Three Men on the Edge is a flash fiction novella by Michael Loveday featuring three men living on the edge of London.
The story of the three men – Gus, Denholm and Martyn – is narrated in three distinctive sections: Denholm – Cause for Alarm; Gus – The Invisible World; Martyn – Chewing Glass.
“A beautifully crafted novella-in-flash, small and perfect slices of life written with skill and heart.” Kit de Waal
“In his debut novella Michael Loveday sketches with a delicate brush the colourful lives of three troubled men living on the edge of London. With poetic language and emotional precision, Loveday writes like a cartographer about the wilderness we call ‘the human heart’.” Meg Pokrass
“This is a novella full of the aches and bruises left by loneliness. It's written in fragments, like a bottle smashed during a solitary boozing session, but it coheres around the vividly captured edgeland that haunts the three men. This a heart-felt book, but its prose is controlled by a steely intelligence. It's funny, too – and moving and scary. Michael Loveday is a name to watch. He's writing a new kind of fiction.” David Swann
Three Men on the Edge is very richly shaded and very unconventional.
Sample flashes from each of the three sections of the novella may be enjoyed below.
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From (I) Denholm – Cause for Alarm
i. Lost Object
(Where are the fragranced pillows, where are the flying horses) Denholm balances the square box on his palm, lifts the purple lid, and inside, instead of hazelnut whirls and lemon crunches, resting in the depressions of the plastic tray, are the fifteen pairs of keys which used to open Gorgeous Gifts, no longer a going concern (where are the Union Jack beard trimmers, where are the tiger-print purses), he closes his eyes, fingers the keys, they rattle in his brain, fifty years trading on Rickmansworth High Street, Watford, Chorleywood, Bushey, St. Albans, places where mother’s business dug into Hertfordshire soil (find us the faux-diamond ballerinas, find us the Spitfire key-rings); how he cherished helping buyers turn panic to inspiration, and he drifts back to the Rickmansworth storeroom, clambering through stuffed cardboard boxes, the one-chair staffroom with its grown-up magazines (go find the Hertfordshire egg-timers, go find the invisible inks), and the smell of Grandma’s daily gammon rolls, how the shop became a home, how he memorised those cluttered shelves (go get the coin-box skulls, go get the footballing pigs), and how much he loathed the family party-trick, the loss of light as they put the blindfold in place.
[First published in Flash: the International Short-Short Story Magazine]
From (II) Gus – The Invisible World
ix. Town Ditch, September
Five corpses float at the surface. Carried in the water is a dark sludge that seems to be silt: when he dips his hand, the sludge smells only of earth.
The next day many more litter the ditch. He gives up counting. They bob in the slow current, spinning as they snag against branches and leaves.
He looks closer, sees others, alive, rising to the surface, their gills beating for breath amid the black silt. Chubs, bullheads, minnows, roaches. Glinting silver scales, sandy-yellow blotches, flecks of gold, orange. The dead ones float flat on their sides.
He shivers. The bare eyes stare up, gawping blindly at him.
Sometimes Anja praises Martyn so highly she makes him feel like Superman. He has the Superman dream always the same way: not the caped crusader saving the civilised world, but Clark Kent the reporter wearing preppy spectacles and befuddled by Lois Lane—except Lois is Anja—and Anja’s nipples are made of kryptonite. But this is a dream and Lois-Anja is also somehow Lex Luthor at one and the same time—looking like Gene Hackman with his big-collared 1970s shirt—and Lois-Anja Hackman takes off Clark Kent’s glasses, kisses his brow sadly, then draws his head closer to her deadly, trembling chest.
[First published in Funny Bone: Flashing for Comic Relief]
"Three Men on the Edge took me unawares and made a huge impression. To me it represents what the Republic of Consciousness Prize is all about - hardcore literary fiction and gorgeous prose from a tiny independent press that's willing to take risks. Denholm, Gus and Martyn are wonderful creations and Michael Loveday renders their world with great skill and empathy and subtlety."
David Collard, chair of the judging panel, Republic of Consciousness Prize 2019
"...Three Men on the Edge by Michael Loveday? Not boring...
"The beauty of this book, overall, is its not-neatness, its focus on the out-of-focus, its one minute a story, its next minute a footnote, its edginess, its familiarity, its murkiness, it’s really good."
Jonathan Cardew, Bending Genres, full review here
"Michael Loveday’s Three Men on the Edge (V. Press, 2018) reminds me of why I love the novella-in-flash form. This story, told in a series of fragments, drops you right into the worries and yearnings of three men living in uncertain times in a watery suburb of London. Loveday’s poetic rendering of everyday details takes the reader to a captivating, but beleaguered, town where the protagonists can be as touching and, at times, funny, as they are clueless about how to move forward in their lives. The writing follows Denholm, Gus and Martyn into the more vulnerable corners of their edgelands existence, unveiling their disappointments, perplexities and desires with poignancy, humor and an unforgettable sense of place. There is something touchingly and disturbingly recognizable in each of the protagonists. And there is something about Three Men on the Edge that makes me want to take a stroll away from the high street and find a place to sit along the canals of Rickmansworth."
Charmaine Wilkerson, author of How to Make a Window Snake, winner of the Bath Novella-in-Flash Award 2017, review here.
"...This book is a rummage through the storerooms of the human heart with all its fears, its passions, its yearnings, its failures, its betrayals. Part of me suspects that Three Men on the Edge is a series of prose poems with an interlinking narrative structure. But that is merely a quibble of naming. That the prose is a feast of poesy is no accident, Loveday being a fine poet as well as, now, a fiction writer."
Frances Spurrier, on Volatile Rune, full detailed review here.
"An outstanding work of fiction
"Three Men on the Edge is a remarkable first book. Described as flash fiction, it is a series of three stories, each about an isolated man. Michael Loveday presents the different characters with subtle understanding and sensitivity, taking the reader into their heads as they struggle to cope with their feelings and lives in the edge lands of Rickmansworth. The observation is acute and the use of language brilliant, the pared writing offers irony, humour, sadness and lyricism. With its use of compression and striking imagery the book has many of the characteristics of poetry and to me it seems on the borderland between poetry and prose. In Three Men on the Edge Michael Loveday emerges as a fine writer. I look forward to seeing what he produces next."
Myra Schneider, 5-star review on Amazon here.
"an exciting hybrid of poetry and flash-fiction, published by the impressive V Press.
"Three Men on the Edge is an agile and brave book - it blends the finest points of poetry - nuance, the unsaid, and the metaphorical with the sharpest image-making and narrative of very short fiction. The result is a tender yet never sentimental hybrid of a form that I found exciting, compelling and very readable. It is a cliche but I was sorry not to read more. There is something very fresh about Loveday's book and it deserves to reach a wide audience."
Sarah Westcott, The Literary Loper, the full review here.
"Clever, clean and economically written, Three Men on the Edge will surely win over those hesitant to commit to what might otherwise seem an esoteric and specialist form. Both character and place are perfectly evoked, and the sense of trauma only half-experienced is rarely far from the surface. These are men desperate to be something they are not, to be what they might have been or thought they always were, to be someone else entirely; men whose uncertain place in the world is echoed by the edgelands they inhabit.
Three Men on the Edge is a triumph, and I look forward to seeing more from Loveday."
Joel Hames, 5-star review on Amazon and goodreads.
"There is heartache and humour in this tale of three men on the edge of lonely despair. Each tells his own story about coping with anger, self-doubt, depression in precise and beautifully crafted segments where the author is not afraid of introducing the heightened surrealism of troubled thoughts and dreams..."
Jennie Farley, full 5-star review here