Wednesday 29 November 2023 / Leave a Comment


Neil Randall is delighted to announce that his new short story The Cancer Dogs of Mirijevo has just been accepted for publication by Paris-based literary journal RIC. Based on an encounter with a street dog in the eponymous Belgrade suburb of the title, the story explores themes of bereavement, true love, and facing up to the losing that one special person in your life.

To whet your appetite, here are the opening scenes of the story: 

Ever since her Serbian husband of over forty years ended his life at Dignitas in Switzerland following a long and not particularly dignified battle with bowel and bladder cancer, Professor Patrica Atlee had been looking for something to occupy her mind. Recently retired and relocated to the Belgrade suburb of Mirijevo (assisted suicide isn’t cheap and the couple had to sell their highly desirable property in the far more exclusive area of Dedinje), Atlee had entered a dull and directionless period of life. Having enjoyed a successful career in the serious disease research field, she knew she had to either reignite her old passion for photography and painting, or find a new interest before she slipped into the same distressing rut that her husband had during the final years of his life.

At sixty-seven, the idea of entering the ‘mature’ dating scene horrified her. The mere thought of a series of pseudo-intimate encounters with strangers, no matter how pleasant, intelligent, or attractive was appalling. Whenever possible, she tried to catch up with family and friends for coffee, but found their company dull and insipid, rather than engaging and comforting. After long bouts of sudoku, the perusal of favoured medical journals, and internet surfing, she found herself wandering around her new home enclave, a singularly unattractive amalgam of high-rise apartment blocks, populated by thousands of young families.

Whether it was this – observing so many people at the start of their lives rather than the end – that both depressed and fascinated her, she could never quite tell. But it often saw her stroll towards the busy park near the supermarket, a well-appointed concrete quadrant equipped with swings, slides, roundabouts, and some nifty and well-used exercise equipment.

And it was during one of these now-regular forays that she noticed something so extraordinary, she knew she had just found the project she so badly needed at that time.


If you like what you’ve read so far, you can read the story in its entirely on RIC’s website.


And if you want to read more of my published work, head over to my Amazon page.

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Friday 4 August 2023 / Leave a Comment


Neil Randall is delighted to announce that his brand-new short story “Eatin’ Pussy” has been published by Anxiety Press. The tale of two very different brothers – one a classically trained pianist who never quite fulfils his potential, the other a never-do-well lay-about who lands a role in a cult film and becomes a household name – the story examines the meaning of success, contentment, achievement, the things in life that can make a person truly happy, and the cruel reality of knowing that even if you work as hard as you can possibly work, even if you dedicate yourself to something, be it an artform, a career, even a relationship with someone you truly adore, there’s no guarantee that you will succeed or get what you deserve in the end.

     Perhaps, therefore, the story is more an examination of failure, how the vast majority of people conduct their everyday lives with the dark cloud of personal defeat hanging over them at all times.


To give you a feel for the story, here are the opening pages:


In the early 1980s, or hate-ies as I like to call them, my brother Miles landed a small part in what would become a hugely successful cult movie. His role, that of an arresting police officer interrogating a suspect, consisted of only nine words.

      “Where’d you get that scar, tough guy? Eatin’ pussy?”

      Inexplicably, that section of dialogue and what amounted to around fifteen seconds of screen time would provide him with a comfortable existence for the rest of his life. He never had to find himself a regular job. He never had to struggle to make ends meet. How remains a mystery to me to this day. But perhaps the reason why is an even more perplexing proposition, one I’ve been wrestling with for years.

     Twelve years Miles’ senior, I felt an acute sense of shock when our parents sat me down one day and explained that I would soon have a little brother or sister to play with. Having been perfectly content with the family dynamic up to that point in time, I saw no reason why my mother and father would want to upset our peaceful domestic routine with another child. More to the point, I was considered somewhat of a prodigy back then, a gifted piano virtuoso. Much of my time – and by extension, my parents’ time – was spent either travelling to and from music lessons, or playing the piano itself, at intimate gatherings (i.e. for my mother and father’s exclusive delectation) or modest performances in the local area. I just couldn’t see how we could possibly accommodate another hugely demanding human presence into our busy schedule.

      “Don’t worry, Nicholas,” said my mother, as if sensing my disgruntlement. “Everything will work out just fine. And while father and I will have to spend a lot of time with the new baby, it doesn’t mean that we love you any less.”

     Worthy sentiments, but actions are so much more important than words.

     Vividly, I remember seeing my little brother for the first time at the hospital. Grotesquely fat, the wriggling ball of pinkish flesh in my mother’s arms did little during what constituted the first twelve to eighteen months of its existence other than gorge itself on the copious amounts of milk in her swollen breasts. Not only did the new arrival cause all kinds of unwanted distractions in my life, he transformed my once pretty and petite mother into a bloated whale of a woman who failed to recover her slender, attractive figure, no matter what lengths she went to with different and innovative dieting regimes. Never again would she wear stylish cocktail dresses to one of my recitals, rather hessian-sack like sartorial disasters which were a source of great embarrassment to everyone concerned.

