KIMBERLY'S CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
2012, FABER & FABER
Kimberly Clark was born to the sound of cackling witches, Halloween 1984. Having moved to London with her athletic boyfriend, the sweet-but-stuttering Stevie, she soon tires of him and decides to destroy the relationship from within by being as vile as is humanly possible. When this tactic leads to Stevie's violent death by his own hand, Kimberly embarks on an enthusiastic, but no less disastrous, venture in 'unadulterated altruism'. Kimberly's soul hangs in the balance - will she ultimately spend eternity in the great TopShop in the sky? Or will she be hurtled into an abyss of endless physical torture, sexual humiliation and bad stand-up comedy? This is the story of Kimberly's redemption, or possibly her damnation: it's up to you. There are six different endings on offer. Bring your own dice. Prepare to lose your marbles.
This is a shocking, laugh-out-loud, nightmare-and-nausea-inducing book: a wild narrative experiment that recalls taboo-busting writers from William Burroughs to Irvine Welsh to Chuck Palahniuk.
'Sees [Milward] shift effortlessly from thrilling new talent to major literary force to be reckoned with... Milward contemplates the Big Questions in a bittersweet paean to the UK capital in his own inimitable style and does so with his most impressive series of textual experiments, poetic flashes and lip-smacking imagery to date. His punchy, super-smart prose is driven by an irresistible energy and masterful flair' - Camilla Pia, The List (read the full review here)
'Dark and surreal yarn... Milward holds our attention with endearing characters and quirky storytelling techniques... a deliciously playful, marvellously adventurous fuck-you of a novel; a confident and assured effort from one of the country's most inventive young writers' - David Clack, Time Out Book of the Week
'Even [Milward's] most ardent fan would have been hard pushed to imagine the glories he would give us with this year's offering... Kimberly's Capital Punishment is a typically punchy and experimental tale which puts most other 27 year-old British authors firmly in the shade' - Brian Donaldson, The List Best Books of 2012 (read the full article here)
'A modern psychedelic masterpiece... utterly unique' - Russ Litten, author of Scream If You Want To Go Faster
'It will blow cobwebs off your soul. Full of panache, heart and hideousness' - Joe Stretch, author of Friction, Wildlife and The Adult
'[Milward] brilliantly inhabits Kimberly's persona, with all her skewed logic and lurches into mental imbalance, sustaining a bleakly comic and often laugh-out-loud tone' - The Herald
'A hilarious experimental novel which requires the reader to take a step back in order to appreciate the ultimately crushing poignancy of the world which [Milward] depicts' - Philip Maughan, The Crack
'Simultaneously shocking, nauseating and laugh-out-loud good... You'll find his dark comic voice utterly irresistible' - Stylist
'I can't help but admire the way he monkeys about with form, his blackly comic ambition, and the sheer demented energy of his storytelling... Likeably offbeat' - Edmund Gordon, Sunday Times
'If you haven't read anything of Milward's before, this is a good place to start, and become a fan before everyone starts talking about his wonderfully witty and well-written novels' - Jim Dempsey, Bookmunch (read the full review here)
'A book which is important for publishing and for books themselves... Owes more to surrealist painters and film directors than to a specific living prose writer... an urban Candide' - Jonathan McAloon, Cuckoo Quarterly (read the full review here)
'Milward's quicksilver inventiveness, which seems motivated by a truly weird sense of humour, provokes a sort of bewildered admiration' - David Evans, The Independent (read the full review here)
I found the eyeball fifteen minutes before I found the rest of him. I stood there in shock for a while, wondering which poor soul had lost it, then I smirked, thinking they'd have quite a bit of trouble finding it again.
The eyeball winked, I think. I bent down with my hands on my knees, to have a closer look. I staggered backwards. Eyeballs are miles bigger than you imagine, what with them being blocked off by the sockets most of the time, and I shivered at it. The stalk was disgusting, like a dog-eared umbilical cord. I wished Stevie was around to show him, although he wasn't that keen on the eyeball in Demolition Man and I doubted he'd be keen on this one either.
