I hate new year's eves. I used to, at least. These days I just take it easy, knock back a few with the wife and maybe some close cohorts. But in the old days, going out on the razz, ah... something always went wrong. Maybe I'd get into a row and find myself removed from the club at 11:45, scratching my head and wiping blood from my nose. Maybe I'd just feel sick from too many consecutive drinking days, and no amount of sauce is going to put it right. Maybe there's some kind of romantic squabble that is stopping me from chilling out. Maybe I just get so horrifically drunk that I slip though a cosmic fissure in the fabric of time itself (this has happened more than once).
Maybe the whole thing is a big, big anticlimax.
So I just don't do it anymore. Come midnight on the 31st, I'll be out walking the dogs. Or unconscious. Ten, nine, eight, seven... Not listening, mate.
Be that as it may, I hope the new year brings you all what you mostest desire. Personally I can see some potentially good things on the horizon, and I'm looking forward to it. But you never know, do you? It's a noir world, after all. Right?
Have a good one.
And watch out for those cosmic fissures.
Friday, December 30, 2005
I hate new year's eves. I used to, at least. These days I just take it easy, knock back a few with the wife and maybe some close cohorts. But in the old days, going out on the razz, ah... something always went wrong. Maybe I'd get into a row and find myself removed from the club at 11:45, scratching my head and wiping blood from my nose. Maybe I'd just feel sick from too many consecutive drinking days, and no amount of sauce is going to put it right. Maybe there's some kind of romantic squabble that is stopping me from chilling out. Maybe I just get so horrifically drunk that I slip though a cosmic fissure in the fabric of time itself (this has happened more than once).
Saturday, December 24, 2005
I've been neglecting this blog of late. Shame on me. This is because I've been up to my chestnuts in things to do, mainly involving the thing I do best (er, writing novels, in case you're in any doubt. At least I hope so). However, I promise to pick it up here in the New Year. Hope to see you here.
Personally I can't wait for 2006. 2005 was (is) great, but I can't wait for Feb 7th, which will see the completion of the Mangel Trilogy in print. Also maybe some more foreign publications coming, which is just an amazing thing.
I would do a "best of 2005" list but, as usual, I can't gather my strength enough to do it. Maybe some time in Jan.
Meanwhile I'm off later today to see Jack and the Beanstalk, starring Britt Ekland. This is of course for the kids, but I'll bring along my Wicker Man DVD just in case I can corner her for an autograph. Or I might get one of the kids to do it.
Have a happy one,
Thursday, December 08, 2005
I'm quite surprised that I did a post about cars yesterday. Obviously my mind was still full of car thoughts at the time because I'd been immersing myself in the task of finding a new car, and I had to dump it all out somewhere. But, quite honestly, I don't really give much of a shit about our five-wheeled, fume-farting friends. On one level I'm interested in them culturally, in terms of how they chart our lives and how we feel about them (which is why they come up a lot in my books). And quite clearly, reading back over what I wrote yesterday, I'm in some way obsessed with how they look. But really, for me, a car is just a car.
However, this was not always so.
When I was about 16 I truly was obsessed with cars. But again, this was nothing to do with mechanics and all about appearance. I used to get my hands on any classic car mags I could find, and pore over the old Ferraris and Maseratis and Lamborghinis. It was always the Italian marques I went for, never the more parochial Triumphs and MGs and Aston Martins, or the yank monstrosities and teutonic monsters. They were all so out of reach, and the most out of reach of all was the Ferrari Daytona (ah, I still go weak when I (v.v.rarely) see one). But I knew I wouldn't be getting any of those. My plan was to pass my driving test as soon as I was 17, then get my hands on a Triumph Herald banger (parochial but cheap, and open-topped), do it up, and become some kind of sophisticated playboy type.
God knows what I was thinking. I didn't know the first thing about mechanics (and still don't). And where was I supposed to find the money for this, or a place to carry out this "project"?
