I O ' Edinburgh author LAURA HIRD's writing comes from the same stable as Irvine Welsh but

with less of a feel-good factor. Words: Teddy Jamieson

Photograph: David McIntyre

WHEN IT COMES down to it. there are two kinds of horror story. The first simply sets out to goose the reader. It takes you to an old dark house. or some isolated stretch of moorland. throws in a vampire. a few satanists or the odd psychotic and then presses the thrill ‘n‘ chill button.

The other kind of horror story has no truck with shadow-haunted settings. Well kent streets in cities and towns will suffice. Nor are fang-faced. foul-breathed monsters common. They make do with people. Guess which of them is the scarier.

Stephen King or Clive Barker would certainly be hard pressed to match the disturb- ance level plumbed by Edinburgh writer Laura Hird in her first collection. Nail And Other Stories. In its pages. you will encounter. among others. ajilted lover who takes her anger out on a pet cat. a woman whose life falls apart when she discovers a small growth under her finger- nail and a Scottish soldier who confirms all your worst prejudices about military men

A graduate of the Rebel lnc. mafia, Hird first came to prominence with an appearance in last year’s anthology. Children OfAIbimz Rovers (Hird is in line for a sequel). Her queasy tale of a school-teacher trying to bed one of his teenage pupils outshone many of her bigger-name team mates.

The 30-year-old writer taps into the same vein of Caledonian psychosis as Irvine Welsh and Alan Warner but. if anything. the stories in Nail outgloom anything her male counterparts have come up with.

Whereas the pain at the heart of Welsh’s novels is alleviated by his rabid humour and manic style. Hird‘s writing is much more naked. Her stories of child abuse. animal torture and sexual deviation are stripped to a core of cruelty which makes them. at times. fit only for the strongest stomach. Feel-good moments. it has to be said. are at a premium.

‘I find life a bit like that.‘ Hird explains. ‘Personally. it‘s pretty miserable. There’s people out there who’ll give you grief from the moment you are born.‘

Hird. who by day works in an Edinburgh office. started to write while at Middlesex Poly in the early 90s. where she was studying contemporary writing. She progressed from ‘pretty rubbishy‘ poetry to short stories four years ago. Kevin Williamson‘s Edinburgh-

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Laura Hird: ‘violence is rammed down your throat every day'

based Rebel lne. magazine proved a natural home for her and now Nail is the latest title from Williamson’s book imprint.

She is unsure why she is drawn to life‘s darker side in her fiction. htit she adamantly

'There's people out there who’ll give you grief from the moment you are born.’ Laura Hird

defends this nihilistic world view as an inevitable reaction to life in the late twentieth century.

‘Even if you don't have much experience of violence in your real life. it‘s still rammed down your throat every day.‘ she says. ‘I was born when they were watching the Vietnam

war and then. when l was at college. we sat and watched the Gulf war live. You grow tip with one war after another.‘

She points to the final tale in the collection. ‘A Soldier‘s Story’. written as a response to pornography and the stories of rape and murder that were filtering through from the. then current. Bosnian war. Against that kind of background. llird reckons. her stories are shockingly tame. ‘If people react more to a story than they do to that. then it‘s disgusting. lt‘sjust made up.‘

Nail And Other Stories by Laura Hird is ' published by Rebel Inc. at £8.99. A '