Salt is publishing the first novel by Paul McVeigh, director of the London Short Story Festival (LSSF).
McVeigh (pictured) is an experienced playwright and short story writer but The Good Son (April, £8.99) marks his first foray into full-length fiction. The book is about 10-year-old Mickey Donnelly, who grows up in Northern Ireland in the 1980s during the Troubles, just as McVeigh did. He said: “I wanted to tell a story I didn’t think I’d heard. It always amazed me how little people knew about what it was actually like on a daily basis—growing up with the army and armed police patrolling the streets.”
Jen Hamilton-Emery, director of Salt, said: “Paul brings out so much humour, the book is so perfectly rounded. It’s set in a troubled time but I like books that are entertaining as well. That’s important in a book and really clinched it for me. When I was sent the book by his agent [Carrie Kania at Conville & Walsh] I didn’t stop reading until I’d finished and that doesn’t happen very often with submissions.”
McVeigh has written plays and comedy shows that have been performed at the Edinburgh Festival and in the West End, as well as short stories. He met Kania at The Word Factory, a short-story event held at The Society Club, which is co-owned by Kania. She asked if he had a novel, “which is what all agents say to short story writers”.
McVeigh dusted off a novel he had adapted from a short story, which had been languishing in a drawer for years, and Kania took him on. The writer’s next project is currently hovering between short stories and a novel: “I started writing short stories and realised there was a connection, and that I was turning it into a novel. Maybe that’s what I do now.”
Short stories remain a key part of McVeigh’s life through his role as the director of LSSF (“I didn’t want to put all my eggs into one basket”), which will return in June. The festival began after McVeigh was approached to programme a series of events, which he then suggested turning into a festival. LSSF will take place at Waterstones Piccadilly, featuring writers such as Deborah Levy, Ben Okri and Kevin Barry.