Flare and Falter

Short stories by Michael Conley

Longlisted for the 2019 Edge Hill Prize

How many ways can the world fall apart? A smug superhero belittles the very people he’s supposed to save. An Aztec god escapes the sacking of his city to take refuge in modern-day Manchester. Rebels topple a despotic regime, much to the disappointment of the dictator’s body double, and even the penguins decide to rise up against their human captors.

Welcome to the unforgettable worlds of Michael Conley: horrific, hilarious, and forever on the brink of collapse. Lives are turned upside-down by ducks, the alphabet attacks every country on the planet, and civil unrest breaks out when we realise that only half of us can see the kraken clinging to the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. Sly and silly, chaotic and carnivalesque, often poignant and always unpredictable, Conley’s stories shred the thin veil that protects our familiar reality from an apocalypse of the bizarre.

Paperback: £9.99

eBook: £4.99


Michael Conley is a writer from Manchester. His poetry has appeared in various literary magazines, and has been Highly Commended in the Forward Prize. He has published two pamphlets: Aquarium, with Flarestack Poets, and More Weight, with Eyewear. His prose work has taken third place in the Bridport Prize and was shortlisted for the Manchester Fiction Prize. He tweets @mickconley.

Bonus Material

Read stories from Flare and Falter:

Read The Village Where Everyone Keeps Punching Themselves in the Mouth, a brand new story by Michael Conley published exclusively online at Splice.

Read a two-part interview with Michael Conley, about his inspirations and creative process.

Listen to a live recording of Michael Conley reading Pinniped at the launch event for Flare and Falter.

Praise for Michael Conley

Many [of the stories in Flare and Falter] are disturbing but all are written with an underlying dark humour. … They are, in a nutshell, brilliantly written. … Familiar problems and scenarios are presented in weird and wonderful confections. This is a clever, at times twisted, but always entertaining read.

Jackie Law, Never Imitate

A brilliant collection. … Humorous and light-hearted, bordering on the absurd. … I enjoyed every single one of Conley’s creations.

Mariah Feria, STORGY

Conley takes two ideas to his giant particle collider brain — then he lets them go, BANG round the tubes at a million miles an hour. They smash into a trillion infinitely coloured fragments. A snapshot is taken from every possible angle. Conley writes up the report, lab coat on, biros in top pocket — important that — and then he condenses it into a short story. He repeats the process until he has a collection. … Buy and read immediately.

Steve Hanson, Manchester Review of Books

Conley’s poems can be incredibly dark — but they’re also, at times, extremely funny… [and] there’s poignancy in these frightening-but-funny vignettes.

Conley is the real deal. There are no airs about his poetry. … It’s genuinely original and properly engaging… thoughtful and self-aware.

Claire Askew, author of This Changes Things

Many of [Conley’s] poems are like the joke before the punchline, taking place in an absurd mirror-world. We accept the estrangement from normality in jokes on the assumption it will be joyfully resolved, even though there’s no guarantee that this bargain will be kept. Conley takes us somewhere disconcerting and then stays there to explore. It’s often amusing as well as a little uncomfortable… [E]ntertaining, troubling, witty, mean, clever, sad…

Charles Whalley, Under the Radar

Always surprising… wry and funny.

Kim Moore, author of If We Could Speak Like Wolvesand The Art of Falling