     But I digress.

     I won’t bore you with a classic tale of sibling rivalry. How the older child was jealous of the attention his parents bestowed upon the baby of the family. Then and now, I consider myself above such primitive emotions. I simply accepted our much-changed circumstances and continued to dedicate myself to the pursuit of artistic excellence. I ignored, if not completely drowned out the new baby’s crying fits. I banished the smell of soiled diapers from both my mind and airwaves, through intense piano work and the lighting of endless incense sticks throughout the home. If I was ever encouraged to interact with the infant myself, I would dutifully fulfil my brotherly role and play with the baby or pose for family photographs.

     Besides, great changes were on my own personal horizon. Namely, I was offered a place at the world-famous Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland. With enduring pride, I remember my high school principal inviting me to his office to discuss a ‘matter of utmost importance’.

     “You’ve been presented with an incredible opportunity, Nicholas. Not many young people from Hoboken are invited to attend one of the finest conservatories in the world.”

      Hence, I was absent for much, if not all of Miles’ formative years. Bar standard visits home during the holiday periods: Christmas (always), Thanksgiving (every other year), Summer (never, due to the cultural delights of Europe and a punishing musical schedule), I only saw my brother from around the age of four or five to his early twenties on a dozen or so occasions. That’s not to say I didn’t get regular updates from my parents. In heartfelt letters or tearful long-distance phone calls, they spoke of a lazy, unruly child constantly in trouble at school or with the police in the local area. They told wild, fantastical, almost unbelievable tales of my brother’s antics. The kind of teenager into everything before it was fashionable, he drank alcohol and smoked illicit substances, shoplifted and handled stolen goods (on more than one occasion, the high school principal caught him in the act of selling car radios or cartons of cigarettes to his fellow students), he somehow contrived to lose his virginity at the age of thirteen and faced paternity tests regarding the fatherhood of two babies (both of which proved thankfully inconclusive), and spent nine weeks in a juvenile detention centre for stealing a car and driving some friends to Miami for spring break.

     But what perhaps distressed my parents more than any of the above was their second child’s innate indolence, his lack of drive and purpose in life.

     “We’re at our wit’s end,” said my mother, during one of her weekly telephone rants. “We simply don’t know what to do with Miles anymore. We can’t understand why he’s so different to you. Since the day you were born, you were such a bright, inquisitive child. Once you discovered your musical gift, there was no looking back. You dedicated every free moment to the piano. Even though Miles has been given the same opportunities and encouragement you had – we’ve paid for music lessons, sports classes, out of school initiatives – he just can’t seem to stick at anything for more than five minutes. He’s perfectly content to sit in his bedroom all day, play computer games, and smoke those funny cigarettes of his.”

      I didn’t really know what to say to reassure my parents, other than reel off standard cliches about the teenage years being difficult and it just being a phase Miles was going through. To be perfectly honest, there was far too much going on in my own life at the time for me to show much interest or genuine sympathy. Consequently, I never really, truly understood the depth of the problem.


If you like what you’ve read so far, you can read the full story on the Anxiety Press website.


And if you liked “Eatin’ Pussy”, why not check out my published works on Amazon.

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Monday 24 July 2023 / Leave a Comment

Neil Randall is delighted to announce that his new short story A Short Film About Dying has just been published by Middle Level Management Literary Journal. Described as Soyent Green for the Dignitas generation, the story, about an old man who has just come to the end of his useful working life, is set in a cold, uncaring, near-future society that, to all intents and purposes, is identical to the world we live in today. With retirement ages rising to point where our corpses will be expected to put in a solid eight-hour shift ad infinitum, and widespread uncertainty regarding the sustainability of pension funds, the expedient erasure of every citizen no longer able to work would be manna in heaven for the politicians and the money people.


Here’s the opening scene to whet your appetite:


They said there was nothing they could do for him. At eighty-five years old, R. had just completed his useful working life cycle and must leave his post with immediate effect. Legally, they could no longer let him continue with his administrative duties at the Ministry. 

     “But I’m in perfectly good health,” he had argued. “You need only look at the results of my last medical.”

     But the Terminations Officer, a prim, upright, immaculately dressed young woman with her hair scraped back into a neat bun, looked singularly unimpressed. 

     “Granted, your eyesight is exceptional for a functionary of your age, as are your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Heart rate is strong. You have had no significant health problems throughout your useful working life cycle. Nor is there any history of serious illness in your family. Functionaries ten or even twenty years your junior would be delighted to have results like yours. Unfortunately, we have restrictions in place to serve the wider populace.”

     “But I’m simply not in a financial position to retire.” 

