‘The Pier Falls’ by Mark Haddon

This is the title story of Mark Haddon’s 2016 collection, published by Vintage. It’s the one that has stayed with me since I read the book. It’s vivid with life (and death) and telling details. You can see it all happening as you read. As with any horrific event you witness, time seems to stretch and what you see etches itself on your retina, drills into your brain and replays itself over and over. It’s a story that’s definitely pertinent to the summer, and even to reading on the beach, but it may well make you cautious about stepping foot on a pier. And however warm the day, you will definitely shiver. 

First published in The New Statesman in 2014 and available to read online here. Collected in The Pier Falls, Jonathan Cape, 2015 and The Penguin Book of the Contemporary British Short Story, ed. Philip Hensher, Allen Lane, 2018. Selected by Cath Barton, whose prize-winning novella The Plankton Collector is published by New Welsh Rarebyte. Her second novella, In the Sweep of the Bay, will be published by Louise Walters Books in September 2020, and her short story collection, The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Retreat West Books in early 2021. You can read her full Personal Anthology here.

‘Wodwo’ by Mark Haddon

This is the best new story I’ve read for years – I was gripped, frightened, entranced. And I also felt better about the general crappiness of Christmas, because at least an unknown intruder hasn’t ended up leaching blood all over my carpet on the 24th December. The setting is pretty recognisable: ageing parents, their grown-up children, partners, grandchildren; excess, tension, resentment. But if you chuck a mysterious stranger, some hyper-violence and a loose reworking of Gawain and the Green Knight into the mix, then you are taken somewhere altogether unfamiliar and brilliantly, suggestively spooky.

(First published in The Pier Falls, Doubleday, 2016)