C.A.R. Hills was one of 32 writers who were published in
PEN New Fiction 2 back in 1987. I was too, and getting a single story published was enough to keep me writing through ten more years of rejection slips.

PEN PALS is a book about what has happened to those 32 individuals over the three decades from 1987 to 2017. The above-mentioned Charles was the fellow PEN pal who gave me most help in piecing things together, thanks to his letters from Brixton Prison. Others were helpful too, each in their own way. For instance, Ian Rankin introduced me to the wisdom of including a hangman motif as part of an author's official book signature:


But if Ian Rankin and C.A.R. Hills are touchstones for astonishing success and ostensible failure, respectively, there are many varieties of experience as a writer, and this book investigates a fair number of them.

I let Saint Charles be my guide in writing this book, let him be yours in reading it. Gentle and true, a bit unbalanced - what with his incarceration and all - and tough on fellow PEN pal Peter Parker; but consistently - and profoundly - illuminating!

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The halo or the noose - you choose! Or consider both fates simultaneously.

PEN PALS: What Happens to Writers can be read here.