“A horrifyingly amusing, twisted, sex’n’drugs-crazed examination of vengeance – both personal and state sanctioned. Oh yes, and did I mention that it’s a love story?” from Lesley Ann Sharrock’s 5 star Amazon review.
I needed a sequel to my Jesus of Nazareth low carb diet book: More Fishes, Fewer Loaves. But should it have been ‘Dread – the art of serial killing’?
Very British Author Problems: having a book out, being embarrassed at having to tell people.
Dread 99p e-book £4.95 paperback direct from http://www.fahrenheit-press.com, £2 Amazon
What’s it about? Mr Madden, serial killer and spy, mistakenly captures Zero, a blonde American Goth, documentary maker, tattooist and Haiku poet. Now she’s staying in his dungeon workshop – where he sculpts the dead and has imprisoned the delinquent who killed his pregnant wife. It’s also a meditation on Charles Dickens, particularly The Mystery of Edwin Drood, how that haunting unfinished book may have concluded.
In earlier desperate attempts at publicity I used to mention the household name rock stars I worked with, though it’s fifteen years since I played saxophone with Roy Harper, Bert Jansch, Kiki Dee or Tom Robinson – and thirty two years since our hit War Baby. Risible 80s hair at foot of this page: https://markramsden13.wordpress.com/about/
Last year I thought a newsy meme might help. ‘Peace Supremo Tony Blair joins the Dread bandwagon. “More blood than the Chilcot report. I can’t stop washing my hands.’
Someone managed to interpret this as support for Tony Blair. How dare I? You’re safer just repeating the title, endlessly, although this confused Amazon’s robots.
‘Did you mean dead Mark Ramsden?’ they asked,
No, DREAD Mark Ramsden. Kindle 99p. Paperback £4.95
Fortunately Lesley Ann Sharrock, a sharp contemporary crime and horror writer, was quicker on the uptake. Her review:.
Killing With Confidence
ByLesley Ann Sharrockon 13 August 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
“It’s a tough job being a spy AND a serial killer. What with his chief-spook boss demanding results, the chav ‘Candidate number 9’ spending what is left of his miserable life trussed up in a coffin while Mr Madden contemplates his captive’s excruciatingly painful end, plus the lippy strumpet in the cage giving our hero earache AND the hots – such grief leaves the poor guy hardly enough time to score his next ketamine hit.
This is a laugh out loud, erudite, sly, blood-and-gore-soaked evisceration of an England we would prefer to pretend does not exist, with a series of cut-throat observations and knock-out one-liners that would make even the best political satirist weep with envy. A set of finely-tuned characters tread the boards in a horrifyingly amusing, twisted, sex’n’drugs-crazed examination of vengeance – both personal and state sanctioned. Oh yes, and did I mention that it’s a love story?”
Thank you Lesley!
(RIP Lesley Ann Sharrock. Grew up in a children’s home, ran a successful magazine company before writing some great books. Incredible woman. Sadly missed.)
It might sound precious to mention I was differently sane for some of the time this was created, marooned on a houseboat among the less than lovely pond life of Rochester, near where Dickens grew up and eventually died. It was a particularly low ebb in a life not always filled with sunshine. This is the Straight Outta Chatham gambit. ‘I suffered for my art, now it’s your turn’. I had never been delusional before, (briefly), a condition that responded surprisingly well to fewer dissociative drugs and more sleep. Ketamine has tested well as a cure for bipolarity but under clinical conditions – as opposed to a debauched madman self-medicating as often as possible. Fortunately that’s all behind me. Now I make do with just anxiety, depression, paranoia, narcissism, trying to ignore getting 18 out of 20 on the psychopath test and using harm reduction to manage chronic drink and drug addiction. (I didn’t like 12 step: whether crawling to the cross or rational guilt tripping.) Three and a half years of clean sobriety now – cautious hoorah.
Drunk reactionaries Evelyn Waugh and Kingsley Amis both wrote about their mental illnesses. (The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold. A Peep Round the Twist.) If I’d read either of those I might have something useful to contribute here. Except: re drunk ‘reactionaries’, some of the outrage driving this story was extreme identity politics, the nonsense that helped get Trump elected, (who is utterly dreadful.) I still can’t believe the recent ‘if you oppose ISIS you’re a racist’ paradigm. (I’m going to use ‘hegemony’ in a minute, which I’m hoping will please any passing Marxists.)
