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Short Stories
An Excessive Exercise in Obsessive Compulsive Order

Ten Storey Love Song

Ten Storey Love Song 



Spanning one dynamite paragraph, Ten Storey Love Song follows Bobby the Artist's rise to stardom and horrific drug psychosis, Johnnie's attempts to stop thieving and start pleasing Ellen in bed, and Alan Blunt, a forty-year-old truck driver who spends a worrying amount of time patrolling the grounds of the local primary school. Bobby - the so-called 'love-child of Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat', holed up in a Middlesbrough tower block - works on his canvases under the influence of pills-on-toast, acid-on-crackers and Francis Bacon. When Bent Lewis, a famous art dealer and mover-shaker from that London appears, Bobby and friends are sent on a sweaty adventure of self-discovery, hedonism and violence involving a 2.5cm-head curved claw hammer. A love song to a loveless Teesside, Ten Storey Love Song is a ferocious slab of concrete prose peppered with beauty and delivered with glorious abandon.



'Milward is a major talent, and his love for his characters shines through any degrading obstacles he forces them to encounter. When writers are being churned out of creative fiction courses like salmon from fish farms, he possesses that scarcest quality: a highly original and engaging voice' - Irvine Welsh, The Guardian (read the full review here)

'Astounding' - Lauren Laverne

'Milward has that rare gift of being able to capture and distill an entire generation in a single, simple sentence. Brilliant. Very very funny and utterly original' - Helen Walsh, author of Brass and Once Upon a Time in England

'Pay attention; the future looks like this... Brash and loud, with startling flashes of pure poetry' - Kate Saunders, The Times

'Milward is wonderfully able to create a world where shambolic dysfunction and terrible violence coexist with flights into hedonism that have a quality of almost transcendent beauty' - Metro

'Youthful, zany, and consistently funny' - John Sutherland, Financial Times

'Milward writes at such pace that the impulse it to down it in one... The real marvel of Milward, though, more so than his casual reporting of filth and violence, is his ability to make you care' - Richard Godwin, Literary Review

'Material that might be unremittingly shocking is treated with a stand-up's eye for humour combined with deep empathy' - Laurence Wareing, Herald

'In one breathless, drug-fuelled rush of a paragraph, Milward colours in the lives of a bunch of mavericks, misfits and pill-popping cohorts living in a Middlesbrough tower block... sex, violence and cracked poetry get mixed up in a gritty, urban Day-Glo, oddly beautiful, kind of way' - Eithne Farry, Marie Claire

'Behind its craftily delirious prose and low-life lyricism, the novel has artistic ambition to spare' - The Independent

'It's a mixture of the grotesque and the comic which is lifted by Milward's wild metaphors' - Lee Rourke, Times Literary Supplement

'Milward, like a sunnier Irvine Welsh, writes in a poetic demotic that can be wryly effective... keep an eye on him' - David Mills, Esquire

'The fiendishly young Milward stuffs all the exuberance and vulgarity of youth into this tale of low-life redemption' - Sunday Telegraph

'A writer of imagination and filthy insight... a book shot through with flashes of unexpected warmth and hardcore lyricism' - The Independent

'A precocious talent' - Trevor Lewis, The Times

'A dream to read' - Mary Anne Hobbs, DJ and journalist

'I absolutely loved it... certainly reminded me why I stopped taking acid' - Stuart Braithwaite, Mogwai

'The product of a vile mind' - Pete Kember aka Sonic Boom



Johnnie hides a snigger in the tubes of his belly. He's starting to lighten up. He shuffles his trainers on the flower pattern, leaving behind vaguely muddy footprints, then asks his mam, 'So you've been alright, then?' Jean turns her head 180 degrees like an owl spotting a delicious mouse, but instead of devouring her own son she replies, 'Oh yeah, I've been great. Back to my old self. These pills are a breath of fresh air. Never felt better. It's like, ooh, it's like I'm all in love with life again!' Jean's voice rings in his ears and tingles his fingers and toes, like someone playing a wonderful miniature piano on his mother's tongue. How amazing it is to hear your mother's back to normal, after months and months of wobbling on the railings of Suicide Mountain. Johnnie remembers the onset of her menopause well, Jean spending every evening in floods of tears, scolding Johnnie for not having a job, Robbie for getting under her feet and banging his new girlfriend too loudly in the bedroom next door, and even Barrie got the brunt of it despite being the blessed first son, making it to business college in Stockton but happening to phone her for a £500 loan at a very very wrong wrong time. Jean used to smash plates in disgust at having to wash up after 'useless pricks'. Tony the Dad got slapped once for calling her a bossy boots, and she threw his favourite ELO record out the back door. Time after time, she'd come home from her job at Sainsbury's with bags of fish and tartar sauce and potatoes and frozen peas (or beans for Robbie), only to chuck them all in the flip-top bin in a huff and run upstairs crying hysterically after someone says 'hello' to her the wrong way or if someone looks at her a certain way. It seems so unbelievable and far-fetched to think a couple of teeny weeny tablets could suck out all Jean's negativeness, but here she is slapping her son's thigh in joy and smiling like a loony escapee from the Heartbreak Hotel. 'So, what've you been up to, John Boy?' Jean asks, as she rises and totters back to Dance Dance Revolution. She loads up a new game, then stands poised on the metal pads with her bum all exposed in tight trousers. She looks idiotic, but the fact she's been so depressed and now she's standing there all carefree and exuberant makes Johnnie hold her in his heart as an absolute heroine. He looks up to her with wet, wobbly eyes as she bursts into dance - this time it's a Macarena-ish salsa with lots of daft lunges and sort of star-jumps and general bottom shaking. Johnnie doesn't know what to say. Yes he's been feeling depressed as well, but it's nothing compared to the sad murky swamp his mother's had to swim out of. What the hell's even wrong with him! It's only that he's getting a hard time off Ellen he's so tetchy, and he shouldn't have kicked off at Bobby or taken money off him. He spends a moment staring at his knees, feeling like a right dumb wanker. 'Ah, I haven't been up to much really...' he eventually replies, scratching himself. After a few more spectacular dances on the telly screen, Jean racking up TOP SCORE after TOP SCORE what with her son's encouragement, Johnnie decides to say his goodbyes and, instead of the usual awkward creeping out the door with Jean bawling blue murder, they have a huge sweaty cuddle and a kiss. Standing halfway in and out of the house, Johnnie wipes his eyes, and Jean takes his shaky hand and says, 'Thanks so much for coming, love. You sure you're feeling alright? Here, swear down, have a couple of these Prozac things. They'll sort you right out - I can get more from Angie next door, if you want.' And she presses two white circles into Johnnie's palm, and it's only when he gets out in the garden and sees the crisp Mitsubishi logo stamped into the sides he realises Jean's been taking ecstasy all this time, not Prozac.




Richard reading from Ten Storey Love Song at Book Slam, 2009