     “You need some assistance?” Her nostrils twitched, as if she had caught the scent of something unpleasant. She tapped a few keys on her computer keyboard. “But from the looks of your employment history, you’ve only been with the Ministry for fourteen years. Not nearly long enough to be eligible for a pension. More to the point, your early records are incomplete. For instance, what were you doing between the years of 2018 and 2043?”

     “I dedicated my early years to the arts.”

     “The what?”

     “I didn’t go down a traditional career path. I travelled a lot, never staying in one place for too long.”

      “I’m not sure I quite understand. But with these gaping holes in your records and insufficient state contributions to receive even a small monthly stipend from the government, you’re in an unenviable position.”

      “But couldn’t you make an exception?”

     She shook her head. “Out of the question. As far as the Terminations Department is concerned, there really is nothing else I can do for you. You can no longer legally work in any capacity. Your final salary has been paid up in full and your records amended accordingly.

     “If you wish to apply for financial assistance, you’ll have to visit the Appeals Department. I doubt they’ll be able to help you, but they’ll be much better briefed than I am regarding your options.”

     “And where is that? In this building?”

     “Of course. Floor 201. You can take the elevator from just along the corridor.” She attempted to smile, but it quickly collapsed into an uncomfortable grimace. “Before you leave, would you care to rate our interaction today?”


     “Yes. On a scale of one to ten, how satisfied have you been with the service I provided?”

     “Service? I just came here to see where I stood in regards to keeping my job.”

      “Affirmative. And did you receive the correct and most up-to-date information?”

     “Yes, I suppose I did.”

     “Therefore, you would rate the interaction as a ten?”

     “A ten?”

     “Thank you so much for your participation in the survey. Your score of ten has been added to my Personal Achievement file. Have a nice day.”


If you like what you’ve read so far, you can read the story in its entirety on the Middle Level Management website.


And if you like the story, why not check out some of my other published work here.

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Friday 17 March 2023 / Leave a Comment


Neil Randall is delighted to announce that his new short story A Fancy Dress Party at a Russian Lunatic Asylum has just been published by Body Fluids literary journal.

      The story is about Svetlana, a local government official whose existence is turned upside down when her husband, colleagues, and a host of bit-part players in her life claim not to recognise her.

     Here are the opening pages of the story: 

A Fancy Dress Party at a Russian Lunatic Asylum

Every day there was a farmer’s market in the town square. If Svetlana saw a succulent cut of meat or a piece of fresh fish, she would call her husband to ask if he wanted it for his evening meal. Only today, when he answered the telephone, he claimed not to recognise her voice.

      “Please stop messing around, Mikhail. You and your practical jokes. Now, would you prefer the seabass or the beefsteak?”

      “Look, I really have no idea who you are. You accuse me of playing practical jokes, but you’re the crank. You’re the one who –”

       “Enough. I refuse to play along a moment longer. I will buy the fish and a bottle of Tsinandali. If you get the chance – I know you’re busy marking exam papers today – could you please cut some fresh fennel from the window box?”

        “What? How do you know such things? – my occupation, my current activities, my favourite wine? Who exactly are you? What is this all about?”

      “Mikhail, it’s me – your wife. I’m on my lunch break. I’ve called to see what you would like to eat this evening, something I’ve done countless times before.”

       “My wife? Don’t be absurd. I’m a bachelor. I live alone, and have done all my life.” He slammed the phone down.

      Svetlana didn’t know what to make of such an odd and protracted scene. Briefly, she toyed with the idea of calling straight back, or, alternatively, heading home to see if Mikhail was all right. But memory of his past antics, his practical jokes, not to mention a pressing workload, compelled her to return to the office instead, without buying anything for their evening meal. The way she saw it, Mikhail would only have himself to blame if all he had to eat tonight was bread and cheese. As she left the town square, she began to see the funny side of the situation, how he would very much be made to suffer for behaving like an idiot. 

      By the time she reached the office, she had almost convinced herself the incident hadn’t been as worrying as it seemed. During the post-examination period, Mikhail was under a lot of stress. Maybe this was his way of letting off steam.    

      “Excuse me, madam,” said the security guard stationed at the main reception desk. “All visitors must sign in.”

       Confused, Svetlana came to a stop and turned to face him. “But I work here. We spoke only this morning. It’s Pavel, isn’t it? We pass each other every day.”

      “I’m sorry. But I’ve never seen you before in my life. And I’ve been employed here for around five years now.”


If you like what you’ve read so far and would like to know how the story ends, you can read it in its entirely here.

And if you’re interested in my published work, why not check out my amazon page.

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Thursday 21 July 2022 / Leave a Comment


There’s not much you can do with 180 characters…or is there?

      One fine day, I came across a post on social media that went something along the lines of – Nostalgic for my first proper boyfriend in the 90s. We had no money and would buy second-hand answering machines from charity shops, get stoned, and listen to the old messages.