On Amazon you can
MARVEL at the other 5 star reviews! (April 2018 Which have vanished with the old cover, damn it. Please help. H’mm. Is actual begging more dignified than this?) WONDER why this author is so desperate for validation! (Cold mother, authoritarian dad, occasionally bossy big sister. Which was decades ago anyway. Aren’t you supposed to…grow up? Before you’re, gasp, SIXTY? …)
READ inside at Amazon. http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0137R82FM?keywords=dread%20ramsden&qid=1440671124&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1
BUY IT for only 99p, direct from Fahrenheit, http://www.fahrenheit-press.com, not bad for a three quarter length novel.
READ the start here.
If, like me, you’ve destroyed your attention span with booze, potions, powders and, worst of all, the internet, Mr Madden’s voice starts after one paragraph. There’s not much sombre theorising thereafter. “So why start with it you complete and utter…clot?”
Dread – the Art of Serial Killing
“I loved you madly; in the distasteful work of the day, in the
wakeful misery of the night…”
Charles Dickens, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
“The boldest way to supply the missing second half of Edwin Drood would be in the idiom of the present time.” BRIDGET BROPHY LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS
AN ANCIENT CATHEDRAL TOWN
Rochester Cathedral: its square-towered splendour lit by a full moon. Frosted grass shimmers as Mr Madden crunches his way to the graveyard, long after midnight. He zips open a sleeping bag and shakes out the mutilated corpse of Candidate 9, still in hoody, jeans and trainers. He takes care not to desecrate a gravestone, thinking of the families of the dead. We are at the spiritual centre of Charles Dickens’ final book, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, wherein a loathsome urchin throws stones at passers by. Perhaps he is an ancestor of Mr Madden’s latest victim, the sort of teenager now called a Chav. The word may have originated in nearby Chatham, certainly not short of feckless youth. Or does it come from the Romany for child? The answer is as elusive as the real person behind Mr Madden’s many identities. He was once a citizen. Before his pregnant wife was killed by a joyrider, just one of the large ever-fertile underclass of the towns alongside Kent’s River Medway. Dickens grew up here, a troubled childhood plagued by the imprisonment of his father for debt. He died in a nearby mansion, a house he promised his father he would buy.
Candidate 9 has an entirely scalped skull, just the eyeballs and teeth remaining. A few fake diamonds have been stuck to the skull in a sarcastic reference to a vulgar artwork by Damien Hirst. Mr Madden is not a fan of the world’s most successful artist but they both know how to make the front pages. A placard around the corpse’s neck reads, “Edwin Drood? The Diamond Geezer?” Mr Madden has signed his name “Chronos”, the Lord of Time and sketched a glyph of the ancient Snake God with its triple heads; horse, bull and lion. Sometimes this entity is represented as Father Time, an old man with a white beard. Whoever Chronos may be Mr Madden has him under control. Forty, looking thirty, tall, shaven-headed, solidly-built, he could be a feared thug or what he actually is, a spy and torturer employed by Her Majesty’s Government. To the tabloids he is the ‘Dickens Nut’, the ‘Kent Vigilante’ or, most often, ‘The Chavkiller.’
THE SILENCE OF THE CHAVS
“This stuff is radical!” said Zero, the young American blonde I mistakenly captured. She’s reading The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens. She’s smart, achingly beautiful and almost as mad as I am. Short, pert, hair teased into blonde and hennaed spikes framing a heart-shaped face. Her ever changing eyes are little vats of simmering moon juice, maybe blue, maybe green. Black lipstick and nail varnish. A blonde Goth. Presumably her black frock coat and shiny boots are hanging in her lair, along with the bats in her belfry.
Her blue eyes sparkle when she smiles, a vision almost enough to crack my frozen heart. She’s caged, but comfortable, in my basement dungeon which contains a St Andrews Cross, a blood-stained Black and Decker workmate, a gory array of saws, chisels, hammers, power drills and a blood-daubed signed and numbered Damien Hirst diamond skull print. The blood comes from my candidates. I’ve filled in the eyes, painted some lips on. And smeared my signature. As I’m an artist, too. Fame hungry. Greedy. Narcissistic. How hard can it be?
