Noir Carnival: Hannah Kate

Circus Music by Hannah Kate


Charlie was the first one of us as got taken. Not that anyone really noticed at first. It wasn’t easy to tell with Charlie, given that he was bone idle at the best of times. So he if downed tools, there was nothing in it. After a day or so, people started to talk. But it was Charlie, so nothing came of it.

When Len didn’t show to open up shop, people made more of it. There was something as wasn’t right in that. Charlie’s one thing, but Len hasn’t missed a day since his place opened. That should be ‘hadn’t’. Len hadn’t missed a day since his place opened. Save Sundays, of course, but that’s to be expected.

So it shocked us all, truth be told, when we saw that he hadn’t opened up one Monday. When there was no sign of Len in his shop, and he didn’t answer the bell when we rang. After a couple of hours, people started to get a bit worried. Even I did, if I’m honest, though I was never a regular customer of his. Someone suggested going to his house, in case he’d had a fall or some other accident. Someone else tried to get in a look in at the window of the shop’s backroom. ‘Maybe someone’s done for him,’ they said. (I can’t remember who it was.) ‘Maybe he was counting out his money and someone just burst in on him.’

(from my story ‘Idle Hands’ in Noir Carnival, edited by K.A. Laity)

When I first saw the call for submissions for Fox Spirit’s Noir Carnival anthology, I was intrigued. I was fairly certain that it was going to be the sort of book I’d want to read – who can resist the dark attraction of the carnival? – and I had a suspicion it was also the sort of book I wanted to write for. Unfortunately, that suspicion didn’t immediately manifest itself in the form of a brilliant (or original) idea for a story.

But serendipity is a wonderful thing. In March, in a completely unrelated capacity, I attended a conference on ‘Evil and Human Wickedness’ in Lisbon. I was chairing the first panel, and the first paper in that session was presented by a PhD student and musician from the University of Huddersfield, Eleri Ann Evans. In the middle of this paper, Ann discussed some aspects of early twentieth-century circus music, particularly the career of The Brown Brothers. This was my story’s lightbulb moment – though I’m not going to say exactly why, as I don’t want to give away too much of the story!

If you were to think of a circus right now, there are a few images that might pop into your head. I have no doubt you’d imagine a clown – white faced (or, perhaps, black-faced, in ‘burnt cork) and grinning. You might picture a ringmaster – sinister or otherwise – in a red coat and top hat. Maybe you’d picture the tents, the acrobats, the animals. Maybe you’d picture the train filled with performers pulling into a town (or the horse-drawn decorated carts of the ‘mud shows’ that couldn’t afford their own trains). Or perhaps you’d see the sideshows that set up around the big top.

But whatever picture you see when you think of the circus, I bet I have a good chance of guessing what you can hear when you see it….

Read the rest of Hannah’s fascinating essay over at her blog. And while you’re at it, check out the snippets and video over at the Fox Spirit page:

‘Noir Carnival’ Taster Day 1

‘Noir Carnival’ Taster Day 2

‘Noir Carnival’ Teaser Day 3

Noir Carnival Teaser Day 4

And don’t forget to enter to win our Facebook contest! Meanwhile I am trying to survive the heat and make my plans for the trip to Finland for the family reunion. I ought to have some interesting photos and story ideas there!