Well, yes – I am *still* reading indies, albeit on my tablet!!! But the trouble with e-reading is a) I struggle with it and b) I often forget what I have lurking digitally. However, I can manage it in short bursts, and am always keen to make the effort when it’s those unnerving little chapbooks from Nightjar Press. I’ve read and loved several of them, and when I noticed they were mentioning forthcoming titles on Twitter, I recalled that I still had some unread! So time to dig out another pair of these deliciously unsettling stories (and also make sure I read them in daylight…)

The Dissolving Man by Douglas Thompson

The first of this pair of stories is set in the harsh landscape of Glasgow, and narrated by a man who is himself somewhat elusive. He sets out to tell the tale, over the years, of the Dissolving Man, a character who appears and disappears and somehow does not seem to exist despite his sometimes solid appearance. The narrator is a member of the police force, and witness to the corruption that has taken place over the decades; and being one of the men in blue in Glasgow is not easy for anyone…

If I had to try to answer now, then I’d say the Dissolving Man was smoke from industrial chimneys, chill fog from river and canals, or dry ice at times, liquid nitrogen, escaping from university science labs, or the acrid stage fog of bands in clapped-out venues. He was detuned radios and televisions on the blink. He was liminal, marginal, always there in peripheral vision, just outside the frame.

So the Dissolving Man can never be tracked down, never defined, slipping in and out of derelict locations, or gentrified areas, ghost-like but sometimes more tangible. Does he exist? Is the narrator imagining things? Does he have any connection with the Dissolving Man? Why has he allowed this obsession to take over his life? Ah well – I’ve leave you to make up your own mind about that one!

Author Douglas Thompson hails from Glasgow and has published widely since 2009 in the form of fiction and poetry; his work has been described as weird, mainstram, historical, science fiction and surreal – so definitely fascinating and worth exploring!

Medlar by Joanne Done

The second of these Nightjars is also set in the north, although not as far up as Scotland. Instead, ‘Medlar’ draws on life during the period of the Yorkshire Ripper and how it felt as a young girl growing up in that time and place. The narrator and her friend are warned to stay inside, even though ‘he didn’t go after little girls’. They don’t seem to have a clear understanding of the threat, instead trying to deal with the changes going on inside them as they grow, and understanding their feelings for each other.

Kissing proved to be more complicated than it looked and not simply a matter of pressing our lips together like JR and Kristin did on ‘Dallas’. You didn’t feel anything other than embarrassed, I could tell, and our teeth bumped together in a way that neither of us enjoyed. I tried opening my mouth and attempting small biting motions – you were edible, tasting of cheese Quavers and dandelion and burdock – but you kept yours tightly closed.

And it’s perhaps significant that with the ever-present threat, the two girls choose each other over boyfriends. All the men in this brief and chilling story can be seen as potential threats, from the man on the allotment with his chickens to grandads or uncles who might have known ‘Peter’. Even when the peril has gone, the girls have fallen out and moved away and the narrator is seeing boys, there’s still the sense of men as enemies.

‘Medlar’ is an unsettling read, particularly as it draws on real events that are still recent memories, and also points to feelings that women often have; there have always been threats on the streets, as any woman walking home along at night is aware, and at times like that it’s hard not to see every man as a possible assailant. But this story takes in more than that, exploring the feelings young girls can have for each other during adolescence and whether those feelings stay with them or whether they reject them as the grow and go along a more traditional path. A fascinating, if unnerving, story and another interesting chapbook from Nightjar!

Joanne Done hails from Chester, and as well as writing also teaches, Her work has appeared widely in journals, magazines, and in the Guardian, and she has completed her first novel – on the strength of this story, that will definitely be worth exploring!


I must say that I do love these Nightjar pamphlets; I’ve read a good number now, and apart from the consistent fact that they’re always unsetting, playing with your perceptions of what’s around you, they’re wonderfully varied and featured a really talented range of authors. If you like your chills subtle and not visceral, I’d highly recommend them – but as I suggested above, you might well prefer to read them in daylight… ;D