"The Fisherman of Northolt" by Ian Creasey — story background

They say the sea eats love when it can't drink bones.  When a man reaches harbour, safe from the storm, his house may hold only cold words and a colder bed.  Does he wonder who has held his wife while he held his nets?  Does she wish he wouldn't go so far, so long?  Or does the ocean hoard a secret in every shell on its bed?

My ideas come from various sources, and some stories have a more complex genesis than others.  This story stemmed from perhaps the simplest possible source: a single word.

I can't remember how or why "fishwife" came to mind — I assume I must have read it somewhere — but the word struck me anew with its odd juxtaposition of components, and I wondered what it would be like if you were a man whose wife turned out to be a fish.

The answer became a story, "The Fisherman of Northolt".  When he bought it for the magazine Postscripts, editor Pete Crowther said he felt it had shades of Lord Dunsany's work.  Dunsany wasn't a conscious influence, but I do indeed have several of his classics on my bookshelf.  For the story's magazine appearance I wrote a short introduction recalling the purchase of those well-worn paperbacks: "In pre-Internet days, finding good out-of-print books was much more a matter of chance than it is now.  I spent many, many hours haunting second-hand bookshops, looking for the gold amid the spoil.  I can still recall the dusty smell of old words, the myriad tall bookcases crammed together like a maze of myths in which one might — or might not — find a treasure.  Perhaps one day this story will find its own place on the electronic equivalent of those ancient shelves, an attic of musty websites where dead words await being clicked into life."

Page last updated: 22 May 2015