The HyperTexts

Sophie Hannah Jones

Introduction by T. Merrill:

Sophie Hannah Jones, THT's latest British acquisition, has been scoring triumphs in a number of literary genres, and seems well on her way to achieving an international reputation as a writer of crime thrillers. Several of her books in that genre have made, or are about to make, their debut in more than a dozen different countries, including the US, Italy, Germany, France, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Poland and quite a few others, and some of them may already be available at your local bookstore, perhaps somewhere in the vicinity of the widely admired works of P.D. James. Several hundred thousand of her books have already sold in the UK, and based on the unanimous critical acclaim they've received from major British papers--The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Daily Express, The Independent and others--it seems a pretty decent bet that in the not too distant future, her readership may be soaring into the millions.

Her poetry too has won quite favorable notice, as have her short stories, and at the age of thirty-six she has already distinguished herself as something of a literary powerhouse.

When she sent me her latest collection of poems, Pessimism For Beginners, inviting me to take anything from it I pleased for showcasing here at The HyperTexts, I was delighted at so generous an offer; and when I began reading it, I was even more delighted. Sophie's poems have a refreshingly natural feel to them, a sort of vigorously outright style that effectively conveys the impression of free and effortless composition. She mentioned in a note to me that many of the poems in this volume had been written "therapeutically," and it has since occurred to me that the volume might just as aptly have been entitled, oh, maybe something like "Releasing The Possessed." And certainly her poem "Exorcise," featured below, in terms of theme especially is quite characteristic of the poetry in this unusually lively and quite highly charged collection.

To return to her crime thrillers, typical of the plaudits they've been receiving is this tantalizing appraisal of one of them by the Times: "Hurting Distance confirms Sophie Hannah as a rivetingly original arrival in crime fiction." I imagine I'll be reading one of them myself someday soon.

She had no new poems when I first contacted her, but no wonder, as busy as she must be with so many other successful creative enterprises. But if she ever taps her poetic vein again, and I hope she will, it would certainly be a treat to have some more.

Books by Sophie can be looked up at this link to her publisher.

It is an honor and pleasure to introduce her, and it was quite an adventure getting here!


Sophie Hannah is a bestselling crime fiction writer and poet who has been published in 27 countries. Her psychological thrillers Little Face, Hurting Distance and The Point of Rescue have sold 200,000 copies in the UK. Little Face was longlisted for the 2007 Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award and the IMPAC Award. Hurting Distance was longlisted for the 2008 Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award. Sophie’s fifth collection of poetry, Pessimism for Beginners, was shortlisted for the 2007 T.S. Eliot Award. In 2004 she won first prize in the Daphne Du Maurier Festival Short Story Competition for her suspense story The Octopus Nest, which appeared in her first collection of short stories The Fantastic Book of Everybody’s Secrets. Sophie’s poetry is studied at GCSE, A-level and degree level across the UK. From 1997 to 1999 she was Fellow Commoner in Creative Arts at Trinity College, Cambridge, and between 1999 and 2001 she was a fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford. She lives in Cambridge with her husband and children.

Round Robin

Dear Distant Friends,
                                 Surprisingly we’ve still got your addresses,
So here’s a list of all our latest triumphs and successes.
This year we’ve been as busy as a family of beavers
(Though they’re just furry animals, while we are high achievers.)

We’ve bought a big new house (my wife corrects meit’s a mansion.)
Emily’s verses won a prize for prosody and scansion.
Timothy got his partnership and Claire her PhD
Which all reflects extremely well on Dorothy and me.

Our trips abroad (for which we didn’t even have to save)
Prove that we’re cosmopolitan, cultured and fit and brave:
Kilimanjaro, Venice, San Francisco and Belize.
(Sorry if you can only dream of holidays like these!)

We’re thinking of you, humble friends, in terrace/semi/hovel.
We’ll be in touch this time next year, but only if you grovel
And say you wish that you were us so much it makes you sick.
Happy New Year to all of you!
                                                 Love, Dorothy and Mick

My Ideal Man

This is what happens, nine times out of ten.
I nurtured fantasy, neglected fact.
I fell in love with an idea again.

