Into Book Reviews: HWFG by Chris McQueer

Book: HWFG
Author: Chris McQueer
Publisher: 404Ink
Release: November 2018

I had never heard of Chris McQueer until he appeared on the excellent ACSOM podcast, where he read stuff from his first collection of short stories, Hings and chatted about Celtic. I then noticed him pop up on my twitter timeline and saw him in the flesh at the recent Into Creative event, #TheGlasgowEcho, where he read from Hings and his new short story collection HWFG. It was a funny reading, which can be demonstrated by the amount of serious belly laughs heard on some clips from the night.

Holy Willies Fear God.
HWFG contains 18 short stories varying in length from a couple of pages, to more substantial 30-40 pages. McQueer writes in the vernacular, varying it from Scots-light, to Scots-heavy depending on the character narrating and the context they are in. (Something we all do in real life). It can take a bit of time to adjust to it. The only character that thinks in ‘proper English’ is a super intelligent moth which attempts to take over a human body by burrowing into its mind. It’s a bit like a cross between the Ceti Eel (a big Eariwig) from Star Trek and the Numbskulls from Dundee comic The Beano.

Hi Wilma, Fancy Golf?
Some of the stories exist in our universe, our surreal Scotland. Take Big Angie Goes to Craig Tara, where the eponymous Angie takes on a lecherous thieving karaoke singer. Or where Sammy Gets a Job, then Sammy takes umbrage at the toilet facilities there. Even the finale Leathered is rooted in our reality, albeit one where a Scottish prison guard gets to try and leather a world leader at the Hydro.

Hur Wattie’s Fulla Gear.
Other stores are very much delving in to alternative reality of sci-fi, suspense and horror, in similar fashion to Black Mirror or Tales of the Unexpected. Or going further back, work from HP Lovecraft, Franz Kafka, Phillip K Dick and Edgar Allen Poe. Hawns, for example, comes straight from this tradition, while The Biggest Riddy, a future game show based on embarrassing memories, was not only funny but could also be developed further into a version of a post-Brexit apocalyptic Scotland.

Whatever the themes and context for each story, the Scottish vernacular and McQueer’s wit and humour shine through. All the characters are drawn from those McQueer sees around him, whether they are taking a trip or taking a trip to the bottom of the ocean. Even the slightly weaker entries, such as Afterlife and The Deep retain these characteristics and sit well alongside the other contributions with the characters, humour, and language pulling everything together.

 

Had One, Finished Gran!
McQueer’s Moth tells us about how moths want to burrow into our brains and take us over. If McQueer has been taken over by a super moth then it was a quite a funny and talented moth! It can’t be long before someone commissions some TV based on his writing.

Oh, and I worked out what HWFG stands for…
He Writes Funny Good.

Andrew Rafferty

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