Kerry Hudson

Scottish, queer, working class novelist. Loves to perform, travel, teach

Born in Aberdeen, Scotland. Based in London, England, UK

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Kerry Hudson was born in Aberdeen.

Her first novel, Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma was the winner of the Scottish First Book Award and was shortlisted for seven additional awards including the Southbank Sky Arts Literature Award and Guardian First Book Award.

Kerry’s second novel, Thirst, won France’s most prestigious award for foreign fiction, the Prix Femina Étranger, and was shortlisted for the European Premio Strega in Italy. Her books are also available in the US, France, Italy and Turkey.

Kerry founded The WoMentoring Project and performs regularly at international literary festivals.

Warning: the following video contains strong language:

Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma (Chatto & Windus) By Kerry Hudson from Creative Scotland on Vimeo.

Kerry talks here to Richelle Harrison Plesse from France24 about her book, Thirst.

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‘Details, details, details’, The Art of the Novel, 2015, Salt

'Grown on this Beach', Out There Anthology, 2015, Freight

Thirst, 2014, Chatto & Windus/Vintage

Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma, 2012, Chatto & Windus/Vintage

Extract: 'Thirst'

It was a pathetic way to be leaving Moscow but still he kept his eyes closed and imagined that he was back in Hackney, in their bed with the dip in the middle, the sheets always covered in crumbs. Alena was behind him but it was too hot to cuddle she'd said, but he felt her weight next to him and the clicking noises she'd sometimes make with her tongue when she was sleeping. He tried to remember her smell but could only think of the scent of burnt bacon and for some reason that comforted him. He imagined that bed, that he’d wake up with Alena every day of his life, that they would still fight, he'd never know all of her secrets, she'd never be a better cook but there wouldn't be any memory of that night of shouting and smashed glass, of her begging him for help and him turning away from her or the sick hungover feeling in the pit of his stomach when he realised what he'd done.

For a few seconds he was there, he could feel the bare skin of her back warming his just a few inches away, felt that he could roll back and her small body would shore him up.


He felt the sharp prod of those nails on his jeans leg and then a heavy square plastic bag thrown on top of him. He pulled himself up. He was getting pissed off with this, she must've seen he was resting, whether she understood or not he was going to tell her a few things about the customer always being right or at least not a total mug. But when he sat himself up as far as he could and pushed aside the plastic wrapped sheets, he saw that the Provodnista’s wig was squint and that there was something sick, bloated, underneath the sheen of dark tan. She wasn't a well woman. Dave recognised it well enough.

He took a deep breath, handed over his ticket and then she motioned him down from the bunk. Once he had contorted himself onto the floor below, he watched as she made up his bed for him in quick practised movements, and chattered with the girl and grandma, shaking her head. She gave him a nod and clasped both her hands under her ear, pushing the wig further to the right, 'Sleep, sleep.'

Dave smiled at her, said thank you, and he saw the smallest smile; an embarrassed tilt of her head, a hairline fracture in her hardness. She looked like a teenager hoping to please but wanting everyone to think anything but. A touch more sure of himself he tried again to smile at the grandma but she kept her eyes fixed on the passing trees and her granddaughter stared baldly at him, her face unreadable, the wispy end of one pigtail between her lips.

He went for a walk, did eight steps before he got to the end of the carriage. At both ends were toilets, all stainless steel that looked like it was from the 1950's, spotlessly clean, they even had a 'cappuccino' scented air-freshener, except for a filthy rag thrown on the floor. The toilet flushed with a pedal that opened a metal flap onto the rails and Dave apologised to the people of suburban Moscow as he watched his sizeable turd ricochet off the rails. The toilets didn't have taps, just a metal nozzle you pushed up to release the water, but Dave wouldn't learn this until two days into the trip. Too embarrassed to ask, he just ran his hands around the droplets left in the metal sink and hoped he wouldn't get dysentery before he could see Alena.

Outside the Provodnista's little office, a room with a chair, table, a bunch of lopsided plastic poppies and stacks of packet noodles and bags of crisps, was the Samovar. He'd read about these but it wasn't fancy like he'd expected. It was just complicated, all nozzles and tubes, a thermostat, a lever to turn for hot water. It made him think of an old time machines, or maybe like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that his Mum used to read him, a machine that churned out magic gobstoppers in gusts of steam. As he filled his travel mug and added his sachet of 'all-in-one' tea that smelled vaguely of baby sick, he wondered what his Mum would've made of all this: the Providista, the solemn children, her Davey all the way out here chasing after a foreign girl he barely knew.

'Stuck up the lot of them, you'd think they were living somewhere fancy not practically third world. No wonder it was called the flaming cold war, I'm frozen through just from the looks of them, ice queens and then some. And that one, running the train, using them rags as bathmats and putting on her airs and graces in a Wonderbra and enough make-up to sink a battleship. If she thinks my Dave's head will be turned by a few hospital corners she's another think coming. And don't you worry; I know this is just a phase, isn't it? This Alena girl's turned him besotted but she's not his sort really is she? Not like Shelley, a good girl from the estate, what would I ever have to chat about with that foreign one? And all those charity shop clothes and her temper, those tears. Not for my Davey. No, he'll come home soon enough. What's he want with a place like that, a girl like that, when he could be back here? He'll come back to how he was soon enough.'

Dave turned away from the blur of his reflection, and the temptation of those thoughts, in the wide belly of the samovar. His Mum wasn't there though, it was just him and the shadow of Alena he was chasing, that he'd been chasing since that very first day. And as he walked his way along the giant hand towel, stepped over kids crouched over card games and swerved around people walking  to the toilet with bowls of grimy cucumbers to wash and children's potties to empty, he realised that the sore, raw place of missing that his Mum had once occupied now belonged to that girl with the charity shop clothes, temper and gentleness in equal measures.

He imagined that feeling of missing a machine inside of him, maybe a small version of that samovar, except this one was constantly pumping and steaming away, the thermostat needle jumping side to side. He thought that if he couldn't find her, or worse, if he could find her but she turned him away it would explode in his chest, splintering his bones and puncturing his soft lungs and he would be full of shrapnel, whistling with holes of grief every time he took a breath for the rest of his sorry life.

He was ready to climb back up to his bunk, turn himself to the wall. He needed to succumb to a small, silent, self-indulgent cry. But back in the cabin the table groaned under the weight of a loaf of bread, a block of white cheese, sausage, tomatoes, boiled eggs, pink wafer biscuits and chocolates in gold plastic wrappers. The woman and girl sat side by side in front of the table staring out of the window. When Dave walked in the grandma pushed forward the girl who said, in halting but perfect English, 'Your name is?'


She gave a wide smile, turned to her grandma and rattled off a sentence with a heavily accented Dav-yeed in it and the old woman, who he now noticed had a dress with an extra panel sewn in in long hand-stitches and slippers with the toe taped to the sole, nodded and smiled a gappy smile that made her loose skin collapse on itself and motioned to the empty bed opposite the table.

'Dav-yeed, Dav-yeed.'

She put her palm upturned towards the table and then brought the tips of her fingers to her bottom lip.

So Dave sat opposite her and said thank you and when it became clear that he wouldn't help himself the woman cut small portions of each item of food and handed a piece to Dave and then to the girl who sat snugly beside him. The three of them watched the dusk behind the birch trees, the only sound their chewing, the blunt knife scraping through the thick bread until the woman made a noise with her tongue and said, her palm upturned this time towards the window. 'Russia.'

He nodded, the woman nodded in return and the little girl’s arm snaked through Dave's to steal a shiny wrapped chocolate from the table.