I think I might prefer ideas to men.
My dreams had all the qualities you lacked.
This is what happens, nine times out of ten:

I meet a man I hardly know and then
I improvise his words, how he’ll react.
I fall in love with an idea again,

In safety, in my mind’s protected den.
Then truth intrudes, with neither charm nor tact.
This is what happens nine times out of ten.

You were the perfect notion once, since when
Your real-world counterpart has stalled and slacked.
I fell in love with an idea again,

One I invented with my heart and pen
Who wasn’t you. Grand romances contract.
This is what happens, nine times out of ten.
I fell in love with an idea again.


I tried to cry you out of me.
Tears only bred more tears.
I tried to sing you out of me
With songs that worked for years.
I tried to think you out of me
With clean, transparent thoughts.
I tried to scare you out of me
With factual reports,
To bribe you out with images
Of five-star beach resorts.

I tried to write you out of me.
Notice I’m trying still.
I tried to cheat you out of me
By tearing up the bill.
I tried to shame you out of me
By doubling what I owed.
Trying to move you out of me,
I shook your fixed abode.
I tried to pant you out of me
By pounding down the road.

To lock you out, to mock you out
I ridiculed your ways.
I tried to doubt you out of me
By finding lies in praise.
I tried to quote you out of me,
Repeating lines to friends.
I tried to warn you out of me
By fearing tragic ends,
To hoard you out with love that earns
More than it ever spends.

I tried to yawn you out of me
And bored myself to tears.
I tried to wait you out of me
But couldn’t spare the years,
Tried to begrudge you out of me
By taking back my dreams,
Then, to betray you out of me,
I cheered for rival teams.
I tried not trying and I failed
Here as in all my schemes.


I tell the girl at Name a Star of course
I know it’s rare, I know she hopes she won’t be asked again.
Requests like mine are hardly likely to become the norm.
Most people will continue to conform,

                       but I am not most people.
                       I’ve read the rules. I know what’s fair
                       and I want to name a star,
                       as the blurb says, to show someone I care.
The name I have chosen is David Shithead Stubbs. Now, can we talk
certificates, star lists, gift sets? Oh, go on, let’s.

                        I’ve sent my cheque for fifty quid.
                        I have consumer rights.
                        She doesn’t even ask me what he did.

Do you know how long it took, I say, to choose a slur?
Wanker and arsehole sounded somehow wrong.
Shithead was good but couldn’t stand alone,
since how would David Stubbs or anyone have known
the star was named for him? You see, this means
a lot to me. It isn’t just a whim.

I need to know that every night, for ever,
he’ll trawl the skies, wondering is that the one?
Feet on the ground, he can repent, appeal, achieve, endeavour
but every twinkle of the star I’ve named
will show him he is blamed
permanently and hard for what he’s done.

                        So, David Stubbs, let’s see how tough you are.
                        I am the customer. I’ve paid. You can’t un-name my star.

The voice I’m speaking to sounds tired. I know
I sound hysterical, a mess,
a shrew it would be foolish to say no to. Well, so be it.
There will be a star called David Shithead Stubbs.
I will lean over balconies to see it.

I give her the address
I want the framed certificate to go to.

Don’t Say I Said

Next time you speak to you-know-who
I’ve got a message for him.
Tell him that I have lost a stone
Since the last time I saw him.
Tell him that I’ve got three new books
Coming out soon, but play it
Cool, make it sound spontaneous.
Don’t say I said to say it.

He might ask if I’ve mentioned him.
Say I have once, in passing.
Memorise everything he says
And, no, it won’t be grassing
When you repeat his words to me
It’s the only way to play it.
Tell him I’m toned and tanned and fine.
Don’t say I said to say it.

