Carys Davies was the winner of the 2011 Royal Society of Literature’s VS Pritchett Memorial Prize for her short story The Redemption of Galen Pike, and of the Society of Authors’ 2010 Olive Cook Short Story Award for The Quiet. Her first short story collection Some New Ambush was published in 2007.
Carys Davies’s short stories have won prizes in national and international competitions, been published in anthologies and magazines and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. She’s read them at Somerset House, at the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Festival in Cork and at festivals in Bantry, Manchester, Sedbergh, Folkestone, Sevenoaks, Huddersfield and Lancaster.
photo by Emily Atherton
Before turning to fiction she worked for 15 years as a journalist, mostly in New York and Chicago, writing for The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and Marie Claire, where she was a contributing editor.
Born in Wales, she grew up there and in the Midlands, and now lives with her family in Lancaster in the north-west of England, where she writes, occasionally teaches, and, for the last few years, has been curator of the short fiction programme for the city’s literature festival, Litfest, hosting readings and discussions with some of the finest contemporary writers of short fiction – Alan Beard, David Constantine, Deborah Kay Davies, Anne Donovan, Jane Feaver, Panos Karnezis, Claire Keegan, James Lasdun, Alison MacLeod, Adam Marek, Sean O’Brien, Simon Robson, Helen Simpson, Polly Samson and Rachel Trezise.
This morning I read my first work by Carys Davies, "The Redemption of Galen Pike", a very entertaining and poignant story set in the Wild West days of America in a very small town in the state of Colorado. Galen Pike is in the town jail awaiting hanging for a quadrupole murder. The time is circa 1880 and the little town has less than 200 citizens. The sheriff's sister has a long standing habit of visiting men waiting to be hung, bringing them food, talking to them or reading them bible verses if they wished. Galen is a repulsive, filthy man who when offered strawberry cordials tells the woman he wants something stronger. At first he is nasty to her, insulting about her broken nose. She slowly begins to draw him out. Just before he is ready to be hung, she shaves him and gives him a clean shirt for the hanging. He tells her that she reminds of his mother. Galen "went bad" when his mother died, she was the only one whose opinion mattered to him. He makes her a flower from a rope. I knew something unexpected was going to happen but I never saw it coming. Galen Pike ends up changing the lives of the poor people of the community, to whom the woman ministers. Galen and the woman were as different as two people could be, both very lonely. There was never a hope for any kind of connection but maybe Galen did not die totally full of hate. Maybe the woman will find some value in his senseless murders.
I look forward to reading more of the work of Carys Davies.