     Which made me not only feel nostalgic for those plasticky, crappy, tinny machines of yesteryear, but gave me a whole host of Lynchian, Blue Velvet style ideas for a story.

     A year or so later, I’m delighted to say that I not only wrote that story but that it has just been published by the good people at A Thin Slice of Anxiety magazine.


Here’s the opening scene:


We met at a house party. Wary as I was of the situation – teenage girl getting chatted up by a much older boy – I’d seen him around town before. I knew he had a bit of a reputation – trouble with the police, shoplifting, selling drugs – pretty much the holy trinity for anyone in their early twenties. Maybe that was the attraction.

       “You fancy a smoke?” he asked.

      “Yeah. All right. Why not?”

      We went and sat in an empty bedroom upstairs. After much trial and error, both in keeping the joint alight and trying to smoke it properly, I not only got stoned for the first time, but really enjoyed it. I just couldn’t stop laughing. But more than anything, it was the first time I’d ever really been alone with a boy like this. Course, I’d had snogs and stuff with lads round mates’ houses, fumbles in darkened rooms when their parents were away for the weekend. But I don’t think I’d ever been in what you could call intimate surroundings before. ’Cause, inevitably, I s’pose, we ended up kissing, sharing these soft tender smooches. And it was all so lovely and new to me, so different from having some sweaty, panting seventeen-year-old groping roughly at your tits or trying to force his hand in between your legs.

      “Hey,” he said, “you wanna do something tomorrow? Maybe meet up in town ’bout lunchtime. Hang out. You’re a top girl, Georgina. I really like your company.”

     And that’s how the whole thing started between me and Will Crabtree.


If you want to read more, the story can be read in its entirety on the ‘A Slice of Anxiety’ website. Click on this link:

And if you’re still hungry for more, why not check out my published work at amazon:

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Thursday 2 June 2022 / Leave a Comment


Often, the myths and legends that surround a movie are as interesting as the movie itself. Potential miscasting – Ryan O’Neil as Rocky Balboa, Christopher Walken as Han Solo – chaotic shoots running massively over-budget (Apocalypse Now), famous feuds (Bette Davis and Joan Crawford).

     What could’ve been, what never was, and what will never be.

      At the height of her fame, post 9 ½ Weeks, screen siren Kim Basinger agreed to play the titular role in a controversial film based on Philippe Caland’s story Boxing Helena. Whether she was badly advised, or whether she simply hadn’t studied the script in enough detail, Basinger pulled out of shooting the movie (as did, interestingly enough, Madonna). As a result, she was sued for such a huge amount of money by the production company, it all but bankrupted her.

      What was Basinger’s beef?

      Simply, that she would spend half of the film minus her arms and legs.

     For those not familiar with the storyline, Boxing Helena is a tale of dangerous obsession. A surgeon, played by Julian Sands, becomes so infatuated with Helena, a stunningly beautiful woman played (in the end) by Sherilyn Fenn – a love that is not reciprocated – that he removes her arms and legs so he can keep her all to himself.

     Although it sounds like a typically dark male fantasy based on feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem, and although the film was panned by the critics (and seen as pure Rotten Tomatoes award-winning fare), there was something about the premise that always fascinated me.

      Many years later (nearly 30 to be precise) an idea starting forming in my head after I revisited Boxing Helena during the lockdown period. I saw a link – tenuous, admittedly – between people being confined to their homes and the dreadful fate that awaited Sherilyn Fenn’s character in the film. I ran with the idea – a story about a man waking up one morning to find that both his arms and legs had been mysteriously removed, and no one being able to explain the why, the how, or the wherefore behind it.

     And I’m delighted to announce that the story, entitled Helplessness, has just been accepted for publication by the Fahmidan literary journal. 

To whet your appetite, here’s the opening page or two: 


During the height of the lockdown period, Nigel Randolph awoke into a terrible nightmare reality. Not only had both his arms and legs been removed, but he could no longer speak, only gurgle like an infant. At first, he thought he was indeed dreaming. Neither in pain nor particular discomfort, he had no memory of anything untoward happening. Moreover, when he examined himself, each point of amputation looked to be smooth and clean. There were no signs of redness, recent scarring, blood, no bandages for that matter.

      None of which made any sense.

      Ever since the restrictions came into force, Randolph had spent the vast majority of his time working on his latest screenplay. Progressively, he had lost all track of time. He had become so absorbed in his work, he found it hard to distinguish where one day started and another ended. As far as he could remember, he had written until the early hours of the morning and gone to bed as normal.

      Lifting his head, he looked over towards the desk by the bay window. As expected, he saw his laptop, a pile of manuscript pages, old print-outs from earlier drafts, his notebooks, a few empty wine glasses and coffee cups. Turning his head to the right, he managed to steal a glance into the adjoining kitchenette. Like his desk, it was in a state of semi-disarray. There were dirty plates piled up in the sink, empty beer and wine bottles on the work surfaces, alongside fast-food containers and a pile of old newspapers he had been meaning to throw away for weeks.         

