I recently read No Exit by Dan Holloway, a dark novella. There are a lot of books that feature the dreaming spires of Oxford, but this one offers a very dark and different viewpoint.
Alice is drawn into Petrichor, a group of Parkour enthusiasts who portray decay as beauty, and death as just another choice. When her friend Cassie is bullied into suicide, Alice makes a choice that will change her life. The writing is poetic in places, shocking in others, and the length is just right for a short, twisted tale. Fans of Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects, and my own Desecration, will enjoy.
Here's an interview with Dan Holloway, based on my questions from the book.
So many people only see the tourist side of Oxford, tell us about some of the darker sides that you perceive, places that inspire darkness in your writing?
There are so many sides to Oxford. I started out as a student, and that’s the world I wrote about in The Company of Fellows. But even then I was more interested in the underbelly of ego and hidden perversions and desires that I sensed the tips of in my student days.
Since then I’ve come to know Oxford best through its rich cultural life, in particular the spoken word scene, which has very little to do with tourist Oxford. Oxford is home to Hammer and Tongue, one of the UK’s oldest poetry slams that’s been going for over a decade, and the best bookshop I’ve ever been in, The Albion Beatnik. These are worlds of political activism, from LGBT rights and Reclaim the Night through incredible projects with the homeless community like the Old Fire Station’s Crisis Skylight Café to guerrilla campaigns against climate change. It’s a world where the people you meet are as likely to live on a boat as in a cloister.
It’s not necessarily a dark world – though as recent news stories have shown, Oxford has that. But it is a world the tourists don’t see – and most of all it’s a world of passion and creativity that’s raw, flawed, and brilliant – everything tourist Oxford isn’t.
I love Petrichor and the theme of the beauty of decay – what drew you to that?
Oh that’s such a hard question and I need to tread so carefully because the answers come from the world around me as I grew up, and I don’t actually want to imply that Stroud is a rotting carcass of a town…
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