You wouldn't expect to find an eyeball in the middle of a clearing, in the middle of a common, in the middle of the Capital, but, then again, you wouldn't expect to find a three-wheeled pushchair, an unopened bottle of Glen's vodka, a yo-yo with the string missing, or a purple carrot either. The common was a tip, especially the muddy bit me and the eyeball were standing in. I trod about on the spot, cracking twigs, then carried on looking for Stevie. I was growing thirsty. I think I was cultivating a sore throat too, and I dreamed of orange juice as I bounded through the trees. In fact, the sun reminded me of a giant orange, slowly being squeezed on the horizon as it began to set. I licked the air. It was getting a little chilly, and I felt a little silly having only come out in the dotty cardigan.
Stevie loved running away from things. He loved it so much, he did it for a living. Me and him moved to the Capital so he could pursue a career in athletics or, more specifically, the 200m sprint, which is the ideal activity for fast-footed, impatient people who only like to participate in sports for twenty or thirty seconds at a time. Stevie's legs were like a leopard's, with freckles all over them. We used to shave them together at bathtime, causing tiny hairy rafts to set sail in the seafoam, and in the early days I took pride in treating his athlete's foot for him, as well as all his other athlete's body parts. He was an incredible sprinter, often coming home from his 'meets' with more gold, silver and bronze necklaces than I've got in my entire jewellery box. I was proud of him, but it could be annoying at times, the way he couldn't stand five minutes in a park or recreation ground without running off. Stevie was a shy boy - I think he enjoyed the peace and quiet of jogging about, with only his thoughts for company. The loneliness of the short-distance runner.
Or perhaps he'd already seen the eyeball, and got frightened.
I started waddling like a penguin, going down a steep bit. I was incredibly thirsty by this point, and feeling less and less impressed with Stevie. It was about half past four: time for him to take me to the pub and buy me an orange juice, I thought. I grumbled as I stepped in some wet mud. The whole place was dead. Perhaps it was that time of day when no one goes to the common, or perhaps it's just one of those commons no one ever goes to, no matter what time of day it is. I decided to suck on a Strepsil, dishing a lemon one out of my Medicine Bag.
I could've given Stevie a ring but, unfortunately, like a lot of men, he's a sufferer of a socially-debilitating disorder known as telephonophobia: the irrational fear of speaking to people on the blower. He didn't have a phone. He hated talking to people as it was, let alone when they weren't even present. I'm not sure what came first - his hatred of social interaction, or his st-st-st-stutter.
I sighed, accidentally spitting out the Strepsil. The trees were looking more like burned witches' fingers, the further I went. A lot of the Capital is haunted, due to the oldness of the place and the many executions and murders that have gone on. Gulping, I decided to make my way back to the eyeball, just in case it had seen which way my boyfriend went. Tripping over roots and four-pack plastic rings, I followed the elms back up to the clearing where the eye lived. I scampered carefully round the three-wheeled pushchair and the vodka bottle on tip-toes, hoping not to tread on it accidentally.
'Stevie?!' I yelled at the wood. It made my tonsils hurt. I was about to give up on him and head back home in a huff when I spotted something winking at me from under the leaves, and I caught the eye of the eyeball again. Kneeling down, I saw the iris was glittery, like some kind of reflector you might put on your bike. The pupil had changed its focus - it seemed to be staring at something down the mound now, and I frog-hopped on the balls of my feet to get a better view. Lining my two eyes up with the one in the mud, I followed its gaze over the yo-yo; through the legs of the pushchair; underneath some fallen branches; then out across the children's adventure playground, fifty-odd feet away. Squinting, I could just make out the empty swings, zip-line, bouncy hippos, and a man hanging from the top rung of the climbing frame. I jumped up with fright. Usually when you climb a climbing frame, you hang with your arms above your head, gripping the rungs like a monkey, but this young fellow somehow had the knack of hanging from it with his arms by his sides. He'd tied his shoelaces around his neck, attached himself to the top rung, and let himself drop. He was dead, by the look of it.
My throat was so sore, I couldn't get a scream out. I was paralysed - in fact, the whole area of woodland was suddenly still and quiet, except for my heart clattering in my ribcage. After ten seconds of shock, I coughed and wiped my face. All I wanted was for Stevie to be there, to have someone to hug, and cry on. I spun around, desperately calling his name. After about ten seconds of doing that, finally I clocked him, lingering some fifty-odd feet away. I sprinted towards him, with my arms outstretched. I burst into tears, grabbing him. He didn't grab me back. He just swayed a bit, hanging there from the top rung of the climbing frame. With his arms by his sides. And one eye missing.