      Wearied by his exertions, he let his head sink back down onto the pillow and then burst into floods of tears.

     It took quite some time for Randolph to calm himself down, to gather his thoughts and assess the true gravity of the situation. He lived alone, was unmarried, and didn’t have children. He kept himself to himself. He rarely saw other people or left his bedsit for any period of time. Not being able to go out or meet in large groups had been natural for him, an extension of his normal working routine. Nobody – not even his agent – would find it odd or out of place for him not to make any kind of contact for weeks on end. This scared him. He was completely helpless. If he didn’t manage to raise the alarm somehow, he faced a slow and horrible death. But how he would go about doing so, he had no idea. The block of flats was populated by a rough mix of drug dealers and misfits, migrant workers, prostitutes. Even if he manoeuvred himself off the bed, he would still have to crawl or roll some fifteen feet to the front door. And there was no guarantee that he would be able to generate much noise, or that any of his near-neighbours would take much notice if he did. 

If you like what you read so far, you can read the story in full on the Fahmidan website.

If you’d like to find out more about my published work, why not visit my amazon page.

Read more »


Sunday 11 July 2021 / Leave a Comment


Neil Randall is delighted to announce that his short story The Factory has been accepted for publication by the good people at Ex-Pat Press. The story is very much based on Neil’s experiences working in a food factory during his younger days. Narrated from the point of view of the factory itself – a dark, omniscient presence overseeing everything that happens on each and every shift – it tells the story of the downtrodden and underappreciated workers and the mind-numbing, backbreaking jobs they have to perform each day.

      Here’s the opening scene, to give you a flavour of the story:


The whistle blows. Workers from the late-shift trudge out of the main building. All have that beaten weary defeated look about ’em – ten till six soon takes its toll, fucks up the body clock, leaves ’em all deadbeat and disorientated, stumbling from one night shift to the next, an empty, void-like existence…just how we like it.

      The Factory is watching.

      The six till two brigade shuffles out of the subsidised canteen, a poky little prefab that serves swampy tea and bacon sandwiches full of gristle. Some take a few final drags on cheap cigarettes; others chat inconsequentially amongst ’emselves while putting on hairnets and rubber gloves. Dawdling. Tick-tock. Work-shy bastards who’d do anything to delay the inevitable, to steal a few seconds, to diddle us out of our precious man hours. I never take my eyes off’a ’em. You better believe it. The Factory is watching, my friend, the Factory is watching.

      We opened here way back in eighty-nine, one of those government schemes, a partnership between local farmers and a big frozen food conglomerate from Scandinavia. Located in the rural heartlands, we cart fresh produce straight from the surrounding fields – fruit and veg – wash, chop, freeze, package, and box the goods on site. Ten thousand square feet of pure factory floor crammed with the latest cutting-edge technology, a maze of mechanical conveyor belts that rumble and judder around the clock. Steam hisses. Big industrial vats bubble away, cauldron-like. Giant extractor fans grunt and whir. Fork-lift trucks career around the loading-bay – Warning, vehicle reversing, warning, vehicle reversing – music to my ears. Production, production, production.

      We employ over three hundred people. In the main, hopeless cases, drop-outs, social misfits, saddos who never went to school very much, who only got the most rudimentary of educations, who can barely read or write or recite their times table. We get ’em all here – the dregs. Half are bloody immigrant workers who can’t speak proper English, the other half are so docile you have to prod ’em with a stick from time to time, just to make sure they’re still breathing. People so useless, they ain’t got a chance of being employed anywhere else.


If you want to read the story in its entirety, head over to the Ex-Pat website:


If you like what you’ve read, why not visit my amazon page to check out my published work:

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Friday 12 February 2021 / Leave a Comment


Neil Randall is delighted to announce that his new short story A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A DEATH has been accepted for publication by UK literary magazine Dissonance. The story has a special place in Neil’s heart as it was the first piece he wrote following a near-death experience which saw him undergo three life-saving operations. In fact, it was when trying to capture this brush with mortality that he stumbled upon what would become the inspiration for the story itself: a social media post about Danny DeVito cutting hair in a funeral parlour before he became famous.

Pint-sized comedy legend anecdotal gold aside, Neil felt this was an incredible setting for a story. Thus, A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A DEATH was born – a story, as the title suggests, about life and, more specifically, death.

Fun Fact: When Neil told friends about this story, he repeatedly and mistakenly (and probably in a highly Freudian sense) told them that Danny DeVito used to cut hair in an abattoir rather than a funeral parlour. Which, on reflection, may well have made for an even better story, if it would pose some serious questions as to the how and why. But being a non-meat-eater, Neil would feel seriously compromised, morally, in writing a story about a cow, for example, getting a haircut prior to being murdered for its flesh. 