Say that serenity and grace
Have taken root inside me.
My top-note is frivolity
But beneath, dark passions guide me.
Tell him I’m radiant and replete
And add that every day it
Seems I am harder to resist.
Don’t say I said to say it.

Tell him that all my ancient faults
Have been eradicated.
I do not carp or analyse
As I might have when we dated.
Say I’m not bossy any more
Or, better still, convey it
Subtly, but get the point across.
Don’t say I said to say it.

Friday 13th February 2004

I hope you had bad luck today
In keeping with the date:
You broke down on the motorway
In rain, and had to wait

For hours, and then the shops were closed
Or all the cards sold out.
The valentine you were supposed
To buy, you left without.

If you persisted, went as far
As Open Later stores,
Garages, or the all-night Spar
In your alleged good cause,

I hope you had your wallet nicked,
Were hurled into a van
By coppers eager to convict
A random, blameless man,

And if you made a card, I hope
It fell into the fire.
She’ll be annoyed, and you can’t cope
With being called a liar.

Don’t push your luck. I will concede
That you are hers, not mine.
Since she has you, why does she need
A big fat Valentine?

I hope the envelope explodes,
Gets eaten by the cat.
I bet you’re writing ‘Love you loads’
Bad luck, my friend, with that.

In the Chill

I wore no coat. My legs were bare.
I would not feel or see
The greyer nights, the cooler air.
Now it blows into me,

This autumn you concealed so well.
You told me it was spring
And made the swish of leaves that fell
Sound like awakening.

I was the fool in shorts and shades
Cloud-bathing in the chill.
I had been warned that summer fades
But spring meant I could still

Hope for the heat and light to start.
You were my longest day.
Your ice preserves my summer heart
Now winter’s on the way.

Let’s Put the Past in Front of Us

Finally we agree. We share a vision.
Allow me to set out in black and white
Our firm, unspoken policy decision.
Feel free to change the parts that don’t sound right.

Let’s never meet or talk or make things better.
Let’s not consider how we each are flawed.
Let’s slam down phones and tear up every letter,
And build a silence that could bend a sword.

Let’s trample on our friendship, our potential.
Let’s blame each other, bitterly, for years.
Let’s call our good times false, inconsequential
And frame in gold the doubts, the threats, the tears.

Let’s shred our morals, lock away our manners.
Let’s cut our feelings off to spite our hearts.
Let’s host a carnival of hate, wave banners,
Parade our grudges through the streets, on carts.

Let’s not, while we are younger, braver, stronger
Than we will be again, fight hard to save
Lost hope. Whichever one of us lives longer
Can wail ‘Too late’ beside the other’s grave.

If this is not our dream, our aspiration,
Plan A, hooray, what we would both prefer,
Then, in the name of grief and isolation,
Let us at least behave as if it were.

From a Stranger

If I took all your words addressed to me
(apart from on that night and in that place)
and forwarded the lot to somebody
with the same name, and watched that person’s face
as she surveyed your letters, I would see
no furrows of bewilderment, no blush
acknowledging a bond held privately.
She might think someone who was in no rush
to meet her filled a dawdling gap between
feeding the kids and emptying the bin
with written small-talk that would be obscene
in its omissions if the writer’s skin
had once touched hers, once avidly conspired.
But from a stranger, no more is required.

Rubbish at Adultery

Must I give up another night
To hear you whinge and whine
About how terribly grim you feel
And what a dreadful swine
You are? You say you'll never leave
Your wife and children. Fine;

When have I ever asked you to?
I'd settle for a kiss.
Couldn't you, for an hour or so,
Just leave them out of this?
A rare ten minutes off from guilty
Diatribeswhat bliss.

Yes, I'm aware you're sensitive:
A tortured, wounded soul.
I'm after passion, thrills and fun.
You say fun takes its toll,
So what are we doing here? I fear
We've lost our common goal.

You're rubbish at adultery.
I think you ought to quit.
Trouble is, at fidelity
You're also slightly shit.
Choose one and do it properly
You stupid, stupid git.

The HyperTexts