Michael Stewart was born in Salford in 1971, and now lives in Bradford. He is head of Creative Writing at the University of Huddersfield. He is the author of three novels, including King Crow, winner of the 2011 Not the Booker Prize, Café Assassin and Ill Will.
His first collection of short stories, Mr Jolly, was published by Valley Press in 2016, and was longlisted for the Edge Hill Prize 2017. His 2013 collection of poetry, Couples, was re-published by Valley Press in a new expanded edition for Valentine's Day 2020.
Longlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize 2017
Mr Jolly is the first collection of short stories by Michael Stewart, and contains some of the award-winning novelist’s most extraordinary writing to date. Each tale offers a unique, utterly compelling insight into the human condition, framed by a mind-bendingly original concept that no other writer working today could – or indeed would – have concocted.
Readers will meet a conformity-obsessed league of bald men, breaking into homes for an extended debate about the nature of freedom; discuss the nomenclature of the marshmallow with a man whose interest in them goes beyond the norm; and meet God, in perhaps the most frustratingly accurate depiction of the divine being in modern literature.
Last phone calls, alien abductions, murders and more are grounded in stories of struggling parents, baffled lovers and lost children (some of whom may live permanently on the number 606 bus). However long you live, and however much you read, you’ll never find another book quite like this.
Couples is a blackly comic sequence of poems that explore the nature of co-dependency – of two people who want to be together, but at the same time cannot help but push each other away.
The layout of the book is itself a commentary on the phenomenon – the poems are placed in their own 'couples', twelve pairs that face each other across the page. Sometimes they exchange a glance, sometimes they stand side-by-side, staring out into the abyss; only when the book is closed, and they are in darkness, do they truly come together.
Originally published on Valentine’s Day 2013, the seven-year itch has brought Michael Stewart back to his old flame for a new edition in 2020; reworking the original poems, and adding a dozen more. The result is an unnervingly perceptive volume, to be shared with your ‘other half’ at your own risk – you may never look at a couple, or each other, the same way again.
“Bleak but wonderful ... familiar, and of course funny.”
— Alan Bennett
“Dark, funny and twisted, but surprisingly tender.”
— A.L. Kennedy
Be part of our story. Join the Valley Press newsletter.