For the second day of #Fahrenbruary, I’m really pleased and proud to be able to host a guest post from the incomparable Jo Perry. Jo’s Charlie and Rose books are quintessential Fahrenheit. I adore them, their unique storytelling style, wonderful characters, huge heart and compassion. I’ve reviewed Dead is Better and Dead is Best previously on the blog. My review of Dead is Good will be posted tomorrow for day three.
All three books are available to buy direct from Fahrenheit here
There are even still a few copies of the spectacular limited edition, hand numbered, hardaback available here.
The fourth book in the series, Dead is Beautiful, will be a #Fahrenbruary release – due out on the 14th.
Thats enough from me, apart to say a massive Thank You to Jo Perry who has been a huge supporter of this blog since day one and has gone way…
4 Try not to murder my mother, the pointlessly durable crone
5 Stop being a pro-domme. Become a psychologist? Vlogger? Flamenco dancer?
6 I’ve caught him. Can I kill him?
Full length novel £1.69 direct from the FABULOUS Fahrenheit Press
read inside at Amazon or here below. with occasional format glitches courtesy of WordPress’s entirely useless new ‘blocks’ system.
STAY OF EXECUTION
“You can’t kill me,” he says, very confident considering he’s chained to a St Andrew’s Cross.
“Can’t I?” Well, not just yet. I’d rather look at the moon over St Pauls. Full, bright, maddening. Closing the blinds helps, though there’s still a sinister shimmer. The City of London is deserted at weekends. I’d love to be walking down to the river, shivering as I pass the Tower of London, thinking about subjugated women waiting for the axe.
I’m in a different sort of dungeon. Where women rule.
Newcomers love the mingled smell of heavy leather and rubber, the obsessively neat rows of implements. The teasers and tweakers. The strokers and strikers. For me, the thrill has gone. I should stop, really. More than a thousand clients. Several stalkers. Who were a little frightening. Though none were as bad as this guy. Who is terrifying.
“You’ll never do it,” he says.A year of death threats, hate mail, long lens photos on his website, threats to kidnap my son. He’s unafraid, unrepentant. Which is ruining my moment. I’m not a sadist, except for money, and even then I’m generally not as cruel as the clients like. But some people do need some chiding. Taking down a peg or two. Taking down permanently.
“Your life is pathetic,” he says. “Craving control. Pretending to be dominant.”
“I don’t know. It’s better than a slap in the belly with a dank haddock.”
‘It’s ‘a slap in the belly with a wet fish’,” he says.
I give him a blast in the stomach with a taser. He has a bit of a flail, gradually regains his arrogance.
“You can’t kill me. You would have done it by now.”
“I’m a cat. I play with my prey.”
Wish I hadn’t said that. Sentences shouldn’t rhyme. Then again, you shouldn’t kill people. That’s what I’ve always felt. Can I fix that?
“I know you.” he says, surprisingly arrogant for a man facing a Yoshihiro sushi knife. I put the tip to his throat. He’s now the colour of a super white tuna.
Should I christen a £5000 blade? It was a present from a Japanese client. The lacquered sheath features a phoenix. He said it would always protect me. He said he loved me – for all the use that was.
Could I actually do this? Destroy all of the evidence including his body? I’m a good girl. “You haven’t got the guts,” he says. “You’re not who you’re pretending to be,”
My name is Susan Godly and I’m a sex, drug and alcohol addict. Which is fine. The only thing I’m ashamed of is being called Susan, and there was nothing much I could have done about it. I blame the parents. My name is almost ‘Sue’s Ungodly’, sounds the same anyway, and that prophecy came true when I was a teenage Goth, of which more later.
Susan is the name C.S Lewis chose for the older sister who is supposedly too grown up by the end of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. She likes make up and – trigger warning! – she likes nylon stockings. Yes, sheathed female legs, the Devil’s work. So I’m Mistress Marissa, professionally, when I help men become women, with a little lewd chastisement. I’m Mistress Murder for more hardcore clientele. Despite that name I probably can’t kill but I might surprise myself. Particularly if he keeps up the cold contempt, the arrogant condescension. How did we get here?
THE DEATH THREAT
“Your going to die, WHORE!!! Im going to slit your dirty fucking THROAT!!”
The first threat. Capital letters scrawled on dirty, torn foolscap paper, inside an envelope with my name on, no stamp. He knows where I live. One of my clients? Surely not. Someone who doesn’t use apostrophes, who writes ‘your’ for ‘you’re’?
Soon I will no longer be a WHORE!!!. I will be a THERAPIST!!!. I’m studying for a psychology degree. With the Open University. Well, some of the time. Even if I weren’t a WHORE!!! this spiteful inadequate would probably still want to kill me, another unavailable woman, someone who makes him feel inferior. I suppose I’m already a therapist, if you count roleplay, but the talking cure would be more respectable. And no repetitive strain injury.
MISTRESS MURDER’S MAKEOVER
I’m getting ready for a client, staring at myself in a mirror lit by lights bright enough to crack the toughest suspect. “You’re lovely,” Geezer Hardnut would say, one of my primary partners, who is smitten. I look OK I suppose.
Forty winters have yet to ‘besiege my brow’, (I am currently celebrating my third twenty-ninth birthday). The said dread winters may yet ‘dig deep trenches in my beauty’s field’ but we now have much better make up than in Shakespeare’s day.
If only I didn’t need so much time in front of my mirror disguising myself. The last person I need to see is the mad tart caking on the make up. And why bother? When most men would shag a rotting corpse. It’s got a pussy, hasn’t it? What’s wrong with you? You a poof or what?
“You look fine,” My Man Max would say, eventually, wearily. He’s my other bloke, the one I’m going to keep. Even though he’s only in love with himself – with good reason. Maybe I should eat more. You could chop out a line with my cheekbones. But when does ‘thin’ turn into ‘haggard’?
Shouldn’t be so self critical but then I aim higher than mere men. I wish to be judged by a jury of my peers. Their criteria is not whether I look attractive to men but whether I terrify them. Treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen.
I tease and tweak my hair. I could soften up and let it loose but I prefer this tight, dark helmet. Louise Brooks with a touch of evil. I spend a long time putting on and taking off make up until I am presentable. Though if the eyes are the window to the soul mine need cleaning.
MARRY IN HASTE. RESENT AT LEISURE
Drama needs conflict and jeopardy, a mighty battle, something worth fighting for. I’m not short of material, whatever the genre. My marriage was a farce and my divorce is a tragedy which could still damage future generations. In literature comedies end with a marriage. In life, tragedies begin with one. Bit harsh? My child saw that parents can hate each other, sometimes, but those memories tend to last. Will he be afraid of intimacy? Having seen our bickering broil?
Still, you might as well marry, if you’re young and in love. Or so I thought, till I tied the knot – around my own neck. After a good start I spent the next few years gradually suffocating. And when the end came it was anything but merciful. A scumbag once told my friend Crystal he was dying, just to get out of a relationship. She isinsufferable: a spiteful, greedy miser, a user who never does anything unless it profits her or hurts someone else. Painful as that must have been I was dumped for an older woman, the sort of muesli-fetishist who has a white stripe in her hair, on purpose, surely best on badgers or raccoons? Our love had died. But he swappedmefor death by home-made yoghurt. Or could it have been the big bazookas? Was he bullied by breasts? Pinioned by paps?
Sorry, I overdo alliteration. As a tease.Perhaps I’m hoping that Mr Jenkins my sixth form English teacher will give me a stern talking to before bending me to his iron will. Ahem. Focus. My real problem is…
WILL I GET MY SON BACK?
I don’t like him being at boarding school. Look what it did to me. I have access but not enough. I’m his mother FFS. My ex-husband was awarded custody because I am a sex worker and a drug user. Or, as judges and the tabloids might have it, ‘Kinky Hooker Mum is drug addict!“ But it’s recreational use. Perhaps on the heavy side, well, industrial, really but not actually addiction. As such. Just lots and lots and lots of ketamine and MDMA. A bit of Charles now and again. I only chase the dragon with someone’s else’s gear and I don’t hang round with losers anyway. I’m loved up. A club raver. Whatevs, I could clean up. I am giving up sex work too. To become a therapist. Or at the very least a Life Coach. I will advise vanilla women how to tame their men. I’ll be their husband whisperer. I’m starting a Vlog: ‘Taming men – Capturing the Beast.’
