These last two stories are set in my home city of Birmingham. They both make use of the conventions of crime fiction and are by writers who I know personally. Joel, who died five years ago, had the ability to make known territory very strange indeed. In his hands the West Midlands becomes “a lonely and faceless country”. Often the detective story is a vehicle for criticism of society, but in Joel’s hands social realism is tinged with supernatural elements. Kingstanding on the city’s outskirts becomes a territory rather like Oran in Camus’s La Peste– only rather than rats it is ‘pale men with hair like frost’ who worship ‘the Light of the North’ who spread pestilence.
First published in Where Furnaces Burn, PS Publishing, 2014. Collected in The Book of Birmingham, Comma Press 2018