For the first time in a very, very long while, I cried after finishing a book. I’ve never been a soppy person with books and films, even if I love them so much. But it just happened. I welled up.
And who did this? None other than Troy Blackford, a brave little writer from the Twin Cities, self-published most of his life, and using the power of social media to advertise his novels and short stories on paper and Kindle.
His latest instalment is called First There Wasn’t, Then There Was, and I refuse to give you an in-depth analysis. Why? Because I want it to shock you senseless. I want you to dive into it, no spoilers in mind, and I want it to carry you away.
Four corporate pawns get together before work, at lunchtime and after work to have a smoke while leaning against a wall. These leaners occupy themselves on the lightest trivialities of life and entertainment, but lately they have been intrigued by an occasional wanderer. He comes and goes, hidden in a winter overcoat, talking to himself as he carries a bin bag on his shoulder. “What is he talking about?”, they wonder. So they borrow a dictaphone, sneak it into his pocket by lunchtime and then retrieve it by the end of the work shift. On the next day, they listen to it. And boy, does he talk.
All I will say is that there are passages that could be very triggering to those who one way or another have been involved in the War On Drugs – mostly as unlucky witnesses or victims who have no idea what is going on. You still won’t have an idea what is going on once you’ve gone past these hard bits, but it won’t feel like harsh reminders of a dark reality. It won’t feel like a reality at all.
And yet that finale feels like the realest punch in the stomach. The wildest call to action.
Yes, you can find the odd spelling and continuity mistake, and every memory is “the last thing I remember, then everything was a blur”, but what can you do when you’re a one-man band? Plus, what if the memories kept coming and going amidst the dirt, arriving unannounced and erasing all trace of themselves as they leave? What if everything else was, indeed, a blur?
Just like his début novella Strange Way Out could easily be adapted as an episode of Black Mirror, First There Wasn’t could be turned into a motion picture and directed by Zack Snyder, belonging to the same fairy tale action horror world of Sucker Punch. Without any dancing, of course.
But with lots of singing. Bird singing.
You can get First There Wasn’t, Then There Was through your usual online publication outlets. To find out more information about Troy Blackford, visit his website or chase him through social media. You never know what he’ll do next.