Neil is sincerely grateful to Katrine and the team at Dissonance Magazine for publishing the story and giving it a good home. To whet your appetites, here’s the opening scene: 

I got the job at Shepherdson’s completely by chance, answering an ad in a local newspaper: Vacancy for Funeral Parlour Assistant, Duties Varied, Good Rates of Pay. I rang the telephone number provided and spoke to Mr Shepherdson Senior, the then sprightly, seventy-eight-year-old undertaker himself. ‘Stop by this afternoon,’ he said, after listening to a rundown of my qualifications and experience. ‘You sound like the ideal candidate’.

      Later that day, after the briefest of interviews, the kindly old man introduced me to the rest of the team – the chauffeurs, casket bearers, manageress Valerie Morecambe, not to mention his son and proposed successor Rupert. Warm and friendly, they made me feel as if I really belonged there, as if the job was already mine.

      “Welcome on-board, Clarence,” said Mr Shepherdson Senior, confirming as much, with a firm handshake. “To begin with, we’ll have you working under Mrs Morecambe. She attends to a whole host of duties, from answering the telephone to washing and dressing the corpses prior to the funeral services themselves. There’s a lot to take in, but if you keep your head down, son, you’ve got a job here for life.” 

You can read the story in full on Dissonance magazine’s official website:

 If you like what you read, why not check out Neil’s latest published novels THE NINE LIVES OF JACOB FALLADA and BESTIAL BURDENS on his amazon page:


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Friday 2 October 2020 / Leave a Comment

 Neil Randall is delighted to announce that his new (long) short story Another Kind of Kindness has been published by literary journal The Write Launch. In the story, a daughter recalls her often strained relationship with her father, a world-famous novelist. A distant figure throughout her childhood, he nevertheless tries to instil in her the purest of human qualities – kindness, compassion, empathy. Only as she gets older, she realises that he himself is singularly incapable of displaying the same qualities towards other people, so obsessed is he with his literary work.

      In terms of inspiration, revisiting David Lynch’s The Elephant Man during the COVID-19 lockdown period planted the seeds for this story. I hadn’t seen the film for many years and was struck, more than anything, by the contrast between the kindness and compassion some characters display towards John Merrick and the utmost cruelty and nastiness of others. For I felt it represented what is best and worst about human beings in general.

      Here’s the opening scene from the story: 

It was no secret that I hadn’t seen or spoken to my father for many years prior to his passing. A fact which fascinated a great number of people – literary aficionados, academics, biographers and journalists. You don’t achieve that level of professional success without your personal life coming under intense scrutiny. In that respect, I cannot even begin to recount the number of interviews I have declined over the last decade. But my desire to tell my story now has nothing to do with appeasement, or of trying to set the record straight. Nor will it be sensationalised nonsense penned purely for financial gain. I want to write about my father to try and understand our complex relationship, and work out exactly how I feel about him today.

      In my early years, father was a very distant presence in my life. Naturally, he spent a lot of time locked away in his study. Each evening, I distinctly remember him coming into my bedroom to kiss me goodnight. Most vividly of all, I recall his subtle pinewood cologne mixed with pungent cigarette smoke, the bristly feel of his stubble on my cheek, and the soft, whispered words he invariably spoke: ‘Sweet dreams, my child’.

      To say the least, he kept very peculiar hours. It wasn’t uncommon for me to get up in the morning and find him sprawled out unconscious in an armchair, or sitting outside by the swimming pool, bare top, dishevelled, in only his underwear, drinking wine or whisky at what constituted dawn or a little thereafter. In those moments, he could be incredibly tender and affectionate. He would beckon me over, pick me up and perch me on his knee. Again, a collection of very adult smells assailed my senses – the strong liquor and distinctive Turkish tobacco, the almost sweetish smell of his sweat, the earthy scent of hair that had gone unwashed for many days. None of which was unpleasant, I must stress, but things which, even now, evoke memories of those stolen moments we shared before the rest of the household woke up. ‘You see the way the breeze stirs the surface of the water?’ he said to me once. ‘You see that slight rippling effect, like crumpled sheets upon a love-spent bed? You see how beautiful it is, how a breath of wind, a mere caress, can create such a wonderful, calming vision? That, in so many ways, is the best that we can hope of each other. If, in some small, infinitesimal manner, we can produce even the most fleeting moment of beauty in this life, something which touches and moves another person, we will have ascended to the level of the gods’.