Maybe my life’s not the best example but then what sort of man complains that their woman is a sex maniac? My ex husband, that’s who. He emailed me some miserable drivel, just before we split. He was having difficulty with me having other partners. We were trying polyamory, at least I was.
“Sexual addiction or hypersexuality is defined as a dysfunctional preoccupation with sexual fantasy, often in combination with the obsessive pursuit of casual or non-intimate sex; pornography; compulsive masturbation; romantic intensity and objectified partner sex for a period of at least six months”.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” I replied. Flippant perhaps but imagine getting a note saying ‘you’re a loony’.
I had given him the polyamory bible: The Ethical Slut, or, as it often turns out, ‘How to Get Divorced in Triplicate’. It didn’t convert him.
He kept on at me. I was already going to Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous, on and off. Mostly off. I was already getting told off by them. I didn’t need him joining in. Besides, sex is the closest thing I have to a religion. I can’t see the harm in hypersexuality, if hypersexuality actually exists anyway. We are all programmed to have as much sex as possible to keep the human race going. It’s good exercise and although you don’t get out in the fresh air, as in golf, the outfits are way cooler. Some disagree. Most disagree. Do they have the happy marriages to prove it?
MISTRESS MURDER’S MINIONS: T-GIRLS and KINKY GUYS
“She seemed to me to be a man in woman’s clothes>” James Boswell on the Chevalier D’Eon, an eighteenth century transvestite.
I specialize in makeovers, helping men get in touch with their inner female. Unfortunately, most men’s transgendered persona is a slut or a whore. She doesn’t crave chocolate or coo over kitten pics. This is a new evolutionary development: men who think they’re better women than we are. After all, we were only born with vaginas and a sweet tooth. You need a man to do anything properly… Could my stalker be one of my clients? It’s not unknown for trans people to have some mental issues although just saying that gets you death threats from outraged millennials. And how dare you suggest ‘gender’ exists? Whatever that is. Sigh. This used to be fun, not an excuse to be offended or play the victim card.
Mistress Murder is my new persona. I already have a leather hood, red and black with purple eyelets, red satanic horns. The Domme from Hell. A Mexican wrestler who will wrap her legs around your neck, squeeze you till you beg for mercy. Maybe it’ll scare my stalker. Maybe it will trigger him, incite him to kill me just to defend himself.
Maybe I should stop overthinking everything.
I need help, also therapy, a sugar Daddy and a new Mummy, preferably someone with some maternal feelings although I’d settle for anyone who isn’t a sour, disapproving bitch, anyone who isn’t a colossal snob, anyone who isn’t hoarding the family fortune. Let me at it, you pointlessly durable crone. Don’t worry you’ll still be able to belittle and control me once you’re gone. You’ll still haunt me, always assuming you’re actually ever going to die. Even then, she’ll have herself cryogenically frozen, which will cost what’s left of my inheritance.
MASSAGE WITH MY MAN MAX
I rang My Man Max to discuss the threat. And because I love him. He had been on his way to some black tie dinner but came straight over, hugged me, listened for a while.
Right now he is pouring more lavender and calendula oil into my hot, foaming bath, a deep golden blend enriched with soy and avocado. His manly musk mixes in with the fragrance of well-scrubbed Mistress Murder – on heat but trying my best to look aloof. He rubs my shoulders with his strong hands, nuzzles the nape of my neck, whispers some lewdly poetic praise into my ear.
“Put the threat out of your mind. There’s a lot of sad, inadequate people out there. This is the only way they can get any attention.”
Deep, manly voice. Strong hands, kneading and soothing.
“Take it to the Police. Let them deal with it. Be even more careful than usual. Carry on living. Otherwise he’s won.”
He makes me feel safe. Protected.
“Shame you’re not around more often,” I say, then regret it. Never good to sound clingy.
“I missed your scent,” he says. “Your soulful eyes, your smile.” A neat deflection. Doesn’t address where he’s been. Or who with.
Then it gets too spicy for public consumption. Scandalously intimate.
“Down, boy!” I tell him, although he’s making me purr.
My, it’s hot in here. Steamy, too. He must be wilting in his tux, although his starched wing collar remains stiff. Limpness is not an issue with My Man Max. He’s hard when he wants to be and a softy when I need cuddling. He cuddles. He cossets. He’ll cherish you till you’re red in the face, sighing for mercy. He’s an Alpha Male, yet emotionally literate. He’s a moody marauder, a handsome rascal, a lovable rogue. Tall, dark and handsome. Hands on, just where you need them. Big money, big ego and a big weapon in his pants. He listens and he’s good at caring, sharing psycho-babble. He probably learnt it just to keep the female engine running smoothly but how many men would even bother trying?
He loves fast cars, any sort of engine he can tune to work better. He’s good with his hands.
There is a catch, needless to say. He’s not around very often. There may be other women, although he says there aren’t. He’s too busy doing something stupefyingly boring for big bucks. Or racing his cars against other laddish millionaires. If not quite a bastard, Max is the unavailable devil we ladies often yearn for.
Surely I can tame him? Puncture his ego with a few sly barbs? I am skilled at filleting men and removing their backbone. Which I sharpen and use on the next victim. Max is different. His real thing is cars. (What real man’s real thing is women?) If I were a Porsche it would matter if I had developed a worrying noise in the gear-box. (Look, I don’t know or care if Porsches have gearboxes. All I know is that his is cramped and he’s always trying to drive it too fast. It’s more trouble than a catwalk model but at least it doesn’t answer back. He loveshis Porsche. Even if he does cheat on it with a Bentley and a Jaguar. And two Ferraris.)
So he’s everything I want but he’s not here often enough. There’s too many nights when I sleep with a teddy bear. Too many nights when I’m awake and the flat is full of wide-eyed users – using my body, using drugs. Which I might, er, occasionally use too. Just to keep them company. Just to be polite.
He could rescue me, protect me. Marry me and make me happy for ever and ever. But he needs his space. Some cheating men smell of perfume. He smells of oil. And money. So he’s flawed.
I still love him.
“You are going to take that threat to the Police?” he says. “Not just say you going to.” He knows me so well.
“Everyone gets death threats now,” I say. “Not hand delivered.”
“I’d have you killed if you betrayed me,” I tell him.
He’s not bothered. Though he should be. Being a tad evasive when it comes to commitment.
I get the faintest rasp of stubble as he whispers some sweet and salty sex talk. My Man Max makes the average razor ad Adonis look like an alcoholic rough sleeper but they have yet to invent a razor that can tame his testosterone. Still, if you want a real man you have to take the rough with the smooth. His blue eyes sparkle as he leans in to whisper something rude.
“Stop it!” I tell him. Even if I weren’t giggling he would know I mean ‘Carry on! And crank it up, big boy.’
He’s just back from a City of London function, hence the tux. Something boring yet massively lucrative has just happened to his firm. I’d sooner listen to a drunk, weepy phone call from my mother than attempt to explain what he does. My Man Max plays with pretend money, which turns into large amounts of real cash, too little of which he spends on me. Rich, rugged, racy; he’s still under thirty and yet he is not arrogant. How often do you get that combination? I could call him a toyboy, as I am on my fourth twenty-ninth birthday. However, I look up to him in more than just height.
He’s very smart, without being condescending, masterful, without being overbearing, macho, without being brutish and sensitive without being a big girl’s blouse. He’s a bigger-brained Pierce Brosnan, tough as early Sean Connery, suave as Roger Moore, smart as Timothy Dalton, as ripped as Daniel Craig – all without the wearisome vanity thespians display. He’s Bond without the balderdash. Men like him and womenlurvehim. Some might find his good looks boring, perhaps even gay. But there’s an intriguing scar down the side of one cheek. He changes the explanation for its existence as often as he upgrades his computers so I’m assuming he has a dark secret.
“Feeling good, honey?” he asks. “Got everything you want?”
“Oh yes. You’reeverything I want.”
My Man Max puts a manicured hand into the bath and swirls the water around, wafting up aromatic bath oil over us both. He strokes my belly in slow insistent circles, drifting downwards, sailing slowly into port. It doesn’t take long before my eyes are closed and he gives me a brief taste of what is to come. His busy fingers stroke and soothe, rubbing me softly. After a brief sojourn somewhere crucial he withdraws his hand and dries it carefully. No Mess Max, the only house-trained male I ever knew.
