that was a small shock behind my ribs, but it didn’t put me off her at all. Instead, I made a focal point of one of her shoes. It was possible to look at the shoe without having that sense of trespass I’d felt when she found me looking at her face. Somehow the shoe was in the public domain. I committed no violation, no infringement, by looking at the shoe like this. None that I was aware of anyway. We all must be free, ultimately, to pick our own objects of contemplation. I could look away from the shoe, to the clock, or to someone else in the railway station, then I could look back at it. Occasionally, from the shoe, I could lift my eyes and look at her hair again, her face, then back to the shoe. This was all permissible, somehow.
Millions of years of evolution for me to be here now, a biped, with a central nervous system ending in two close-set stalked predatory eyes, and staring at this red shoe. And why not? Good enough. Perhaps, later, there will be something even better than the red shoe to look at. Perhaps not. In any case, I will be satisfied, having had this interlude, this occupation, afforded by the red shoe and its wearer.
Knights and their horses. And their hawks. Now, as I look at her, I might be hiding, beneath my coat, the tensed body of my hunting hawk. Its head buried tight in my armpit as it dozes, belly full from some recent kill. I could tear open my coat, shock the bird into wakefulness, watch as it stared around. I think the first thing it would see would be that red shoe. The bird would explode out from beneath my sheltering armpit oxter, cutting through the air, an arrow born only to plunge its life against that red shoe’s surface, embedding its razor claws in her ankle that I cannot let myself contemplate. I feel this imaginary hawk now, suddenly, a warm living thing resting secretly beneath the flesh of my underarm. Emboldened by the thought of my hawk, I let my eye drift up from the red shoe to the woman’s ankle. But she senses this. Then I sense her sensing the change in my regard. She moves abruptly. I flinch and beneath my armpit the hawk’s eyelids flutter as its dream begins to break.
I should turn away now, walk off, just to be relieved of this woman and her red shoe. Myself and the hawk then, alone, walking these streets. That would make better sense to me. My private thoughts and the hawk’s unbroken dream of soaring above rabbit-filled fields beneath pink-golden dawn sunlight. Compared to that freedom, what does the woman or her red shoe signify really? All the excitement tied up in her ankle is probably just the woman’s natural claws, digging into me, as though it were her and not the hawk, nestled under my arm, holding on.
Perhaps I’m not being ambitious enough, and that is my knightly failure. Perhaps my aim should be to get free of the woman, her red shoe, her ankle, and the hawk itself, free of the bird too.
I look away from the red shoe, deliberately, and let my gaze roam all around the railway station. Then I look back at the shoe. I can’t deny that there is something good about being able to let my mind rest on the object, like a punctuation mark.
Suddenly, between my legs, beneath me, I feel my whole knightly horse come to life. A long lance fills the space beneath my right armpit, and my right hand. The weight of it pulls me over to one side and the woman is restless again as she senses me lurch. Let her be restless. I have to handle lance, horse, hawk, red shoe, ankle, all of it. If I can turn now and ride away, without a backward glance, I think that would score many points for me, in the knightly realm. The gods of the knightly realm would love me if I could manage a thing like that. But I can’t manage it, can I? Not yet anyway. Not now. Before I can be certain though, the gods of the railway station decide everything for me. She looks at her watch, compares it to the time on the clock, or pretends to in mime, rises on her twin red shoes, walks off towards a static-bodied train. All done with perfect courtly precision. And with no backward glance.
Or perhaps there is a backward glance, an internal one, one that I could never see. Perhaps she’s casting a backward glance over her whole history, her whole past life, as she walks to that train. Perhaps the desert plain behind her is now littered with the heroes and heroines of her past life, now frozen into asphalt, fossilised, or turned into Biblical pillars of salt for passing scorpions to lick away at. Physically though, no backward glance. Not from her, and certainly not at me, her watcher, her chronicler, so I turn away myself. I walk briskly towards the railway station’s main exit. I don’t look back either.
Agency Woman on Amazon.com:
There was a beautiful bird on the branch, singing. It was small with brown wings and perfect white chest feathers. Its tone was too shrill and its eyes darted. Its whole manner was erratic. The sunlight was salmon-pink among the trees and I knew something was wrong, something was going to happen. I didn’t hear a sound, except the bird singing, until the shot went off and chips of wood sprang towards my cheek from the tree I was standing near. I turned to look, like a fool, and there were three of them, in a field. The one with the rifle was kneeling. His knee was in the snow. The other two were running slowly towards me. One of them looked so familiar, as though from school or some job done years ago. I kept looking at that one as they got closer. Sometimes human faces all seem the same to me, they merge into one face spanning all the time and circumstance of man’s long trek upwards. I’ve seen it in the faces of people, just after you leave the stage of not knowing them well enough, but just before the stage at which you know them too well, there is a stage or a moment, right at the centre, where I have seen several people’s faces become one universal face. Their voices also, no matter what their social class or country of origin, I have heard their accent disappear as their voices become for a time the universal voice.
I heard the tight whir of light, beating wings and looked up. The small bird’s brown feathers pulsed as they raised it heavenward.
* * * *
On the walk from the woods they treated me well. No beatings, no threats. They wanted me to keep walking as fast as they were able to walk. They took me through a village and people stared. I expected them to stop there and have some vehicle ready, but they kept walking me through the narrow lanes, past an ancient church. We came right out the other side of the village. The snow was deep and packed tight, safe to walk on as we started down a long hill. All our breaths made thick clouds in the icy air. We passed cattle in a field and I could hear them chew at the snow and grass. It was a wetly calm sound.
The rifleman was silent but the other two seemed in high spirits, perhaps because of finding me. They laughed and spoke excitedly in their own language. I looked to the horizon when I felt their eyes on me.
Storm Damage on Amazon.com:
Just some of the comments John has received:
“Bold” SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY
“New talent” THE HINDUSTAN TIMES
“Writerly prowess” THE SPECTATOR
“Logan writes in very original terms” SCOTTISH STUDIES REVIEW
“The literary survival of author John Logan” THE NORTHERN TIMES
“Positive new chapter for thriller man” HIGHLAND NEWS
“City author’s e-book breaks into Top 100” THE INVERNESS COURIER
I know I certainly want to read his books and I’m sure you do to.
Thanks John, for allowing me to feature you at my blog.