A Chat with Maxim Jakubowski

tlr maxim

‘An intriguing mixture of past tradition and future-shock dystopia, written by a giant of the genre … highly recommended.’ Lee Child

The Dark. What if an electromagnetic wave wiped out the internet? “Goodbye Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, chatrooms, websites, commerce made easy cyber-style, contactless, electronic life; farewell to everything we had delegated to that mythical cloud, wiped out without even ashes to mark its passing.”

Although there’s an upside. Librarians and fact checking journalists are now in greater demand. 

The people who loved books were now at the top of the

evolutionary ladder, while the bankers and their ilk had sunk to

the bottom.” Now you’re talking. 

A femme fatale needs to find her sister, a nod to Raymond Chandler. Our narrator, journalist turned private investigator, is however vulnerable and bookish, closer to most readers than a wise-cracking tough guy.

“There was nothing remarkable about me. Had never been. 

Apart from the propensity to get hurt by the world of women. Bruises that became internal scars long after any hypothetical physical evidence had been erased by the passage of time. 

Each woman a chapter. 

Each one a bittersweet regret, for what had not happened or, if it perchance had, for losing her, having not allowed myself to be fully open to her affection or confusing lust with love, leaving only memories that became deeply imprinted in my psyche.”

This is also a search for the protagonist’s lost love, from 

New York through Chicago down the Mississippi to New Orleans, where the occult takes centre stage. There’s some gruelling ordeals along the way – no one will forget the wrestling match with a female MMA fighter. There’s sensual evocative writing throughout. The ending stays with you as does the preliminary journey. An enthralling tale, well told. 

Maxim J

MR I’m in awe of your workload: running Murder One, reviewing many books, writing your own, editing anthologies, book tours, translating. ghost writing, columnist. I’ve probably missed something out. Are you working harder than ever? 

Actually, not all in same time! I’m only human. Murder One closed some years back and I no longer have any involvement. And have never done any ghost writing; I have written 11 novels over past years under another name (some of which even reached the Sunday Times Top 10) and that author/name is still under wraps for commercial reasons but that’s the nearest I’ve come to being a ghost in my own writing life! And, no, am not working harder and feel at times that I do a lot of procrastinating and could do more. But there’s still a life to live… 

MR From the acknowledgments to the excellent The Louisiana Republic: ‘This is my first novel under my own name in some years, having taken a sabbatical of sorts – if you consider writing 11 novels in under 3 1/2 years a sabbatical- in another literary genre, collaborating on a rather successful series.’ Do you feel freer as a ghost writer? Less concerned with possible criticism?

The reason those particular books were under another name was because the publishers and the buyers at the chains and supermarkets felt they would do better as if coming from a new ‘voice’. And also under a female pseudonym! They were commercially right as those novels have done so much better than anything I’ve done under my name, so go figure. When I look at them, I am proud of them and people in the know instantly recognise them as coming from my rather perverse imagination anyway, so didn’t hold back in the slightest when penning them (with a collaborator…).

MR Do you speed read? Does that affect enjoyment of a text?

I read fast but not actually speed read. One still needs the time to savour, appreciate the style and atmosphere. 

MR Are there any idiomatic expressions that are hard to translate? 

The vocabulary of sex and how to express it is a constant challenge, but that makes matters interesting, I reckon. 

MR I remember that wild Robin Cook night at Murder One. Is there anything you’d like to share about Robin Cook/Derek Raymond? 

Just a great friend and human being, and one I miss a lot despite fact we were poles apart (I don’t drink…). I’m his literary executor so still heavily involved with his books which, fingers crossed, might soon be adapted for television.

MR What’s your next project? 

Another novel under my own name. Working title is ‘The Memory of Absence’, but still unclear what it will specifically be about, but will no doubt drag along all my customary obsessions. I also have a few short stories appearing this year and my ongoing column and chairing/judging one he Crime Writers’ Association’s Daggers (I’m Vice Chair of the CWA). And recently completed translating the second novel by my friend Johana Gustawsson, ‘Keeper’ which appears almost simultaneously along with my own book, and we’ll be promoting together.

