“It was wildfire. There in the nodding heads, the knowing looks, the drone of mouths. Bees buzzing in a byke were not so loud. Trees howling at the wind made less sound. The village burned. Tongues licked the flames, each word a breath blown on the embers to keep it burning.”
Wild Fire is Janet Paisley's first major collection of short stories and includes several prize winners. The stories are based around one fictional village in central Scotland, their sharp humour and sometimes disturbing psychology providing a welcome antidote to the 'kailyard' approach of smalltown writing.
Reading Wild Fire is an experience akin to watching a particularly powerful multi-stranded drama-documentary. You won't be able to put it down, and neither will you be able to sleep peacefully afterwards… Spectrum — Amanda Fergusson
… speckles of gold revealed in writing that frequently glints with a genuine talent for casting spells, evoking mood and exploding moments into worlds. The collection is crammed with these blades of insight, sharp, economical and perjink. All this and readability too… Scotland on Sunday — Tom Adair
I’m reading Wild Fire at the same time as Voices from the Plains by Gianni Celati ‘one of the great Italian storytellers’; part of his blurb says: ‘anyone who reads this book will feel an electric charge’. Well, I get more volts from Janet Paisley who stands closer to her people, and expect her sales to go like wildfire… West Coast Magazine - John Cunningham
<box 80% round prose | Book Extract - Yoseph>
…The little girl stood solidly beside her grandmother. She was wearing a print dress with a Spanish frill.
“I made it,” Maisie boasted. “Just like one I made for her mum. They'd have them all in jeans these days but I think a wee girl doesn't look like a wee girl unless she's in a frock.”
We were outside the Pole's. Three or four of us, Maisie and me on our way in and the others on their way out. Certainly, it was weather for a dress. Sharp sunshine glinted off the shop windows, on the silk ribbons in Lucy's hair. Yoseph came out with the window pole to pull the shade down a bit. His shop has changed some in the past forty years, kept up to date with pre-packaged, processed and frozen food. But Yoseph hasn't changed. His bald head shone. He was middle-aged when he came to the village and he's middle-aged now.
“Aye, you're not keeping the sun out when we get so little of it, Yoseph,” Maisie said.
He had the pole hooked in the eyelet of the shade, easing it down, when he glanced over his shoulder. His expression changed as he turned. The response never emerged from his opening mouth. He stared. He let the pole drop away from him towards the window and hang there, hooked in the eyelet, swinging. His whole solid body wavered.
“Anna!” He said. Then he moved. In one flowing shift he was on his knees in front of little Lucy, his arms round her, the child vanishing into the bulk of his arms and chest. “Anna, he cried. “Anna, Anna!”
The girl had been jerked from her grandmother's grasp and Maisie, like the rest of us, stood, inert and unable to assimilate anything. Then she recovered her animation, slapping at Yoseph's head, pulling at his shoulders.
“You let her go,” she screamed. “You get your dirty hands off that wean.” She kept it up, a stream of blows and obscenities as Yoseph, startled, first tried to protect the child and then, perplexed, loosened his grip and had Lucy torn free of him by her demented granny.
I'll get the policeto you,” Maisie screeched, gripping Lucy's hand and dragging the bemused child over the road and away towards home. “You men are all the same. Touch my grandwean, would you. I'll have the police on you.”
I turned towards Yoseph, still on his knees with his empty arms bent, still open and his eyes full of puzzlement and something that might have been pain. I moved forward, embarrassed at being there, wanting to put out my hand, to help him up but he stumbled to his feet and turned up the shop step without seeing me. Behind me the others shuffled away. I followed Yoseph up the step but he pushed the door between us.
“Shop shut,” he mumbled. “Shop shut.” The door closed and I turned away, cold in the sunshine, ashamed and out of place in my village. The window pole still swung, tapping gently on the glass. </box>