McEwan apart, I have looked for and found most of my short story gods in the United States, and it’s certainly the case that few English writers have specialized in the form. One English writer whose stories have obsessed me – to the degree that I had to stop reading him for fear of being fatally influenced – is James Lasdun. He shares with McEwan, I think, a little of the English gothic sense, a preoccupation with innocence and the sense of characters being drawn irrevocably to some compromising act. In ‘The Half-Sister’, Martin, an under-achieving musician is unhealthily fascinated by the wealthy family he visits as a guitar tutor. Among the children is an older, rather unwanted sister, and their father appears to be making Martin an offer he cannot refuse.
First published in It’s Beginning to Hurt (Cape, 2009)