You can read the first chapter of The Louisiana Republic if you join the Times Crime Club.
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/newsletter-signup-crimeclub-cw8qsvlg2

 Keep in touch with Mr Jakubowski here.
http://www.maximjakubowski.co.uk

MR Still scourging myself after blearily confusing ghost writing and pseudonymous writing. Time to stop. I’m starting to like it.
I’m currently looking for someone less slapdash to ghost all of my writing and actually be me on a permanent basis. Applicants need to be more efficient than a sixty one year old, insomniac, recovering alcoholic addict, so only the best need apply. There is no remuneration but this will be ‘great exposure for you’.

H’mm, I’m trying to stay away from doomy cynicism, which can be a self-fulfilling prophecy so quick reminder that a good way of avoiding self-destructive behaviour is to practise more gratitude and less envy. A little less cynicism. Park the snark!
(Also, being cheerful will enrage your opponents.)

Pharrel Williams’ Happy – Centrist Dad makeover by trumpet virtuoso Till Bronner. Righteous groove by drumming legend Vinnie Colaiuta

 

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Blue Noir. Lift To The Scaffold. Miles Davis. The Cinema of Louis Malle Part 1

Should we depressed people immerse ourselves in Noir? I’ve always been drawn to dark culture, gallows humour and a vicarious life of crime. I didn’t have any choice as to Kink, which can take you to very dark places, especially combined with drink and drugs, (as not recommended by scene preachers, widely indulged all the same.) Ecstasy and transcendence may only be a temporary solution – kicks, as some called it when this movie was made – but it works in the moment. Where we live.

Louis Malle came from a prosperous family but throughout this tangled tale of adultery and murder his sympathies are with the underdog. We open on a passionate declaration of love from a beautiful woman, straight to camera, no make up. With her lover she has plotted her husband’s murder. It’s a perfect locked room mystery until he goes back to be trapped in what may be a Lift to the Scaffold – the death penalty still applies. Later a car thief discusses whether his head will roll. Sports Car to the Guillotine? The American title for this was also a little awkward to English ears: Elevator to the Gallows. (I have recently been so immersed in the electoral defeat of a dictator’s stooge that I just typed ‘Gallows’ as ‘Galloways’.)

The killer is observed by teenage delinquents, perhaps the inspiration for the couple in Godard’s Breathless. He’s a James Dean wannabe in leather – a sulky churl who would benefit from some physical chastisement – nothing erotic, just a good, sound drubbing. She’s beautiful, charming and chic. And trouble. When their little adventure goes badly wrong she suggests an overdose, dreaming of newspaper headlines: ‘the tragic lovers’.

JeanneMoreauMoreau Miloes

A more tragic, infinitely less glamorous couple were fighting at St Leonards Warrior Square when I returned from Bexhill, a pleasant coastal town where I picked up a freecycle Louis Malle box set from the station waiting room. Our star-crossed lovers were a stocky thug and a screeching shrew. Chav couture by Sports Direct. Loud, crude abuse courtesy of very few brain cells. Conflict resolution from Jeremy Kyle, the very name an amused bystander mentioned. ‘It’s always at this station’. Well, we also have Bohemia, which housed the original artistic rebels and still tolerates the genteel poor, including me and my wife.

Despite having acquired a criminal record through various drink and drug-fueled idiocies, I still reserve the right to despise thick yobs. Bourgeois hypocrisy? Classism? No, realism. Ted Lewis and Robin Cook/Derek Raymond’s narrators didn’t like the ‘slag’. Only twits like Owen Jones would think otherwise.
We could have done with Jeremy Kyle’s security as the bickering clods chased each other through the commuters. Some laughed, though what would have been one-sided violence very nearly erupted. I would have sat this one out, having already had permanent eye surgery after one intervention – perhaps handicapped by two bottles of vodka. (Top tip, skilled martial artists always look at their opponents).

To return to somewhat idealized criminality, this excellent beautifully shot movie finishes with the protagonists facing the consequences of their actions while us senior delinquents count our blessings, waking up in our own beds, freer than imprisoned existentialists. We still have a life sentence of depression but there is remission – especially through art, the deeper and darker the better.

Trailer
http://www.theguardian.com/film/video/2014/jan/08/lift-to-the-scaffold-trailer-louis-malle-video
The famous night time walk, waiting for her lover to return from the murder, unaware he is trapped. Miles Davis at his bluesy best.

next time – sex, suicide and Satie. The Fire Within. Louis Malle pt 2

Ted ‘Get Carter’ Lewis back in print from Syndicate books. New introductions. Classy covers. http://www.syndicatebooks.com/