Michael Marshall: Research & the Long-Distance Walker

Michael Marshall, We Are Here
photo via Michael Marshall Smith

When I met British novelist Michael Marshall back in 2009, he told me about the research he was doing for a novel set in New York City. Well, We Are Here is out now, so I asked him to tell us a little bit more about the wandering approach he took to the city as he was putting its story together.

I recently saw a bumper sticker that amused me: “I want to live in a world where chickens don’t have their motivations constantly questioned.” My feelings on research relate less to why fowl traverse thoroughfares, however, and more to the knotty chronological relationship that obtains between them and their storage solutions for developing embryos.

Because when it comes to research, I’m sill not sure if it’s the chicken, or the egg, that comes first.

We Are Here is largely set in New York City. For a long time the city and I remained strangers, with the exception of a week-long visit back in the late 1980s as part of a tour with the Cambridge Footlights. We performed our mannered and carefully-worded undergraduate sketch comedy to the bafflement of tough late night club crowds far more geared up for improv, and spent the rest of our time wandering streets that were, in those days, genuinely rather unnerving.

I didn’t return until the late 2000s, when a sequence of events and a policy of using the city as a hub to other destinations meant I found myself in NYC for anything from three to seven days on an annual basis. It had become somewhat gentrified by then, less openly alarming to the effete North London novelist I had become, and I discovered the truth that everyone else knows—that New York, along with Paris and London, is one of the world’s great triumvirate of cities. A great walking city, too—perfect for an inveterate high-speed flâneur and block-walker like me.


28 February 2014 | guest authors |

Life Stories #65: Su Meck

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Life Stories: Su Meck

photo: Jared Leeds

If you enjoyed last month’s interview with David Stuart MacLean about his recovery from amnesia, you’ll definitely want to give this week’s episode of Life Stories a listen. Like MacLean, Su Meck suffers from amnesia, and has lost the memories of her first two decades (and then some); she writes about the experience of rebuilding her life in I Forgot to Remember. It’s definitely not a smooth path, and Meck talks frankly about the emotional toll not just on herself, but on her family—and yet, even as her husband was “coping” in the worst ways possible, her young children more than rose to the occasion, becoming her guardians even more, she says, than she was theirs. When her college graduation a few years ago became the catalyst for a Washington Post story, Meck says people immediately started approaching her, wanting her to tell her life story… but while she’s delivered an inspirational memoir, it’s not the heartwarming version they probably had in mind.

Listen to Life Stories #65: Su Meck (MP3 file); or download this file by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click). Or subscribe to Life Stories in iTunes, where you can catch up with earlier episodes and be alerted whenever a new one is released. (And if you are an iTunes subscriber, please consider rating and reviewing the podcast!)

27 February 2014 | life stories |

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