“I’ve fluffed the duvet, mixed your Pink Lady, prepared a Cole Porter playlist.”
I was a cocktail pianist once upon a time. Then I was Andrew Lloyd Webber’s West End bitch for a while, churning out his pigswill on a synthesiser till drug addiction and various personality disorders terminated any further chance of employment. He often made secret visits to check up on his little darlings and my slapdash keyboard work (a little the worse for lunchtime cocktails) once reduced him to tears, the big girl’s blouse. Well, if I achieve nothing else in this life I can still retire happily. I inflicted some much needed pain on that overpaid bumface. With risible hair…oh forget him. Here’s My Man Max. The opposite end of the evolutionary scale.
“I’ve bought you some Agent Provocateur lingerie. From the new catalogue. Can’t wait to see you in them. Or out of them.”
Could he be after something? Well, he may very well be in luck. I can’t give in that easily though. It’s the rules. Men should be wrong-footed as often as possible. Which I’m usually happy to do. Although My Man Max and that deep, wicked, manly rasp turns me all gooey.
“I’ve found Diana Krall versions of ‘You’d be so nice to come home to’. ‘Easy to love’. ‘I get a kick out of you’.”
Three of my favourites. And I can ignore Diana Krall’s virtuosity, beauty, good fortune and happy marriage for these titles remind me of when My Man Max flew me first class to watch a Cole Porter revival on Broadway. He’s so considerate, so desirable and so very hard to resist. I do like proper musicals. The ones not written by bumface.
For the moment I stay calm, raising an eyebrow, checking in my many mirrors to see if I look inquiring as opposed to imperious. Max understands my moods. I don’t need to shout. The Pink Lady turns out to have enough lemon to be tangy but not enough to make you blanch.
“I forgot the cherry,” he says, “Sorry.”
“Stuff the cherry.”
“Very well, Ma’am.”
A mock bow, a hint of a smile. I toast his very good health. If only he weren’t away so often. If only he weren’t married to fast cars. You think he pampers me? It’s nothing to what those bitches get. So he’s good at massage. Theyget their bodies rubbed and oiled and buffed and…I’d rather not know what else he does to them.
He leaves on some unspecified errand. I subside back into the water and let it wash away the memory of idiotic clients and the hard ache of missing my son, which is never too far away even during a severe pampering. I picture My Man Max and me on our wedding day. St Paul’s Cathedral or Brixton registry office? And should I have my mother sectioned before the ceremony?
I recall our last lovemaking, the strangled sound of his release, the sigh of his gratitude. For once he wasn’t in control and that’s my fierce pleasure. Unmanning him for a brief moment. He walks past the open door, naked, his tight, taut bum crying out to be nibbled.
That does it. I was never too good at delayed gratification. I want him. I want him now. I step out, towel off quickly and walk towards my cherishing.
Fill me up. Up to the brim.
HATE MALE. LEGION OF THE DIM.
DCI Wilson is a friend with benefits, good in bed, though it’s been a while. We’re drinking coffee in a family run Italian place. The bickering sounds classier.
Shagging a Detective Chief Inspector had its uses. Access to the Police computer, expert analysis of CSI plots and a very good critique of my Policewoman roleplay (When he was naked, cuffed, face down on the bed, begging for a touch of the truncheon.) He reads through the threats, which I photographed and stored on my phone.
“We should run a DNA test,” he says. “And we need to make this official.”
“What if it’s someone I know? I don’t want to send anyone to prison.”
“They might get probation. And the therapy they need.”
And it might make them hate me even more, even more determined to kill me. Though it’s still likely to be a sad loner. Even so, these threats have got under my skin, more than the usual hate mail, which we’re all used to by now. Everyone’s at it. Spitting poison on the internet. Flaming, trolling, hacking. What happened to a brisk walk then a nice sit down? Cribbage. Mini golf. Why pretend to be as horrible as possible? In order to win a pointless squabble with total strangers? People who aren’t who they’repretending to be.
“You’ve had threats before?” he asks.
“Yeah but this one knows too much about me. Maybe he’s guessing but I don’t know. Everyone gets threats but it’s worse for women.” Inadequate men, hating you because of their mothers, their girlfriends. Maybe their blow up dolls developed a leak. Maybe their Sex Robots rusted.
“How do you know when it’s a real threat?” I ask. “When does obsession turn to stalking? When does obsession become murder?”
I should stop being so flowery, so talkative. Why can’t I be strong and silent like him? I drivel on, embarrassing myself in the process.
“If they’re saying it they probably won’t do it,” he says, finally, when I’ve stopped wittering. “He probably wrote that left-handed so he could tug himself off with his right.”
Trying to reassure me. My lovely gruff bear. Big and huggy. Although that was more than a year ago now.
I shouldn’t be remembering our brief encounters. But…he’s a hard, muscular man. A tough guy. Good at sex, plenty of staying power. He doesn’t stint when it comes to putting the nosebag on, chowing down. You don’t have to plead for it either. You don’t need threats or bribes. He actually wants to do it.
While he’s telling me about security I remember his
tongue teasing my nub, his fingers working wonders. He was a right laugh and he even bought thoughtful presents. But it couldn’t last and it didn’t. The sex worker thing, probably. Tis pity I’m a whore, to customize a play I couldn’t sit through at school.
“Keep me posted,” he says, getting up to go. “And get me that note.”
That makes me feel better. Although I would prefer to be held in his strong arms till this vague panic goes away for good. Our concluding hug is brief and chaste but leaves me wanting more. His smile warms me on the way to the tube. Till I see him looking solemn at my funeral. Next to my mother who looks as cold and dismissive as ever. And my friends who knew I should have left the life and…everything feels cold. Fear floods me. Is my killer following me? I turn round in the hope of surprising him. One guy swerves to avoid me. Someone else tells me to get out of the fucking way. I keep moving, trying to take slow, deep breaths. Count them, Long slow, deep breaths.
This would be the day I have no valium. Dumb doc won’t write a prescription in case I get ‘addicted’. As if I would. So I have to keep going, experiencing actual unvarnished reality. And full frazzled anxiety! Don’t panic. Easy to say.
Maybe my other man will have an answer.
YOU WANT MY MAN MAX. YOU’D SETTLE FOR GEEZER HARDNUT.
Geezer Hardnut, up from Brighton, is panting at my feet, pretending to be a randy dog. He’s a lovable hound, the sort of shaggy-coated mongrel that shouldn’t be allowed on the bed. He’s so sweet,cute for a tough guy but still lethal. Pumped up muscles, cropped hair, and too many sharp suits – the great nancy. He has some frightening scars and tattoos from his misspent youth but has renounced violence – except for money. Or when taken suddenly drunk. He is a successful entrepreneur, a club promoter, also an alternative alchemist, selling magic white crystals. I’m trying to give him up. But, like his product, he’s addictive. Fortunately I’m not too fond of Charles. But if it’s there… When in Rome…
He runs the provisional wing of Fathers Need Justice! (North Kent No Surrender! Branch). Yet he just can’t quit marrying people. He’s a big soppy dog with some lovable traits but why would anyone put up with this mongrel when My Man Max is around? My Man Max is not around. I should probably put that on a macro key to save me the bother of typing it so often. At least Geezer is generous with money and goodies and he’s here, not somewhere else with a rich, dumb floozy. The problem, one of the problems, is that he keeps asking to marry me.
“We don’t need that. Long. slow death.. Shopping at Homebase.”
“You can mock. Marriage is a beautiful institution.”
“You should be in an institution,” I tell him. “How much maintenance are you paying?”
“None!” says Geezer. “Trust fund girls love me, their bit of rough.”
Of course. Geezer never loses. So he keeps saying. I’ve seen him cry over his kids. At Christmas. But we don’t talk about that sort of thing. Just in case it sets meoff.
“So I’m just another posh bird.”
“You’re not like them.”
“How dare you! I went to a boarding school, for young ladies.” “Yeah babe but…you’re not…well…”
“Yes? Spit it out.”
“Well…you’re not…aristocratic, are you? Not the Clarissa
Ponsoby-Smythe type. And I wouldn’t want you to be.
You’re you. Just you, with all
your…special qualities. I love you.”
