Frank Key

Frank Key
Frank Key giving a reading, 2011
BornPaul Byrne
29 January 1959
Barking, Essex, United Kingdom[1]
Died13 September 2019 (aged 60)
London, United Kingdom
OccupationWriter, broadcaster
Genreshort story, nonsense, satire

Paul Byrne (29 January 1959 – 13 September 2019[2][3]), who used the pseudonym Frank Key, was a British writer, illustrator, blogger and broadcaster[4][5] best known for his self-published short-story collections and his long-running radio series Hooting Yard on the Air, which was broadcast weekly on Resonance FM from April 2004 until 2019.[6] Key co-founded the Malice Aforethought Press with Max Décharné and published the fiction of Ellis Sharp. According to one critic, "Frank Key can probably lay claim to having written more nonsense than any other man living."[7]



Prior to 2006 Key's published work consisted almost entirely of short-run, self-published pamphlets. All of these original printed releases are out of print. Some of these books have become collector's items which have traded at many times their original value.[8][9] In 2009 Key began re-publishing stories from his small-press releases. We Were Puny, They Were Vapid, included the short stories The Phlogiston Variations and The Book of Gnats, which were originally published in the Massacre anthology series.[10]

In 1986, inspired by the postpunk DIY ethic, Key founded the Malice Aforethought Press with Max Décharné. Over the next few years they published a large number of short-run pamphlets.

In 2003 Key launched "Hooting Yard", originally intended as an internet archive of his writing. In addition he released six volumes of stories which originally appeared on his web-site. These were published by Hooting Yard and made available as paperbacks and eBooks via Lulu.

In 2014, Key published By Aerostat to Hooting Yard - A Frank Key Reader, a selection of 147 previously published stories, with an introductory essay by Roland Clare.[11]


Resonance FM

Key broadcast weekly on Resonance FM, since 14 April 2004 when his show Hooting Yard on the Air was first commissioned. The programme was broadcast live from Resonance FM's studios and consisted almost entirely of Key narrating his own short stories and observations. Hooting Yard is the longest continuously running series on Resonance FM, with only the ClearSpot Show (which is technically not a series) having existed on the schedules for longer.

Resonance has broadcast a number of Hooting Yard special episodes. In December 2007 Key and the performance artist Germander Speedwell performed the whole of Jubilate Agno,[12] an epic devotional poem by Christopher Smart This was the first and only time that this poem has been performed in its entirety on live radio.[13] The entire performance was in excess of three hours.

Key appeared in Episode 3 of Resonance FM's Tunnel Vision,[14] a series recorded entirely in the sewers under London.


Key narrated for all of the Escape Artists podcasts: Escape Pod, Pseudopod, and PodCastle. In addition his short stories Bubbles Surge from Froth,[15] Boiled Black Broth and Cornets,[16] and Far Far Away[17] were performed by Norm Sherman on the short-fiction series Drabblecast.

Critical reception

The Guardian's literature columnist Sam Jordison described Frank Key as one of the most prolific living writers of literary nonsense.[18] The Guardian's David Stubbs wrote that Frank's prose "reminds of Max Ernst engravings gone Bonzo Doo-Dah".[19] The SF critic David Langford wrote "Frank Key's lumbering machinery is like nothing since Ralph 124C 41+ and other pillars of SF's wooden age, only more decrepit. He may even conceivably be writing steampunk.".[20] In a review of Twitching and Shattered, John Bently concluded, "It isn’t surrealism, it isn’t satire, it’s just not like anything else."[21] Edmund Baxter, the director of programming for Resonance FM wrote "Frank Key is one of the most important writers in English today".[6]

Published works



Hooting Yard

Other works


  1. ^ Clare 2014, p. 28.
  2. ^ Key, Frank. "An Important Anniversary" . Hooting Yard. Resonance FM. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  3. ^ "Frank Key RIP" . Resonance FM. Archived from the original on 20 September 2019. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  4. ^ "Welcome to Hooting Yard: The Exhibition" . Menier Gallery. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  5. ^ "Frank Key" . The Dabbler. Retrieved 22 March 2012.
  6. ^ a b Edmund, Baxter. "Six Years of Hooting Yard" . Archived from the original on 19 August 2014.
  7. ^ Jordison, Sam (15 November 2007). "I'm talking nonsense. In a good way" . The Guardian.
  8. ^ "Auction of Smooching With Istvan" .
  9. ^ "Cramp and Turps" .
  10. ^ Key 2009.
  11. ^ Clare 2014.
  12. ^ "Frank Key presents Jubilate Agno" . Resonance FM. Archived from the original on 19 August 2014.
  13. ^ Jordison, Sam (27 December 2007). "For I will consider Jubilate Agno" . The Guardian.
  14. ^ "Tunnel Vision Episode 3" .
  15. ^ Sherman, Norm. "Drabblecast Trifecta X" .
  16. ^ Sherman, Norm (11 March 2009). "Drabblecast Episode 106" . Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 6 April 2010.
  17. ^ Sherman, Norm (19 November 2008). "Drabblecast Episode 90" . Archived from the original on 19 November 2009. Retrieved 6 April 2010.
  18. ^ Jordison, Sam. "I'm talking nonsense. In a good way" . The Guardian.
  19. ^ Stubbs, David (15 June 2006). "Sounds eccentric" . The Guardian.
  20. ^ Langford, David (1993). "Mysteries of Frank Key" . The New York Review of SF.
  21. ^ Bently, John (2003). "Twitching and Shattered". In Bodman, Sarah (ed.). Artist’s Book Yearbook 2003-2005 (PDF). Bristol: Impact Press. p. 11. ISBN 0953607690.

External links

Categories: British broadcasters | British humorists | English spoken word artists | 1959 births | 2019 deaths | 20th-century British male writers | 21st-century British male writers | Writers from London

Information as of: 30.06.2020 11:39:00 CEST

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