After last night’s risky installation piece – the Dickens/ Damien mash up, dumped in Rochester Cathedral graveyard, where my masked, hooded figure would have showed up on scores of CCTV cameras, I might not have much time left. This could be what screenwriters and Story Nazis call ‘The Inciting Incident’. My cosy domesticity, me and the candidates, has been shattered. I blame her. She’s trouble.
DRUGS. SEXUAL OBSESSION. COLONIAL ADVENTURING AND PUZZLES ABOUT IDENTITY.
One of my paperback editions of Drood has these words on the back. It could be my life story. No wonder The Mystery got under my skin.
‘“I am a muddy, solitary, moping weed,”’ she reads, hand on her forehead, melodramatic but just right for John Jasper’s obsessive love for Rosa Bud.
“He’s so in love with her,” she says, approvingly, for all male lovers must be so smitten. In an ideal world. Back in this one she reads on silently, rapt, with more relish than Branston’s pickle.
BOND. JAMES BOND. LICENSED TO KILL
Why did she had to go round Chatham doing wheelies on a little silver bike in a hoody and facescarf? Near the estate where the scrote who killed my pregnant wife lived? Lee Stone is already in my cellar, awaiting his fate. But I fancied nabbing his big brother. You know how it is with collections. Get one, get the set. I mean, how was I supposed to know she wasn’t him? It’s the fog of war, innit? As we used to say in Ireland after we had been torturing the wrong IRA guy for days. Or perhaps even tormenting an innocent civilian. It was somehow more of a farce in the Middle East, with the Americans in charge. Some of the interrogations were a little too thorough. A tad rigorous. And accidents do happen. No wonder Her Majesty’s Secret Service eventually decided I needed a rest. Invalided out. Oh the shame of it. Peaked too soon. Put out to grass. And now they want me back. I’m supposed to investigate some street hooligans and their far right party: England Awake!. The first thing I’m going to do is try to get them to lose the exclamation mark. These guys are already startling enough without annoying punctuation. Why did Control have to pick me? I suppose I’ve already got the shaven head, the muscles and the goatee. Just need a swastika tattoo.
HOWL OF THE LIVING DEAD: KILL. ME. NOW.
A bloodcurdling moan reaches us from the next room, slightly muffled by the coffin in which I have encased my wife’s killer. Lee Stone is currently listening to the sound of pigs being slaughtered, on headphones taped to his head, inside a blood-encrusted leather bondage mask. They don’t like it up ‘em, those pigs, and the squealing is an extremely hard sound to process, especially after the first six months or so. Or perhaps not. Maybe you get used to it. I must ask him one day. Zero asked that he be housed elsewhere as the screaming disturbs her rest. So he’s in the soundproof room. Did I leave the door open on purpose? There are no accidents as shrinks would tell us? Or do I like teasing my over-opinionated guest?
“You should finish that guy off,” she says. “He’s suffered enough.”
Mary, my pregnant wife may have suffered for an hour alone. Knowing our child was also dying. No. Eternity is not enough.
PS (December 1st 2015) It is now months since I promised a blog on John Fowles’s The Collector, and its strange after life as a guidebook for serial killers. This also featured a captured woman but the similarities end there. (No women are hurt during Dread.) The Collector was a deserved critical and commercial success and will be in print as long as civilisation endures.
(April 2018) Mr Fowles was a gentleman. He could have written a middle class vigilante novel but didn’t. However, he brooded on such a project for years, exasperated by, well, just about anyone who wasn’t John Fowles. This was variously titled The Shit, The Bugger, The Eliminator, The Philanderer, The Aristocrat and The F*cker. He seemed to be troubled by social mobility. Well, he was fortunate to die before the advent of chavs – proudly ignorant thieves and parasites. They didn’t even invent the baseball cap.
Serial killers inspired by John Fowles are listed on Wikipedia as 3.1Leonard Lake and Charles Ng, 3.2Christopher Wilde, 3.3Robert Berdella. To discover what inspired Fowles’ novels and vicariously enjoy his tangled private life it’s well worth reading John Fowles A Life in Two Worlds by Eileen Warburton or both volumes of his journals. So I didn’t have to write that blog and no one had to read it. Is this meta, post-modernist or just very lazy?