So he does. He says so. He’s in love with me and he feels fine. (Wish he wouldn’t keep playing Beatles songs. What year is this anyway?) But how do I feel?
Also – he’s drugged and bathing in the warmth of a few double brandies. Does he just love the way I make him feel? Does he just love sex? It has been known, with men. And can I compete with the blazing sunshine of his self-love? It must be nice not having to go anywhere else for romance. Just get up, look straight in the mirror and there you are: the object of your affection. You might still have to buy yourself little presents, just to keep yourself sweet. But then you can keep them all to yourself. Well, maybe he’s just young and justly confident of his fit bod and genuine machismo.
I only wish my mother could see us together. It might just finish her off. With any luck. The shiny suits, the tattoos, the shaven head, the chunky wrist bracelet. I don’t like his jewellery come to think of it but it never seems the right moment to say so. Besides, where else can you find a real man who actually likes women? Most hunks are only interested in shagging each other. Geezer’s not only well-endowed he knows what to do with it. He also loves to lick. He’s quite happy down there, listening to me grunt and groan. It may be because he’s a control freak, and he just likes making things work – cars, computers, women – probably in that order. But, he isn’t My Man Max. And he isn’t the Honourable something or other, the sort of chinless berk my mother would prefer.
“We were made for each other,” he says. “We should be together.”
I let him suffer a little.
“And what makes you think you’re worthy of me?”
“Oh yeah?” he says, full of himself as usual. “I’m going to write a book, about you entitled, stuck up bitches. ‘It’s only a pussy, not the crown fucking jewels.’ Good title eh? What women need to know. By a man. Simple, really. Stop holding us to ransom. ‘It’s only a pussy. Not the crown fucking jewels.’”
There is a pause. I’m giving him enough rope with which to hang himself. Geezer is on the verge of repeating this searing philosophical insight, perhaps hoping for opposition, or a tired smile and a weary ‘yeah yeah ‘. He does know he’s on thin ice.
I pour him another balloon of brandy, wiping and tidying the bar as I go. I avoid my reflection in the mirror. Trying not to see the solitary, fussy old bat I am fast becoming. Even though my ex-husband rarely comes here he reserves the right to complain if it’s not neurotically tidy.
At first I thought ketamine was the next step in human evolution, perhaps the means by which humans could become divine. I thought the visionary trances were an essential Shamanic tool for exploring consciousness, both before and after death. I could summon angels. Sounds nuts but then K is a radical dissociative. It makes the average LSD trip look like a vicarage tea party. It’s acid. On Acid! Be that as it may, if you take horse tranquilliser too often your flat gets as messy as a stables. So I’m giving it up. No more three day binges for me. I didn’t buy any today.
Geezer doesn’t like me on it. He can’t take the k-hole blackouts, the lunatic conversations, the near death experiences, not of all which are euphoric. He’s a bit of a lightweight, really. Actually, he’s a control freak who can’t be doing with time running backwards and out of body experiences before lunch. That’s why he prefers coke. Which can make him too aggressive. Would it make him mad enough to send me death threats? Unlikely as he’s totally smitten. But unrequited love can make people crazy.
“You’d never crack and start sending me death threats would you?” I ask. He doesn’t break down and confess just looks puzzled. He genuinely has no idea of what I’m talking about. And, not for the first time, neither do I.
“I might,” he says, “if you kept taunting me with some other bloke.”
“You know we’re not exclusive.”
“Yeah but Max is a poof. And you’ll never get him anyway.”
“What do youknow about it?”
“He’s out of your league.”
“I’m out of your league.”
“Oh yeah, who was screaming how much she loves it? Getting a good portion. Getting it right up the…”
“You’re so crude.”
“And you love it.”
And I do. But I don’t love him.No doubt how much I love my crystal Goddess though, Lady K. Which I need medically, as it’s a cure for bipolar depression. It is. Well, if administered in small doses under clinical conditions. One day I will be rewarded for my pioneering research. Just you wait.
“Thanks, babe,” says Geezer, receiving his brandy with as much grace as he can muster, for a nude man with a large glistening semi. I love him saying ‘babe’, any sign of affection really. I get sloppy and sentimental when told to ‘mind the gap’ on the tube. At leastsomebodycares about me. Well Geezer does but…is it enough? Would I be any good as a gangster’s moll?
“‘It’s only a pussy,” he says, still proud of this idiotic assertion. “Not the crown fucking jewels.”
“A little less anger dear. Makes you sound sad and bitter.”
“Then I’m going to do another book,” says Geezer. “’And bum-holes are tighter too.’”
Most amusing. I could say, ‘and you should know’ but then hard men can be a little touchy about situational homosexuality. More of them than you might think are bi and fighting it and some of the straight ones have experienced male rape in various prison and army settings, as rarely seen in geezer chic gangster pics. This is the secret no one wants to know. Some men like a bit of that.
“Sounds like a great movie,” I tell him. “Who will play the bum-hole? Hugh Grant? He’s getting a bit old to play you, isn’t he?”
“Oh Ha Ha. No. I want Danny Dyer.”
“Him off Eastenders.”
“I know! And I do NOT watch Eastenders!”
“Keep your hair on, Lady Muck. I know you’d never watch a soap. Apart from all those American series.”
“That’s long form drama.”
“Keep telling yourself that.”
There is a grumpy silence. Just as I finally simmer down, he gets me again.
“Shall I put The Football Factory on?”
Big ‘gotcha’ grin. Time he had a good punitive cropping. Nothing sexual, just a damn good thrashing, till he’s begging for mercy. Danny bloody Dyer.
He once made me sit through The Football Factory. Recall is swift and painful. And why do their horrible clothes cost so much? Plastic anorak with logo – £200.
The broadsheets are always bemoaning the death of the British Film Industry. You can’t lose with a film about football yobs or neanderthals in Essex Range Rovers. You’re ‘Larfing! Having a right tin bath!’
I look at Geezer and ponder the cultural chasm between us, much wider than the usual moat dividing men and women.
“Why are we together?” I ask. Geezer says something very rude indeed in reply. It could be interpreted as a slur upon my honour.
Oh well. I say some very rude things back and Geezer pulls my knicks down and starts doing what I want. What we both want.
“You love it. You love it, you filthy bitch.”
I don’t love this particular phrase but it excites my valiant swain, who keeps on stoking my fire. And on. He doesn’t stint himself. Or me. Once we’ve scraped ourselves back down from the ceiling there’s a lovely, long cuddle afterwards. And he says some soppy stuff he keeps for me alone.
It could be worse.
Perhaps if he was unavailable I would yearn for him and I would be in love. Like he is in love with me. Because, ultimately, I’m unavailable to him. As it is, I’m bitching about a coupling that works. Love is a bitch. Is this love? Well, yes, sort of, but not while My Man Max is still a contender. Geezer knows all this, or at least I keep telling him it. But he’s persistent. I’ll give him that.
I suppose I’ll miss him when the time comes. I’ll worry about that later. Sufficient to the day the troubles thereof, said some Galilean hippie.
7 ‘I CLEAN THE STREET’S. OF FUCKING WHORES!’
Another hand delivered threat. Written in blood. Could be ochre paint I suppose. Which is no excuse for rogue apostrophes. Or is he just pretending to be stupid? I ring the Police, who aren’t interested. Maybe I should have called it a hate crime. If only he’d misgendered me, on Twitter, they would have sent a squad car.
8 GILES AND ME. CAN’T YOU TAKE A JOKE?
My MP client has just come – finally! The Goddess be praised. ‘Roxy’ gets up off her knees and is Giles once more. Well, you’re not likely to mistake ‘Roxy’ for a woman, or a t-girl, one of those who can ‘pass’. He’s a bloke in drag, en drab, in the jargon. There’s nothing wrong with that but I sometimes get ‘Roxy’ mansplaining make up and what really suits ‘her’. How to be a woman – by a guy.
He wipes his make up off, peels off the fishnets, looking very pleased with himself, as usual. Time someone burst his bubble.
“My boyfriend thinks I should blackmail you.”
What on earth made me say that? Spirit possession? Satan himself? I soften it with a smile. He’s not amused.
He’s looking down at me. The air has frozen solid.
“I could have him killed,” he says. “Pimps don’t get in the way of what we’redoing, dear.” He’s never called me ‘dear’, practically spitting at me.
“It was a joke.”
