Three Bent Links, Jon Wyatt (2011)

Three enjoyable short stories taking cyclists as their subjects

Kindle Edition B004Qs995E c42,000 words 77 pence

Kindle Publishing Direct, Amazon’s proprietary self-publishing system is near effortless to use and cost-free to publishers. With Amazon accounting for 80% of the eBook market (in the UK at least) and its ‘books’ being readable on PCs, Macs, phones and tablets (using free-to-download software), this route to market will surely soon account for the bulk of books published about cycling.

Already there is a raft of self-published works recounting long tours, but this is the first fiction that I have found.

The book consists of three, very loosely linked, short stories (each is around 14,000 words) with a different cyclist the subject of each. In some respects the triptych represents an extended taxonomy of cyclists. Rolled out by newspapers, this is a tired format, but Wyatt has enough original insights for it to work.

Harry, his first subject, a solo mountain bike explorer and has a cycling life that is almost secret from both colleagues and girlfriend. His lone forays into the Welsh Mountains nonetheless allows him primordial release. Story two, that of Brian, is of a cyclist-hating commuter who, dumped by his wife, deprived of his driving licence and sobering up, experiences a profound change of life. The best of the three, though, is Morris, a racer whose best competitive performances are on his journeys to and from work in central London.

The last of these culminates in a piece of writing that stands comparison with the most gripping accounts of cycling. There is plenty that will be familiar to anyone who has commuted in a big city, but is infused with a deranged quality that had me on the edge of my seat.

As with much self publishing, more editing would be beneficial. The first two stories could do with having a bit more to say and all three should be proof read (new versions can be uploaded at any time, so hopefully this at least can be done whenever the author has time).

Publishing details with the body of the text should also be a requirement. Nonetheless, they are a stimulating read and it is always good to see writers experimenting with cycling as the basis for fiction.

For readers, sifting the wheat from the chaff of eBooks promises to be a challenge indeed. Touring narratives will, no doubt, continue to make up the bulk of writing about cycling – which is to be expected. It is also great that those who are moved to write up their experiences have an opportunity to share what they have done with others. Only a tiny fraction of such works are of great interest beyond circles of family and friends, however. Clearly there are authors who are earning substantial sums from ePublishing. A pen-slinging cyclist will have to write something very special to join their number, I suspect.

TD Jan 12

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