Round 1, between Heartman and Colinthology, may be the most Bristolian of all because it is full of the paradoxes that make this city what it is. From spring to nearly winter there is a festival every weekend and one of the biggest celebrations took place yesterday at the very heart of St Paul’s and the setting of Wright’s Heartman.
Neither M.P. Wright nor Colin Harvey were born in Bristol and it is fitting that immigration and bringing home to a strange place fits in well with both our works.
Joseph Ellington, the main character in Heartman is from Barbados and it is the African Caribbean culture that all of the city was celebrating yesterday at St. Paul’s carnival whose theme was ’Home – Inna We Yard.’
‘Home’ means different things to different people but a true sense of home will encompass a feeling of one being at peace. African Proverb ‘When you are at home, your troubles can never defeat you’ Cape Coast, Ghana.
Heartman’s Ellington is an ex-cop forced to flee Barbados in tragedy. He finds himself in Bristol, 1965, unemployed in his family’s community in Bristol’s St. Paul and forced to take on a private investigation by a Jamaican councillor.
In pursuit of the truth he, and we, come across murder, drugs, racism and the community spirit and rich culture of the African Caribbean families that live in St Paul’s. What starts off as Ellington trying to make some money ends up with a race to possibly save the life of a vulnerable young woman.
Heartman is a story steeped in Bristolian settings, mannerisms and cultural outlets. There is a sense that it couldn’t have taken place anywhere else. From pubs in Montpelier, the city centre and St Paul’s, to lunch at the very white cafe at John Lewis in Broadmead, this is a work so well written and researched that it could be a major piece of evidence in the case for time travel.
Colinthology, on the other hand, is a collection of short stories published by Wizard’s Tower Press as a tribute to science fiction writer and avid Bristolian, Colin Harvey. Each story is preceded by a personal tribute to Harvey who passed away in 2011.
This moving publication is a symbol of one of the most Bristolian attributes of which I know, that sense of a community created as a second family in a bigger city. From Clifton to Stokes Croft, Bristol’s suburbs are so well-established that they seem little cities all of their own.
In the same sense, the stories in Colinthology range from a classic tale such as Nick Walters’ The Man Down The Road, so well structured and written that it could be found adapted as an episode from The Twilight Zone to Graham Raven’s Biz Be Biz, the opening story that has a bit too much detail of the new world it creates and loses sight of the actual plot.
Regardless of the quality of the stories, and some such as K.J. Jewell’s Newfangled are exceptional, Colinthology is worth reading because I don’t think you can understand the space fictional Bristol inhabits without the science fiction and fantasy component so aptly edited by Joanne Hall and Roz Clarke. It is this very community that convinced me I couldn’t run a book tournament without including short stories and so this is more a Bristol Book tournament than a novel one.
Some works in Colinthology are quite Bristolian in place settings and dialogue but here and there other parts fail – the length is too much for the sparse plot or the action could have taken place anywhere. One component that is common between both Heartman and Colinthology is the emphasis on pubs, ale and making the strange familiar.
Wright and Ellington are both fans of Dragon Stout chased by rum whereas Harvey was well known for his love of ales and many of the stories and tributes take place in pubs or the writers include a mention of the prized liquid where they can. So from the King William off King Street to the Garter and Star in St Paul’s, this round was lovingly Bristolian but in the end there was only one choice.
Heartman by M.P. Wright, published with great timing on July 1st by Black & White Publishing, is the winner of Round 1.
Many thanks to Wright’s publishers and to Wizard’s Tower Press who helped kick off our first week. Now here is a treat to help you decide whether you want to read our winner. [see the video trailer below]
All proceeds from the sale of Colinthology go to the charity Above and Beyond which helps improve patient care in Bristol’s hospitals.