“Was it really? Tell your moronic thug that anyone can be killed cheaply, as he will know. We have people disappeared.”
Thin smile. He makes regular trips all over the Middle East, on behalf of a security consultancy, privatised spooks performing various shadowy services. They must be really good at it because there’s going to be peace any day soon. Or there might just be more lucrative carnage. Something’s bought him a big house in Chelsea.
“You don’t need to know,” he says. “Tell him it’s the Rothschilds or the Bilderbergs. Throw in Chemtrails and Mossad, some ‘conspiracy’ you moronsmight believe.I’m too important to be fucked with. That’s all you need to know.”
He’s still staring down at me, glaring, trying to burn my eyes out.
“I get it, no need to make a meal out of it,”
“You and lover boy get in my way you’ll just vanish. Like that.”
He clicks his fingers. It’s genuinely chilling. Despite the burlesque outfit and the recent age regression roleplay. Or does that make it worse?
“I’m sorry,” I say. A curt nod.
He gives me an extra hundred quid, throwing it at my feet and insisting I pick it up. He sneers when I comply.
9 “I BOUGHT YOU A NEW DIET BOOK, DEAR. I KNOW HOW KEEN YOU ARE TO LOSE WEIGHT.”
Tea with Mother. At the Langham Hotel. Where I used to play the piano back in the day. Right opposite the BBC. Palm plants and the sort of celebrities my mother’s heard of: Melvyn Bragg, John Humphreys. Geriatric lounge lizards.
I look at the diet book. A 5:2 system, two days fast, five days eat normally. As I’ve been on the E Plan diet for some years I’m more in need of a guide to bulking up. The Italian Mama pasta diet perhaps. Neither do I need the other book, ‘Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Dummies.’ Well, I might needit but I’m not ready for it and I resent the Dummy insinuation. Over sensitive perhaps but then everything she does rubs me up the wrong way.
‘I worry about you,” she says. “When I was your age I had your father.’
And look how well that turned out.
“Why do I need a diet book? I’m practically skeletal.” Although I’m now starting to doubt that. This is what she does to me.
“I’m sorry. I haven’t seen you since last Christmas. You were talking about diets.”
“Someone else’s diet. You were talking about Nigel Lawson. The Conservative politician. He lost tons of weight then wrote a book. Do I look like I need to lose weight?”
She doesn’t doesn’t answer for just long enough to plant doubt and self-loathing.
“What’s the diet?”
“No alcohol, no sugar, no dairy. I’ll get the book if you want.”
“NO!He looks dreadful. Like a collapsed scrotum.”
“You could pass it on. Regifting, I think it’s called.”
“Yes, women love that. When you give them a diet book.”
I tug my skirt down, conscious that a mini skirt was more appropriate to clubbing with Geezer last night than tea with Mama. I woke up late, hungover and needing more chemical confidence. We were chatting and chortling, way past dawn.
“That is a rather daring skirt, dear. You can see what you had for breakfast.”
Not long now. And then I won’t have to see her till Christmas.
A moptop celebrity guitarist arrives with an eager to please BBC person. He defined the mid nineties, by pillaging the sixties. An affable funny guy who, annoyingly, has even managed to kick a massive habit.
“Cocaine,” says my mother, spotting him. I suppose it’s all in her Daily Mail. “It makes good people tiresome and bad people evil.”
Is she quoting someone? Did she actually make that up?
“Don’t look so shocked darling. Before your father I was with a Harley Street Doctor.”
And with anyone else with the price of a champagne cocktail. And delivery men, shoeshine boys and guys who stopped to ask the time. She once tried to corrupt a Jehovah’s Witness but his faith was too strong. Maybe he recognized the Devil had assumed female form.
“I tried it once, didn’t like it,” she says. “He wanted me to inject his bottom. Sad little pervert. Is that the sort of thing you like?”
“What?! I’m not going to discuss my sex life.”
“Bit quiet? You can always take evening classes. Great way to meet men.”
“I’m meeting enough men, thank you.”
“Well don’t be so fussy. If I’d have waited for a perfect man you’d never have been born. And that’s what we’re here for, darling. Reproduction. Keeping the human race going.”
“I have a son.”
“Yes but wouldn’t you like another one you could see more of?”
She must know this hurts. More than anything else. But she can’t or won’t stop. Is it a disease or condition? Manic cunt syndrome? No boundaries, breathtaking offensiveness, useless advice, unwanted help.
I really hate people who look at their phones in company. I’m now trying to calm myself down by seeing if I’ve had any more emailed death threats.
“Darling, we said no phones.”
I have a text from my stalker.
“That skirt is far too short. Cover yourself up, WHORE!”
I close my eyes.
“Bad news?” she asks.
“No, just my life coach. Keeping me on my toes. Time I got back, lovely seeing you.”
“Anything I can help with? Something I can get for Josh. You must miss him.”
“Lean, mean prose. Labyrinthine unguessable plot. Complex, haunted protagonists. The day I received Insincerity I was gifted, appropriately enough, three bottles of high intensity Psycho Juice chilli sauce. Just as the sauces had more texture and flavour than average, this searing story will also linger in the memory. A unique, utterly compelling tale of obsession and predation.”
‘I have had four novels already published this year, Savage Highway, The Pure And The Hated, Ersatz World, and Disembodied.’ snip. ‘That’s nine, not bad for a year, and next year looks like it will be eight, including the long -awaited release of the sequel toApostle Rising.”
MR Nine? Nearly as many as me this year. Well,
actually about nine more than I have so far managed
but I have had one acceptance and there’s six months
left so…game on! (Spoiler. Richard might edge this one.)
I actually felt guilty disturbing the flow of this one man story tsunami so this chat is a little shorter than last time. I’ve tried to make up for it with an especially baffling set of fonts. (It’s actually my tribute to punk, about forty years overdue.)
MR Is ‘Insincerity’ the most spare prose you have written? It seemed to me transatlantic – in a good way. It could have been written by an American.
RG No I would not say it is the most spare prose, I’d say maybe Wrong Crowd is. It may sound transatlantic as I may have been influenced by US authors such as James Lee Burke, a great great writer.
MR Love James Lee Burke. And Crumley, of course.
MR You’ve been working out for some years now?
RG Yes pretty much all my life from school. I hold four black belts, have played various sports such as baseball, and now weight training and power lifting.
MR Is it possible to convert the split second decision making of martial arts on the page?
RG Yes absolutely. Fast narrative yields fruits.
MR My question was badly phrased. I was wondering if you had written about MMA in your novels. (Which I should have said…doh!) I’d like to read some of that.
RG No I haven’t
MR Joe Rogan said MMA is ‘high level problem solving with grievous physical consequences’.
RG It’s a good observation considering the range of skills involved and yes it is dangerous, it’s what those guys sign up for, right? My trainer is an ex cage fighter and MMA specialist.
MR Have you been injured practising MMA? It’s bound to happen some time isn’t it?
RG Yes of course broke two bones.
MR Massively ignorant generalisations coming up. Some martial artists look down on Krav Maga. Which works, though it’s not as aesthetically pleasing as, say, Wing Chung which seemed to me more like Chinese Ballet than a dirty, street fighting system. (In other words, I was too idle to get past the first few lessons.) What system would you recommend?
looks good, but is pretty useless, ,like trad Jiu Jitsu the holds are based
on an archaic fighting system. Overhead arm locks for horse riders
bearing swords well we do not see those today. If you grab my wrist I
will head but you. Krav Maga is distilled from all the best systems into
one total system, but an ugly system. Do you remember tennis when it
was wining ugly? Win! Fights are not pretty. Kill.
MR Will we see more of Tammy Wayne? (ex military PI in Insincerity.)
RG We will!
Thank you, Richard!
MR The one constant throughout his widely varied work is the forward momentum, You just can’t stop reading. I was especially intrigued by Buffalo and Sour Mash (Down and Out books) Contemporary Western Noir. A psychotic American sets up a rodeo in Surrey.
Grips instantly. Sleek, bleak. Thrilling and chilling.
“Exceptional writer… crackling dialogue… dazzling. Read him.” – Luke Rhinehart, bestselling author of The Dice Man
“That horrible taste in the back of your throat? That sense that something, some thing, has slipped up behind you and is walking in step? Celebrate them. Richard Godwin does — brilliantly.” – James Sallis, bestselling author of Drive
There’s some good interviews at Chin Wag at the Slaughterhouse including a fascinating exchange with the legendary Luke Rhineheart, we are not worthy. He has a new novel.
