A Scattering of Ashes

I began writing ‘A Scattering of Ashes’ 22 years ago when I joined the Army.  The way I was dragged into the machine, into its gnashing maw and spat out the other end of 22 years like some chewed up piece of meat for civvy street to look at with mild curiosity.  The time I was being chomped on, spat at and kicked at has a bearing on what I write and ‘A Scattering of Ashes’.  It’s a set of tales that tell you the world isn’t the nice place we’re led to believe.

Through the book there’s a skein of a common theme.  That struggle many of us face to do the right thing, to be what we’ve always wanted to be, to face up to reality and deal with it because there’s nothing else we can do. There’s guilt, jealousy, murder, betrayal and revolution.

I began work on a short story on revolution in the UK back in October 2010 while north Africa was in the grip of an societal epidemic of turmoil to overthrow their governments.  This proved a catalyst to what was to become ‘Thunder on the Horizon’.  Linkin Park proved to be a great inspiration for this short story with their song, ‘The Shadow of the day’.  This was originally called ‘Freedom Fighters and Fools’, but I changed this at the last moment.

There were other changes to the anthology, specifically the size of the work as I’d originally had 38 stories.  Most of these diluted the effect I wanted the book to have, so I snipped and pruned the work in order for it to reflect what it was meant to.

It’s a collection of stories told in places of conflict such as Afghanistan and I draw from personal experience some of them.  I hasten to add that the first story’s main character is the sole survivor at the end and this isn’t true to events.  I have a wealth of experience in these areas and can draw from personal experience as I’ve felt the heat and had the privilege of being under

Me at FOB INKERMAN (or FOB INCOMING) 2007 - 2008. Lovely holiday resort for 6 months. Great food and friendly locals.

contact with an enemy by shooting, bombing and rocket attacks.  You could say I’m a bit of a sensory vampire – I like to use that term.  If it’s happening I want to experience it and when I’m in the zone I may regret it, but I just get on with it.

That’s the military side of the anthology, but I also explore the UK and the problems with society with a man out of prison changed from his experience – a change of roles for the brother who greets him.  A story of revolution that may have ran parallel to the August riots.  There’s a tale of a family torn apart from the war in Iraq and a soldier’s return home who has a secret to hide, but confides in his friends to resolve his guilt.

Perhaps more difficult for me to do was a story of an ex-convict who battles with his own denial and we slowly find out why the village he returns to shuns him like a plague victim.  The fact that the main character is a Nazi made this all the more difficult as I am completely and ‘irrevocably’ un-Nazi.

Future work has a drinking theme to it.  I am well versed in this lifestyle.  Before I married, I drank heavily and partied all the time.  This has given me a wealth of experience and memories I can draw from.

In the August of 2012, I plan to release my Afghanistan Diary and hope to contribute to some worthy cause such as the Poppy Appeal or the Royal British Legion.

Here’s an extract from:

Murder amongst comrades

“… I could hear them galloping over the turned soil like beasts of burden.  One man turned.  He fired a volley of bullets into the tree line behind them.  ‘Get in the compound!’  Their commander screamed.  We moved off into compound and moats of dust began to float down from the ruined floor above.  The air seemed to shift, white walls shimmered in the suffused light.  Billy raised his arm, he’d seen something then he got down and waved somebody else in.

I could hear their voices, ‘Put him down there.  Quickly, get the drip over here!  No!  Stop, listen…In the vein.’ a gasp, then, ‘here give it here.  I’ll do the fucker!’  A dying man, I didn’t recognise him, lay on his back fighting for air like a fish on dry land.  It looked like some perverse nativity play.  One of the team turned to look at me, a bag of saline in his hand.  His round ringed eyes pierced mine; lines of muck and grime accentuated his wrinkled face.  He didn’t say anything, he just looked at me…”

Love this photograph. Sangar duty at Inkerman.

And an extract from Scargill’s Man

“…The hacking of wood clacks through the cul-de-sac and I sense the charms of old child’s play, the ball in the yard by the garages and the uprooting of cabbages. They hang on the air like a scent waiting for me to inhale; I take one in and I see my brother jumping over the fence into the fields – running from what, I cannot imagine. The ginger-bricked back of the house is bare to the sun like it was twelve years ago. The garden has become an overgrown menagerie of experiments, with cabbages and carrots sharing the same plots. There’s ash from the fire sprinkled like icing sugar on the soil in one corner.

There is turmoil in my gut…”

Douglas, Craig. (2011) A Scattering of Ashes, Tales from the Frontline, Afghanistan to England, Can Write Will Write.

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