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Friday 10 April 2020 / 1 comment

Case Study on Devotional Delusion in the Nuclear Family Context, Deconstructed, in Third Person Narrative Form
Benoit had been married to Juliette for thirty-seven years. Theirs had been a very conventional relationship. Meeting in their mid-twenties, both had been single for some time, having had eerily similar experiences with former partners, whom both would always consider to be the love of their lives. Coming from quasi-religious, solid middle-class backgrounds, both Benoit and Juliette were painfully aware of their social responsibilities; they knew that people got married, set up home, and started a family in their mid-twenties. For that reason alone, they were almost ridiculously keen to adhere to the norm, the structure/stricture of their class. Crucially (although that’s probably an inaccurate way of describing the dynamic of their relationship, for they could quite easily have settled down with literally anyone, as the need to settle down itself far outweighed potential suitability of any eventual partner), they got on well with each other, had similar temperaments – easy-going, undemanding – neither had any intellectual or artistic pretentions, both liked material comforts, they only read books featured on the bestseller lists, they only saw the most commercial and popular of films, they sought only non-challenging, non-threatening cultural forms, they liked the idea of two weeks on the beach in the summer, a fine, reliable automobile.
     A qualified chartered surveyor, Benoit had a promising career in local government – high on the public sector pay scale, with good holidays and a secure pension. Also in local government (that was, in fact, how the couple met, through mutual friends employed in respective departments) Juliette had a low-ranking but nonetheless fulfilling position at the local library, an administrative post, updating and modernizing ways in which disabled, housebound citizens could have access to everything a modern library could offer (one of her most worthy initiatives was extending mobile library routes to more rural areas).
      Nine months after meeting, they married. Nine months later, Juliette gave birth to their first child, Nicholas Junior. Due to Nicholas’ relatively high salary, Juliette was always going to give up her job to bring up a family. This was unstated, expressly – they never actually sat down, or lay in bed at night to come to that decision – it was just the ‘done thing’ for people of their background and income.
      The next five years saw two new editions to the household – another boy, Jean-Paul and lastly, the little girl they had both hoped for, the angelic Binki (well, Belinda, but the baby name of Binki stuck with their daughter for the rest of her life).
     With the family circle now complete, husband and wife devoted themselves to the upbringing of their children. They made sure that they had every opportunity possible – there were music lessons (Nicholas Junior becoming very adept at piano, Jean-Paul, always the more outgoing of the three children, the guitar, and Binki, the violin, of which she would go on to enjoy a spectacular career, becoming a virtuoso with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra), sports, amateur dramatics, they travelled extensively as a family, in the main, educational/historical trips: Egypt to see the pyramids, Rome, the Coliseum, diving at the Great Barrier Reef, they even spent four weeks riding the Trans-Siberian Express when the children were in their teenage years.
     With such a rich, wholesome and fulfilling upbringing, each child went on to be an incredible success. University-educated, Nicholas Junior became a veterinarian with his own practice, Jean-Paul a music teacher (his rebellious streak had lasted up until around his seventeenth birthday, when he fell madly in love with a beautiful trainee teacher, a few years older, whom he married at twenty-one), and, as aforementioned, Binki went on to be one of the most famous violinists in the world, a rare and universally admired virtuoso.
     It gave Nicholas and Juliette great pride to see their progeny turn into such well-rounded individuals, worthy, intelligent human beings who brought such joy to the lives of other people. In particular, both parents remembered the time Binki performed an incredible violin solo at the conservatoire (where she eventually graduated with distinction) that reduced them both to tears. And while their marriage may not have been particularly passionate or romantic, they shared the most wonderfully tender and intimate moment that evening, when Nicholas was almost choked with emotion, and Juliette reached out in the darkened auditorium, surrounded by dozens of other beaming parents, and squeezed his hand tightly, a moment which perhaps made up for all those cold, perfunctory nighttime kisses, the premature dwindling of their lovemaking following Binki’s birth, lovemaking that could only ever have been classed as functional, pedestrian, purely procreational, at best.
     But they had been good parents – something of which they were both righty proud.
     On entering his sixth decade, with the children having left home many years ago, there was talk of Nicholas applying for early retirement. Head of his department, he’d been such a valued, proficient member of staff, his colleagues tried to talk him out of it, they couldn’t see how the department could continue to flourish without his guidance and leadership. But, in truth, his mind was already made up. Of late, he and Juliette had spoken about selling up the family home and moving to warmer climes, about a quiet life on the coast, of cultivating a beautiful garden, of taking up painting, perhaps, buying a small boat and learning how to sail, of a tranquil, relaxed way of life, about really enjoying the autumn of their years. Money wasn’t an issue. Both sets of parents had died, quite close together, leaving them very well-provided-for indeed.
      On his last day at the office, his colleagues threw Nicholas a party. Nothing special – a big cake and a few bottles of good champagne – but their well-wishes were heartfelt and genuine. Over the years, Nicholas had been a thoroughly modern and approachable team leader, a friend more than a superior. For that, his team both liked and respected him.