How often is a memoir genuinely astounding? Adrenaline Junkie takes us through Les Edgerton’s harsh rural childhood, working harder before he was twelve than most of us ever will. There follows armed robbery, pimping, drug dealing, rape in prison, narrowly avoiding a hellcat’s castration attempt, suicide foiled by the rope breaking, a walk on part for Charles Manson and his creepy serial killer mate – who got short shrift from our host. And so much more…
So many startling sentences: ‘She was going to be his last fuck before the operation and I was going to be his first after he became a woman.’ ‘It was then Charles Manson started to contact me…’ There’s a satisfying twist late on after he becomes a family man so this fascinating book has just the right ending.
I was also reading, of all things, Two Sisters, Gore Vidal’s rambling fictional memoir, wherein he boasts about being related to Jackie Kennedy, and how it annoys his social climber friends, whom he doesn’t like. It’s mostly glib preening, with too much emphasis on sex with one’s sister – which is any emphasis at all.
Les Edgerton’s story sounds different. ‘I grew up in Gulf coast Texas and spent a lot of time in my grandmother’s bar/restaurant where I’d done every job—bartending, bussing tables, dishwashing—before I turned 12 when I added cab dispatcher to my resume. It was a honky tonk so I saw my share of knifings and shootings.’
Adrenaline Junkie makes Bukowski seem like Donny Osmond and it’s all the better for being true. A must read.
Down&Out Books, November, 2018.
MR Have you written about your prison experience? Will it be covered in your memoir?
LE I’ve written about those experiences in a number of works, including short stories and novels, most notably Hard Times. I do write a lot about it in Adrenaline Junkie.
MR 42 per cent of prisoners in a new study said they had seen someone killed in childhood. Is there any way of preventing troubled adolescents becoming hardened criminals?
LE I’ve seen several people killed when I was a kid. One such incident happened when I was 12. My grandmother thought I was old enough to learn her taxicab business so she started me out as the night dispatcher. The night dispatcher as that was the quiet period.
An hour on the job, one of the cabbies started hassling another cabbie with a dead rattlesnake. The guy he was tormenting thought it was alive and when the guy threw it on him, he pulled out his pistol and shot him in the throat. About 4-5 feet from me.
As the dispatcher, it was my job to call the police, which I did. This was in the days before 911 so I had to look it up and dial it. The guy went to trial (I had to testify) and he was acquitted on a defense of self-defense. This was in the days before people had gone nuts and still had common sense. The guy left town immediately as the guy he’d exed had a bunch of friends and relatives.
I saw my share of knifings and shootings. However, I wouldn’t consider myself “troubled.” It was just what it was. We just lived in a different era and place than some others. My early experiences didn’t make me a criminal—it just made me a person who didn’t take shit from others or who needed a safe place or a skirt that fit…
As to how to prevent adolescents from becoming hardened criminals, the answer is easy but most won’t do it. The entire secret in a teen emerging into adulthood and not becoming
a criminal is simply to make sure they feel they have control of their lives. This is why people perform criminal acts—they perceive a lack of control in some area of their lives. A rapist was probably raped himself as a child and sees the act of rape as a way to gain control over that part of their lives, albeit briefly. A person who holds up a clerk has just gained control over his life, again, albeit briefly. You can trace virtually every crime back to an intense feeling of being powerless in some area. It’s basically why they keep repeating crimes—the feeling of power is intense, but it goes away quickly. To recapture that feeling they have to repeat the crime, usually with less and less time between each instance and also they have a need to ratchet up the intensity of the crime. Most of those folks with sociology degrees and the like don’t have a clue—they’re too busy trying to figure out if the causes are genetic or environmental and never stop to figure out why some members of the same family or members of the same class or neighborhood environment turn out lawabiding and some don’t. It’s their individual experience and how they interpreted that experience.
All kids who get abused sexually don’t turn out to be pedophiles or rapists. A large percentage do, simply because they belong to the group that was violated. But, it’s not just the act of being violated; it’s their perception of that experience.
This was a theme in my novel, Just Like That, and the then-assistant warden of the state prison in Louisiana—the Farm—Cathy Johns read it and said it was the most accurate
and truest take on the criminal mind she’d ever read. That meant more to me than any praise from some social academic. Cathy knows criminals…
LE That’s funny you mentioned that. A few years ago, I’d sold my memoir to the University of North Texas Press and shortly after that, was out in Hollywood, staying with my then-manager, Paul Bennett, who was getting me pitch meetings for the screenplays I was writing then. I’d just signed the contract with UNT and told Paul I’d just sold it and he asked if he could read it and I just happened to have a copy with me as I was starting rewrite edits on it. The next morning, he told me he’d stayed up all night—couldn’t put it down—and wondered if he could show it to his best friend—who happened to be the president of HBO Films. Before Paul had become a manager, he’d been the V.P. of HBO—Paul was the guy who started and ran the Comedy Specials. I said sure and the next day that guy called Paul and said he’d had the same reaction—stayed up all night reading it (and those guys never read anything!). He asked Paul if I’d sold it to the film industry and when Paul told him I hadn’t, he told him not to show it to anyone—that HBO wanted
it and would film it, and that they’d just wait until it came out, got some sales, some reviews and maybe some awards and then they’d film it. I went home on Cloud Nine, and then, my editor at UNT quit corresponding with me and I finally got ahold of the editor and he said they weren’t going to publish it as I didn’t have a contract with them. What had happened was that a week or so after I’d signed the contract, my editor and the publisher both left—the publisher, Fran Vick had retired and the editor, Charlotte Wright had quit at UNT and had taken a similar position at the University of Iowa Press. In a panic, I got hold of Charlotte and she told me she’d been expecting my call, that the new editor had been doing the same with all the authors she’d signed—he wanted to create his own stable. Plus, he was an asshole. She said I certainly did have a contract and she’d send me a copy if I wanted her to and if I took him to court they’d have to publish it, but she asked me if I really wanted someone to publish it who didn’t want to. Reluctantly, I told her I agreed and then I called my agent, Jimmy Vines, and he said don’t worry about it, he’d find a new publisher and that was it. Shortly after that, Jimmy was drummed out of the agent biz for some nefarious behavior on his part and the memoir languished in a drawer for years. Not getting it published then cost me any deal with HBO, not the first time I’ve been fucked in publishing…
MR Mickey Rourke played Bukowski in Barfly. Anyone handsome enough to play yourself?
LE The actor I wanted then is the same I’d love today—Woody Harrelson. He played the lead in the only movie I’ve seen that I thought was accurate for criminals—Natural-Born Killers. Plus, he’s a Hoosier and his dad died in the joint so he has the right background…
You do know Bukowski hated the movie Barfly and in particular the acting of Rourke. He much preferred the later edition where Matt Dillon played him in Factotem.
MR ‘I began by reading Balzac and de Maupassant and the Russians when I was six and seven and eight years old’ Wow. Was it hard being so different to your contemporaries?
LE I really didn’t have many contemporaries. Growing up in Freeport, Texas I had two friends and when we moved to Indiana we never lived in one place long enough to make any but acquaintances. And, I didn’t know anyone who read what I read. Most were mouthbreathers who read crap like The Hardy Boys Do Dumbass Stuff. Mark, I have an I.Q. of 163. Couldn’t really relate to many kids my age so I mostly hung out with myself.
It’s really hard to remain civil when you can see the dumbness up close and personal. Am I an elitist? I certainly hope so! Have you ever talked to those people who think everyone is
equal? The ones who think that… often are…
MR The narrator in The Rapist is bleakly psychopathic, rather than a charming Ted Bundy type. Utterly horrible. This goes against current wisdom: audiences need to identify with a character. Plus just about everyone has to get over being revolted by the subject matter. Yet it’s compulsive reading. It seemed to me, and others, that it’s up there with Camus’s The Outsider. Is it best to forget about markets and be as truthful as possible?
LE It’s absolutely best for me. Money has never ever been a goal of mine. My goal is to be as honest as I can be and tell the best story I’m capable of. Money just never interested me in the least. Time after time, I’ve walked away from lucrative situations just because I was bored. After all, how many cars can you drive at one time, how many houses can you live in at one time, how many clothes does one need?
