[WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS]
When we last spoke to CHRIS MCQUEER, he explained his writing process as “I’d serve hundreds of people every day and I’d hear so many turns of phrases or snippets of conversation that I could use or that would spark off a wee idea in my head,” and it seems latest offering, HWFG, has followed suit.
More ‘short stories ‘n that’ follows debut book, Hings, with laugh out loud moments from the off. Leathered – the tale of prison guard Frank becoming a cult hero within North Korea after a Twitter debacle with Kim Jong Un – is given a home after a stand alone release earlier this year. If you managed to get your hands on a copy of that, or Hings, you know exactly what to expect from McQueer. Adding a touch of absurdity to otherwise logically sound stories, for example in Extreme Polls – an actual Twitter account, but McQueer inserts a sinister twist where for one day all of the polls actually come true. We see fingernails removed, breath given a tuna kick and petrol scented B.O. in the thirteen page thriller.
Whilst Hings left McQueer‘s work with comparisons to Irvine Welsh, in Sammy Gets a Job we are given a reference to the worst toilet in Scotland. Sammy is originally content – not to be confused with happy – about the arrangements of working his way up to be on the production line, but the idea of working comes to a halt when he discovers the state of the toilets. It is the ideology that McQueer paints in this story that reminds us once again of his brilliance as a writer. It isn’t vulgar, but it is enough to carve an image so relatable to that one job that we packed in because of how grim it is ‘behind-the-scenes.’
Recently leaving HMP Barlinnie for repeatedly threatening to batter the Twitter population, McQueer leaves readers with the tale of what to expect when you personally try to stop a guy – in this instance an unnamed, handsome, talented, muscular millionaire French footballer – direct messaging your girlfriend. During a weekend stint he meets Tam the Bebo danger, Jamie aka THAT guy who replies ‘didn’t happen’ to everything, Jim the pervert and Tony who can’t stand folk that Tweet in their dialect – in McQueer‘s words, he is alongside “the scourge of society.” Each of these characters are present on your social media timeline, but now McQueer has brought them from ‘The Big Hoose‘ they will be easier to spot.
These briefly described abstracts from just a handful of McQueer‘s latest offering don’t do HWFG justice – but that’s the beauty of Hings, Leathered and now HWFG. You don’t have to be an avid reader to enjoy or appreciate the short stories. You don’t have to have a qualification in literature to be able to flick through and piss yourself with laughter. You simply need an open mind, a sense of absurdity and five minutes to let the stories take you to places you will feel you’ve been before.