My neo #noir tale Capital Story is out now in #oblivion_noir Retreats from Oblivion
I've written a bunch of so-called ‘Polish stories, quite a few of which have been published. Maybe my novel Laikonik Express is the best of them - it's certainly the longest. What authority do I have to write so-called Polish stories? Well, I'm a writer, and that's all the authority I need, which sounds a bit arrogant, but that's what writers do.
I lived in Poland in 1993, in Gliwice, and from 1994-1996 in Warsaw. That doesn't give me any more authority to write about Poland, though. As with any writer of fiction, I just have to tell my tales and see if people like them. When I was in Warsaw the English-language paper The Warsaw Voice started publishing a series of short stories written by an English guy living somewhere in Poland – he went under the name John Keeneye, and his stories were set in a small village somewhere. I didn’t think they were very good, seemed to peter out just as they'd got going. I also thought the writer was kind of mocking the people among whom he lived; for example, one of these tales featured an old woman who had a toothache, and the punchline was that she'd tied a piece of string to her bad tooth, tied the other end to the door handle and shut the door to pull it out - a thing that I thought only happened in English comics in the 1960s. The stories didn't run for long. Anyway, this is turning into a rambling tale in itself: in short, I thought I could do better.
I loved living in Poland, and got to like Polish people very much, and still do. I like their humour and their take on life in general. I also think Polish history is fascinating, even though it's dreadful, most of it. It's a great-looking place, too - even when it's crumbling away, and maybe especially when it's crumbling away - full of a strange atmosphere I've never succeeded in describing (though I think I've given it a fair crack in Laikonik Express and in my second-longest publication The Exploding Elephant), full of an energy I've barely been able to grasp.
Capital Story was the first of my Polish tales to see the light of day. I've always been fascinated with conmen and con tricks, so am a big fan of David Mamet. I love the elaborate lengths con artists (and the good ones are definitely artists - accomplished actors and players of roles) will go to. I never heard of anybody I knew being conned into the buying of drinks and lunch. I once got warned by one of my adult students not to go to certain areas of Warsaw, because the local villains' practice was to run up huge bar bills, disappear for a second while the bar owner handed them to any tourist foolish enough to wander in, then come back to enforce the paying of the bill, sworn witnesses that the tourist had wolfed down the lot. I didn't (and still don't) believe a word of it, but thought it'd make a good story; I hope it has.