Just never considered wealth to be a measure of anything important. I really feel sorry for those folks who base their personal value or the worth of others on money or things.
The readers who find they need to identify with characters and those characters are predominantly good guys with the same politics and belief system as they have are not the
folks I want reading my work. They’re just not going to get it. I’d recommend a Hardy Boys book perhaps with some curse words so they feel it’s an adult book…
MR Hooked is a great guide to grabbing the reader immediately. Does teaching and writing books on the craft keep you sharper than creative writing alone?
LE Sure. To be honest, I don’t think much about craft—when I write it’s just good the second it’s on paper. I’ve never rewritten anything in my life. The craft books I’ve written were just based on common sense in writing and designed for those who need the obvious pointed out to them.
MR Which includes me these days. You ‘admire Lee Child who doesn’t pretend to be a writer but is an author. Big difference’. How do you see the difference?
LE A writer is someone who doesn’t allow anything to influence what he writes and is a person of intelligence. An author is someone who has either lucked on something
marketable or figured it out and mostly just keeps doing the same thing over and over. A totally boring existence unless your world is centered around money and what it can buy. Usually a smart or clever person, but not necessarily an intelligent one. Big difference between being smart and being intelligent. The trick is if you’re intelligent not to let on that you see the difference in public… like I’m doing here…
MR Adrenaline Junkie briefly describes a tryst with Britt Ekland, while you were in the navy. Incredibly, Britt Ekland came on to me when I was 22 and she was 35. Maunkberry’s Club Jermyn Street. I didn’t get as far as primal bliss in a cupboard. I was a bit intimidated by this exceptionally beautiful and, on this occasion, well refreshed woman…(yes, she’d have to be…)
LE Ha-ha! I was 18 and she was around 22 then, I think. I also ended up in a hot tub on the roof of the Omni Hotel in Austin with another of Rod Stewart’s babes, Rachel Hunter–me, her, her costar on Winding Roads and Ted Melfi, the director (while my wife and son slept in our room downstairs), so it looks like Rod and me share the same tastes… She was, indeed, beautiful, but my memory is mostly of her wonderful breasts… I don’t have the Rachel Hunter bit in my memoir as my wife believes I’ve never strayed… and I haven’t…
MR I heard someone’s asking crime writers for stories which don’t involve guns. Maybe we could stack that anthology alongside non-alcoholic beer and tofu burgers. Surely we have to look at uncomfortable truths?
LE Yeah! When I saw that, my jaw hit the floor. Looks like the loons have gone full-scale nuts. Let’s see, what could be wrong with that? “Crime writers wanted to submit stories in which there are no guns.” I’ll leave this to an amateur—this is too easy for a pro.
I saw this coming a couple of years ago. I was in Idaho as a presenter for their annual Extravaganza, guest of publisher Aaron Patterson, and while there attended a talk by the keynote speaker, C.J. Box. First, some background. I really liked Idaho and talked to Aaron about moving there and he advised against it. He said it used to be a great place but that in the last few years they’d been inundated by people moving there from California. He said most were people fleeing the high taxes and repressive laws, but that unfortunately they brought their attitudes with them and were voting like they had back in California and the state was rapidly becoming a welfare state. He said they’d already ruined Oregon and Washington and now Idaho and Wyoming and Montana were on their radar and he was thinking about getting out himself.
Okay, that’s the backstory. After C.J. wrapped up his talk, he gave a Q&A and this little tweedy guy stepped up. I say “tweedy” as this guy personified the term. He was a little balding guy, with fruitcake designer glasses, and a cashmere sweater wrapped around his shoulders and tied in front by the sleeves. Mr. Rogers stand-in… When he opened his mouth, it became obvious Aaron knew what he was talking about. “Mr. Box,” he said. “Do your characters have guns and if so, do they use them?” It was kind of obvious he’d never read a Box novel and had probably accidentally wandered in when he saw a sign proclaiming a literary event, probably expecting Robert Waller or Nicholas Sparks.
C.J. looked at him, took off his Stetson, scratched his head, and said, “Well, sir, my protagonist is a game warden and so he’s armed and he’s always after a murderer who usually used a gun, so… yeah, there are guns and they use them. You don’t suppose they’d engage in pillow fights, do you?” The whole place exploded and this little twinkie slunk away, probably to a safe place where there were other snowflakes who wouldn’t laugh at his punk ass.
That’s a true story and I’d be surprised if C.J. was sent a request to submit a story sans guns.
If this is the coming thing, I just want to get a law passed quickly allowing open carry for pillows…
MR 🙂 Thanks for a great interview Les!
LE Thanks for this opportunity, Mark. Sincerely hope I’ve pissed a few folks off. If I haven’t, it’s not worth it…
I’ve always liked writers’ guides. Phil Hurst’s site has much useful advice and informative interviews. He recommends Stephen King’s On Writing which I found entertaining and helpful, especially as its coming from someone with an exceptional track record. One of the problems with, say, Robert McKee declaring himself the Pope of Story, is that he only ever wrote one tv movie (as Joe Eszterhaz likes to say). This raised a smile:
There’s also the irrefutable ‘Stop stressing about writing! Learn to relax and become a better writer.’ So if you need advice and motivation, which I certainly do, visit writewithphil.com
MR Some say you shouldn’t write about writing or have a writer protagonist. Are there any novels you would recommend featuring writers?
PH Not so much a novel, but a film. “Adaptation” by Charlie Kaufman is a great exploration of the neurosis that can take over a writer. It gets really meta at certain points, and I don’t think non-writers will enjoy it much, but it’s still in my top five films. I’m not a Nicholas Cage fan, but he’s really good in this.
MR Loved it. Though it’s hard to get enthusiastic about Kaufman’s more recent work. Synecdoche, New York. Even the title’s difficult. Then it gets worse. Your favourite Science Fiction writers?
PH Chris Beckett’s Dark Eden Series was one of my
favourites over the last few years. The first book was
just a fantastic piece of writing, dark and moody, but
with just enough hope that keeps you hanging on. It
takes a little bit of getting used to, but soon enough the
characters start to live with you.
A writer I also enjoy is Philip Palmer. His book “Red
Claw” just doesn’t stop – it’s a violent, brutal and (most
importantly) fun book. I devoured it!
MR Your favourite writers in any genre?
PH Douglas Adams is truly one of the great writers. If I
could write with such confidence, wit and humour, you
would never get me away from the keyboard. I
recently bought a reprint of all the “Hitchhiker Guide”
books and I’m beyond excited to read them.
MR Your novel deals with what happens to the soul
after death. Is that the ultimate terror, trapped for all
PH It’s the ultimate terror, which is why the
government in the book can be so dictatorial (even if it
pretends to be doing good). As humans, we’re
extremely bad at visualising eternity, so to be trapped
for an indefinite amount of time must be the ultimate
MR Can you enjoy all of a genre or will some of it inevitably
PH Just because you enjoy a book in a genre doesn’t
mean you will enjoy it all. I think that’s the trap that
some people fall into – reading one little sci-fi book
will not make you a genre addict. The joy of reading is
that different writers will approach genre in
completely different ways, and part of the enjoyment
is deciding not only what you like, but why you like it.
MR Michael Moorcock famously once wrote a novel in
three days with a leaky fountain pen. I have never
managed more than six thousand words in a day and
that was a one off. Lucky to get a tenth of that usually,
if I’m writing at all. Has your personal best altered
PH I’ve got more disciplined, but only because I’ve had
to! My time to write at home (I’m balancing a full time
job and a 90 minute commute) has decreased in the
last few years. Rather than moan about it though, I
decided to make the best of it. Now I’m probably
writing more than I did in my twenties, although
probably not as much as when I was completing my
Creative Writing Masters.
I found an event like NanoWriMo is also really good
for focusing the mind and giving you a target to aim
for. It takes away the excuses that we’re all so good at
creating for ourselves.
MR I tried to get back into writing with a pen, especially now
my wife repairs vintage pens. I have elegant implements and a lot
of inelegant inkblots.
I mostly missed being able to move paragraphs around. Have you
abandoned pen on paper?
