A few weeks ago, I went to Tales of the Decongested, an event about which I didn’t blog because I was more concerned over the disappearance of my entire website, due to what turned out to be some kind of idiotic cock-up by my hosting company.

So what I didn’t mention was that I met a pretty nice guy called Adam Marek, who’d been one of the readers at that evening’s event, and that he’s sold me a copy of his short-story collection, Instruction Manual For Swallowing. Now I’ll be honest here and admit that I’d bought the book purely on the basis of him being a nice guy and knowing from personal, and sometimes bitter, experience just how crap it is to be carrying about a bag full of books at least some of which you’d rather like to sell.

You’re chatting, you mention that you’ve written a book, they say something polite about perhaps buying it, you reveal that actually you do have a copy with you if they’d like to buy it, and the entire conversation then trundles neatly into the parking gallary of embarrassment, the easiest exit of which is for the non-author side of the conversation to offer up a crisp ten pound note. (Non-authors might disagree about this being the easiest way to resolve the embarrassing situation).

(I should stress that in no way did Adam hard sell me, guilt trip me, or anything like that. He was calm, polite and totally at ease – but I can get myself feeling embarrassed and guilty in an empty room and need no help from others).

Anyhow, so I bought it because he was a nice guy and it’s not very nice when you have a book to sell; but when I flipped it open and glanced at the first paragraph of the first story, I figured that I had no worries – because this was looking like a book I’d have bought anyway:

I once met a man with a 40-litre monkey. He measured all his animals by volume. His Dalmatian was small, only 18 litres, but his cat, a Prussian blue, was huge – five litres, when most cats are three. He owned a pet shop just off Portobello Road. I needed a new pet for my girlfriend because our last two had just killed each other.

More excerpts…

How cool is that for a beginning? I may as well at this point give you the blurb:

Robotic insects, a restaurant for zombies, a woman pregnant with 37 babies…welcome to the surreal, misshapen universe of Adam Marek’s first collection, where the body is fluid, the spirit mechanised and beasts often tell us more about our humanity than anything we can teach ourselves.

The stories are difficult to classify by genre. They don’t read like science-fiction or fantasy, but nearly all of the stories have some kind of fantastical edge. I think I’ll leave it by just saying that it’s a pretty damn good book and I really enjoyed reading it.

Oh, and Adam’s now got a new website up, complete with a blog and a Twitter feed.