The Signatory

Kirk Marshall


The Signatory is a wild and enthralling novella from Kirk Marshall, an emerging Australian writer and editor of the Red Leaves bi-lingual literary journal. This mind-bending tale of Scottish cryptozoology must be read to be believed as it blusters and dallies with the mad antics of the strange British dilettante, Sebastian Sackworth. It is at times reminiscent of the nonsense literature of Lewis Carroll et al – and yet displaying more contemporary (dare we say) ‘borgesian’ stylistics. A delightfully absurd dramatis personae pits together a misanthropic anthropologist and a lusty Italian ornithologist on a madcap search for a rare Red Swan, soon to be joined by an Icelandic recluse, a chimpanzee, and a notorious pirate, to name a few. Along the way, Marshall manages somehow to mix in odd polemics on public transport sex, the science of moats, and the mysterious Scottish landscape.


Labyrinthine and surreal fiction is little-explored territory but those that dabble in such refinery will be delighted by this offering. Marshall’s polyglot mind and gymnastic vocabulary make this a novel to be savoured in miniature bites. In such, perhaps the author provides the best summary in his own words: “The Signatory is a phantasmagoric comedy that offers readers a cautionary tale of Scotland, the Scotland of dislocated nightmare, of demented cryptozoology, and it signifies the closest result to an end product if César Aira and Charles Portis collaborated on the screenplay for Withnail & I.”

“Kirk Marshall is a literary machine redlining audacity.”

— A.S. Patric, author of The Rattler & other stories (Spineless Wonders) and Las Vegas for Vegans (Transit Lounge)


“In an age of endless diaspora, The Signatory draws new spatial patterns of the sciences across the Scottish Lowlands. We're all looking for our own red swan round here. This is fierce work composed by the heart of a luchador versus everything else. Kirk Marshall is the real deal.”

— Jeremy Balius, author of wherein? he asks of memory (Knives Forks and Spoons Press)


“Kirk Marshall has plucked another beguiling and bristling tale from his beard of words. His writing is fiercely experimental with whimsical detours and stylistic roundabouts. Marshall works harder at the craft of writing than most people. He is a musketeer.”

— Eric Yoshiaki Dando, author of snail (Penguin) and Oink, Oink, Oink: A savage modern fable (Hunter Publishers)

A young, award-winning Australian writer, Kirk Marshall originates from Brisbane, Queensland, but is now actively engaged in Melbourne as a writer and teacher of Literature and Media (Film & TV Studies) at RMIT University. He is still an up-and-coming fiction writer but has been duly noted in some academic circles, most recently being awarded the 2010 Wet Ink Short-Story Prize and the 2010 Booranga Prize from Charles Sturt University for Best Short Story. He also won previous prizes at The Children’s Book Council of Australia and the Brisbane Short-Story Competition for youth. Rather fittingly, he has served as a panellist for the Emerging Writer’s Festival for multiple years and edits the English/Japanese bi-lingual literary journal, Red Leaves / 紅葉, with Yasuhiro Horiuchi.