PH For actual writing, pretty much. I still will scribble down
ideas on a notebook by the side of the bed. I try and carry
something around with me to make notes, but most of the time
that turns out to be my phone. I used OneNote a lot to write
down ideas, because I find I’m much less likely to lose them. But
when I’m attending writer’s meetings I’ll take a notebook and
pen. There’s something incredibly anti-social about writing
behind a screen, especially when you’re in a room full of friendly
MR Any writing manuals you would recommend?
PH There’s one book that I got an old copy of years ago
and has been by my side ever since. It’s called “Telling
Lies for Fun and Profit” by Laurence Block. I’m not
sure if it’s still in print, but if you get the chance pick
up a second-hand copy. Although a lot of the advice has
aged a lot of it is relevant again in the age of blogs and
MR £3.49 on Kindle. Looks useful.
MR Have you seen Terence Blacker’s Writers’ Rules tweets? Good advice which can also be enjoyed as gossip, if, like me, you’re trivial. And there’s some philosophical insights such as: Ian Fleming: ‘Writing makes you more alive to your surroundings and, since the main ingredient of living is to be alive, this is quite a worthwhile by-product’ #writersrules#perksofthejob @terenceblacker
PH Thanks for the advice! I am following now!
MR Thanks for your answers! Some great insights. And it’s good to mention writing and gainful employment.
Anthony Trollope had a day job for 32 years. He wrote 47 novels and various short stories, non fiction and plays. (Easier without Twitter, Facebook and American long form drama but even so…) There’s even two volumes of letters. Rather than some internet rants.
‘Trollope joined the Post Office as a clerk at the age of 19. In
1841 at the age of 26 he moved to Ireland, where he married and
began to write. He remained an employee until 1866, and rose
almost to the top of the organisation.’
Way to go, Tone. Better get to work.
Or can I tempt you to a two minute read? Which has a walk on part for Robert ‘Mr Story’ McKee?
Sean Penn Challenging Charles Bukowski to a fight – a Joe Eszterhaz story
MR Jukebox is really great. Fantastic! Your style seemed to me (perhaps incorrectly) cinematic and poetic, but with enough interior monologue to enable a deep connection with the characters. The best of old fashioned story telling with contemporary sparkle.Can you explain your ‘sonic scatter script’?
SV Thank you for the cool comments about Jukebox. Glad you enjoyed it. Sonic Scatterscript is basically a literary idea I came up with as a poet that points to a focus on sound and rhythm. Best described withan example: “She was a wiggle and giggle chick with a slut bomb bounce.” The sentence has a very obvious rhythm. It starts out like a waltz: one two three, one two three. Then it ends on three stressedbeats, rat tat tat, for percussive emphasis. Initially it feels like a hotcutie waltzing down the street, her hips swaying from side to side, and then it ends with a Cha Cha Cha. The rhythm mimics every dip of her hips, every swivel and giggle of the character. I also use assonance and consonance to tighten up the phrase, make the groovestick in your mind like a melody. Even more than diction, rhythm and melody give the line a “street” feel in tune with contemporary forms of speech like slang, rap, hip hop, punk poetry. I am as focused on themusic of the language as I am on its meaning.
MR I really liked Nick, the conflicted lawyer, was appropriately appalled by Mel, the ebullient entrepreneur. Did some personal experience help here?
SV I think some lawyers are ripe targets for satire. They know how to manipulate the law for their own ends. But not all lawyers are money- grabbing leeches. There are some who do battle for justice and standup to corruption and inequality. But if you look at the corporate sector, it’s overrun with armies of lawyers whose goals and tactics appear no different from those of the mouthpieces hired to protect organisedcrime. They slither around the periphery of criminality themselves, and because they understand how the law works, they can play both ends of the system.
MR Do I detect some impatience with badly behaved conceptual artists? (‘Liggers and art fucks.’)
SV Ha! I love conceptual artistes. What would the world be without a little bit of surreal drollery? In Jukebox I was having a little fun with an artsy crowd who vehemently believed that being an artist was much more significant than making good art, a Futurist notion that still triggers debate now. The novel satirises the fact that they enjoyed a suitably carefree semi-bohemian existence but never created much art except for the way they chose to live their lives, which I guess some people think is art in itself. Instead of creating art they suckered random associates, impressionable teens, and assorted cognoscenti to invest in their particular brand of tomfoolery. We see a group of school kids painting walls, and a slouch of fading musicians downing Scotch at 6 a.m., while an East End glamour model poses for a calendar shoot. Junkland activities dressed up as art. These artistes define ‘Art’ as a commodity and artistry as a field of commerce. By dazzling and manipulating the artistocracy with their crazy shenanigans, they were in effect playing huckster and satirist at the same time. The scam allows them to feed off the system and simultaneously expose it as a scam.
MR What attracted you to London?
SV I was attracted and inspired by the crepuscular crimedom of London that sparks to life when the well pressed suits head back to the suburbs and the lawless come out to play. For me London personifies a
naughty punk ingénue. Her mini skirted insouciance sailing a breeze.
But she’s also the coke snorting aristo, flaunting her inherited riches in front of food banks and pawnshops. Even with an apocalyptic tang in
the air though, London’s blend of cool irony and double-edged resilience always inspires me. On that note: Crack Apple and Pop is being published by the irreverent Fahrenheit Press this year. It’s a
gritty slice of neo-London noir.
MR Great title. Will you be returning to Clerkenwell, London in general for your next?
SV The new book, American Scandal, is a crime story set in LosAngeles, featuring an all female punk band, and a fast thinking, mean mouthed female mobster and entertainment impressario. The book looks at the ugliness lurking behind the celebrity fuelled New Age posturing and postmodern spangle. Some of the characters struggle for identity.and there is an eruption of racism that threatens the the fairy tale premise of the American Dream. Everyone’s making deals and payoffs, and venal reaming makes the world go round. Whether it’s law, sex, or money they all get their fifteen minutes, but riches and status-changing fame always come at a price.
MR Sounds great. Do you live in New York, London or both?
SV I’m in between cities right now, a wanderer. I’m more a citizen of the world than resident of a particular city or nation. Hopping along the global freeway has its pros and cons. You can fall under the spell of
starless skies and a phantasmagoria of contrasting faces in sardined buses or be besieged by the static silence of suburban space.
Although there’s always a sense of searching for centeredness in the world, when you are between cities the story line is always changing, just like the landscape.
Nick Stringer is a rookie lawyer but what he really wants is to run his own record label. His dream seems one step closer when old family friend and businessman Mel Greenberg offers to bankroll him.
Avery Cross is a junior reporter desperately searching for the story that’s going to make her name. Avery thinks there’s more to Mel Greenberg than meets the eye and that uncovering the truth about him might just be her ticket to the big time.
Nick, Mel and Avery’s lives converge against the backdrop of London’s underworld where glamour, crime & greed party side by side. It doesn’t take long before Nick begins to realise that if an offer looks too good to be true it probably is.
In a city rocked by corruption and excess, one of them is going to learn that sometimes in life you get more than you bargained for.
Jukebox is Saira Viola’s brilliant full-length debut novel.
“A great amount has been done in literature over the years but every now and then someone comes along and shows us a completely different approach to the ancient art of the scribe . So hail Saira Viola and discover her twisted and beautiful imagination. Literature needs Saira Viola . Her writing is sharp direct and gripping.” -Benjamin Zephaniah
“A fresh faced voice to herald in the apocalypse .Posers beware .This is the real deal.” -Jonathan Shaw
“Injecting musical prose into a dying genre and one sorely needing a shot in the arm .What Viola has proven is the great novel is not incompatible with virtuosic poetics.” -James Browning Kepple
“I enjoyed this piece’s in-your-face quality.” -Robin Wyatt Dunn
“Guy Ritchie meets Martin Amis…….stunning.” -Betsy Reavley
“Jukebox is a dirty, delinquent satire with plenty of scabrous humour, but it also holds up a mirror to a society obsessed with the wrong kind of celebrity. …..Jukebox is a compelling crime caper.” -Crime Fiction Lover
“Jukebox is a witty riotous story populated by larger-than-life characters in EC1” -The Clerkenwell Post
“Jukebox is unique – overflows with pazazz.” – Heathcote Williams, International Times
PS There’s a Clerkenwell restaurant in my next, which
Chris Black, the best editor ever, is disentangling
right now. My restaurant consists entirely of
Italian family bickering and some exotic cheeses.
Saira Viola paints detailed, vivid pictures.