      When he got home that evening, a little lightheaded from the champagne, he found the house unusually quiet. Confused (in fact, at the back of his mind, he wondered if Juliette hadn’t arranged another surprise party), he called out her name and walked through to the back of the house, to her almost exclusive province: the luxury farmhouse-style kitchen where they spent the vast majority of their time in the evenings and at weekends.
     But when he entered the room, all he found was Juliette’s laptop open on the kitchen table with a post-it-note attached to the screen: Play Me.
     Not really knowing what all of this meant, Nicholas nonetheless sat down, tugged the post-it-note free of the screen, manoeuvered the cursor over the video player already cued up and pressed play.
    Initially, he had difficulty making out what he was now watching, even if the quality of the images was high. Too many memories invaded his consciousness for him to concentrate solely on what was taking place. For this footage had clearly been shot at their first home, the modest apartment where they had embarked upon married life. Specifically, the bedroom of that particular abode – Nicholas recognised the pretty patterned sheets and a reproduction Matisse that hung above the bed itself. Into shot came Juliette, completely naked, close behind her a man, also naked, whom Nicholas had never seen before. Immediately, he was struck by his wife’s youthful beauty, her full rounded breasts, flat stomach, shapely hips and long legs, far more than the fact that she was now kneeling down and performing the kind of wanton, wild fellatio on this stranger that she had never bestowed on her husband during almost forty years of marriage.
     But it was just the beginning.
    No sooner had this stranger withdrawn his penis from Juliette’s mouth and ejaculated over her breasts than a new segment of footage started up. This time in the front room of the same apartment, before a roaring fire, footage of Juliette engaged in frantic intercourse with two big, broad-chested men with black leather masks covering their faces. Again, the images soon faded out to be replaced by different footage: Juliette engaged in an orgy at their holiday home out by the coast, a property they bought shortly after Binki was born. And if that was the case, then it must’ve been the time they spent a fortnight there about twenty-five years ago. It must’ve been the time Juliette complained of a devastating migraine and asked Nicholas to take the children out for the whole day to give her some much-needed respite – there was literally no other possibility, no other window of opportunity. Whilst Nicholas thought his wife was lying in a darkened room with a cold flannel over her forehead, she was, in fact, being penetrated in every orifice by any number of muscular, well-hung men, young studs with rampant sexual desires and incredible stamina.
    It went and on, the video, like a compendium of depravity, a video diary charting Juliette’s wild sexual antics (some of which featured long-standing colleagues from the office, men Nicholas had regularly socialised with out of office hours, men he played golf with, men he considered friends, men who’d attended his leaving party earlier that day). Only as the years progressed, her proclivities, those she’d clearly recorded for posterity, to present to Nicholas in the cruellest and most calculated manner imaginable, darkened, became more violent and perverted. There was S&M, bondage, rape fantasies, what looked like brutal beatings at the hands of sadistic thugs in quite ridiculously clichéd leather outfits. In one particular scene, Juliette demanded that her ‘master’ (well, that’s what she called her tormentor in the video) strike her repeatedly across the face. Once again, Nicholas ran the likely timelines through his head. Yes, he thought to himself, I remember that bruising on her face; she told me she’d walked into wardrobe door when she was dusting.
     To his disgust (and he really did feel close to vomiting now), the next substantial piece of footage showed Juliette performing oral sex on a German shepherd dog.
    It was too much; he hit the stop button, banishing those truly awful images from the screen.
    For the whole duration of their marriage, Juliette had been indulging her crudest sexual fantasies to the full. Whilst the children were at school or college or later, away at university, whilst Nicholas himself was at work, out on site, attending meetings or conferences, his wife had been committing the most sinful and imaginative of infidelities. Whereas before he had always looked upon her as a woman of impeachable moral character, a respectable, modest, unassuming mother and wife, she was, in fact, nothing more than the most reprehensible of filthy whores.
     And Nicholas didn’t know, truthfully, at the core of his very being, if he was angry at her for having conducted this secret life, or the fact that he’d just accepted a staid, boring sexual non-existence for himself, that he’d let his natural libido dim to a dying ember so early, that he thought his wife wasn’t interested in sex, that she was far more concerned with bringing up her children, that a family life was more than enough to sustain her, that she was possessed of a natural frigidity derived from a stuffy background.
      And he wondered, if he’d talked to her about this, frankly, in a mature and adult manner, if it would have made any difference to their lives, if he’d have been able to enjoy a fulfilling, even exciting sexual life with Juliette, if he could have been the star of one of those video clips, giving and receiving such intense sexual pleasure.
     And he couldn’t help but think back to a film he’d seen many years ago, a film which had made a deep impression on him – Cinema Paradiso. Only Juliette’s tawdry compilation didn’t feature the beauty of a lost or stolen kiss, but the schizoid depravities of a lost, lonely woman to whom the finer feelings in life meant absolutely nothing. And Nicholas realised, without having to go upstairs to the bedroom to confirm as much, to confirm that all of Juliette’s possessions were gone, that he would never, ever see her again.

Therapist Shaun Fox is the protagonist in Neil Randall's latest novel Bestial Burdens (Cephalopress). To order you copy of the book, click on the link below:

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