A letter plops onto the mat from Tim Thurn:
Ahoy there, Mr Key! I could not help noticing, in your piece yesterday about Satan the little bunny rabbit, that you clearly were at a loss how to bring your trifling bagatelle to a close, hence the introduction, at the close, of a psychopath-poacher who was able to wrap things up in short order. It is not, however, this rather desperate bit of fol-de-rol that bothers me. Of more concern is that nowhere do you acknowledge that you have stolen this character from the much-loved writer of pulp fiction Ned Peasant. In the 1920s and 30s, his tales of rustic violence featuring the psychopath-poacher appeared in dozens of cheap sensational magazines, among them Tales Of Rustic Violence. Thrilling Yarns Of Deranged Peasantry, and Countryside Psychosis Weekly, to name but three. It pains me to accuse you of brazen plagiarism, Mr Key, but sadly that is what I must do. I will be pinning up an accusatory notice to that effect in my local community hub later today. You will not be welcome in my village, should it ever enter your head to pay us a visit. Yours more in sorrow than in anger, for once, Tim Thurn.
Now, Tim will find this hard to believe, but I insist that I have never, ever heard of Ned Peasant nor his pulp writings. I somehow arrived at the figure of the psychopath-poacher independently. Perhaps it was one of those weird and curious happenstances that have no rational explanation, like psychic forewarnings of calamity, or showers of toads, or the existence of Russell Brand.
However, taking my cue from Tim, I did some research, and was delighted to stumble upon a crate full of yellowing dog-eared copies of pulp magazines in one of my cupboards. Sure enough, I found that Ned Peasant had contributed to most if not all of the titles. I read through his stories avidly, in one sitting. They included “The Psychopath-Poacher Slaughters A Badger” (Violent Rustic Antics, Vol. XX, No. 7. July 1922), “The Psychopath-Poacher Slaughters Several Badgers And A Duck” (Bucolic Mayhem, Vol. CXIV, No. 2, February 1928), and “The Psychopath-Poacher Goes Haywire Near A Haystack And Slaughters Hundreds Of Badgers, Several Ducks, And A Vanbrugh Chicken “ (Tales Of Blood-Drenched Enormities In The Countryside, Vol. MMCXVIII, No, 12, Christmas 1934), to name but three.
In my defence, I have to say that my own psychopath-poacher bears scant resemblance to the vivid and timeless fictional character created by Ned Peasant. Nowhere, for example, does Ned’s original gather a sprig of buttercups for his lady-love. Indeed, he does not seem to have a lady-love at all. There is, it is true, a recurring character called Bonkers Maisie, who appears to do various bits of drudgery in a farmyard, but it is never suggested that there is anything between her and the psychopath-poacher save for a shared joy in drinking the still-warm blood of freshly decapitated poultry – see for example “The Psychopath-Poacher And Bonkers Maisie Tamper With The Farmyard Spigot So That From It Spurts The Still-Warm Blood Of Freshly Decapitated Poultry” (The Weekly Digest Of Fictional Farmyard Spigot Tamperings, Vol. MMDCCCXIX, No. 4, Easter 1937).
I have been trying to discover biographical details of Ned Peasant, with little success. One rumour, which must surely be spurious, is that late in life he was engulfed in a miasmic cloud of mysterious gas, shrunk to microscopic size, and after wafting about in the wind for some years was eventually pocketed by Walter Mad, the mad scientist, who injected him into the brain of a mewling infant in a Barking maternity ward at the tail end of the 1950s. Poppycock, no doubt.