Luckily, all of these harebrained ideas went out the window when I failed TWICE to pass my test. To this day, I'm certain I failed from the anxiety of knowing that this promised land of beautiful cars and women (because, of course, they'd never be able to resist me in my Triumph Herald) was just around the corner.
Of course, it was a mirage.
But it all worked out OK in the end. For the next few years I was able to drink with impunity while friends sipped Kaliber and worried about their car in that shitty car park outside (and pulled women).
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Long time no blog. Been busy getting my life straight. It's all about the wheels, see. A man needs the right wheels or he don't roll. Ain't that right?
Actually, until a few days ago I'd have said no. I'd have said you don't need wheels unless you need to get somewhere a bus wouldn't take you. And if you need wheels, all you need is the "A to B" variety (ie: transport pure and simple). To that end, I've spent the past three years ferrying myself across the country and back (160 miles round trip) in a 1.3 Fiat Punto which was so small I couldn't sit straight in it. Nice, eh?
But, sad though it is to admit it, the Punto suddenly got old (as they say in boxing circles), right there in the ring. I wouldn't go so far as using the term "clapped out", but I wouldn't stop far short of it either. Simply put, a new car was in order.
So I went out there and had a look around. Used car lots really do exist in their own special atmosphere. You drive into one, you enter a world of joviality and easy friendship and plastic cups of tea and shifty eye movement. It's a game of poker, and you're never going to win it because the dealer is house, and house rules say no one beats the house. The best you can hope for is something approaching a fairish deal, and you have to play it like Kasporov to get that.
But all of that is by the by, because I couldn't find a car I wanted anyway.
Oh sure, there were plenty of nice cars. Big ones, small ones, fat ones, thin ones... There were even some nice cars I could conceivably afford (using my own special definition of the word "afford"). But none of them sang out to me. Cars these days... you know what's wrong with them?
They're all wrong, these lines. The designers think they know what they're doing, but they don't. They can't, because the idea of "lines" was ditched in the 1970s (the last great age of classic Fords) and the bloodline was severed. In the 70s we had the Capri. We had the Mk III Cortina and the "real" Granada. (Actually the Cortina was already going to shit by then - just compare this 1976 Mk III with this this 1978 Mk IV.) But some time around then, tragically, the designer of your populist automobile decided that these beautiful lines (inspired by American dream machines of the 50s) were poncy and a bit feminine, and we should go back to the good old British utilitarian shape, whilst having a look at this new bubble culture coming out of Japan. Everything turned aerodynamic and efficient, and beauty was lost.
So I stood on the forecourt, tuning out the dealer's overly familiar tones in my right ear, mourning the betrayal of automitive beauty in the other, so to speak. Then I saw this (maybe not quite so good nick as that).
OK, OK, so I bought a Ford Mondeo. But do you not see it? Do you not see the line, the fusion of style and sex and everyman practicality? It's there, I tell you! What's that? It's not there? It's just another computer-designed step into a future bereft of heart, love, and passion? Ah, fuck it - she's better than that bloody Punto. And as they say round our way: "She don't half shift."
As an elegy to the lost line, I'll leave the last word to someone more qualified than I:
I climbed into the motor and bombed across town. I loved that car. Far back as I could recall, all I'd ever really wanted were a Ford Capri. There's summat about that long bonnet and low-slung chassis that makes angels sing in your ears. When I were a youngun I used to stop at every Capri I walked past and feel it all over, drawing grim looks off passing grannies and arsey shouts from Capri owners. I couldn't help it.
So as soon as I started earning - from robbing, mostly - I started saving up. By the time I were eighteen or so I had enough to get meself one. Only problem were that the standard of Capris on the market had dropped a bit by then. And it'd been dropping ever since, same as the standard of everything else. You only gets what you're offered. And if shite is all they offers, shite is what you gets. Still, my Capri were a good un. Best one in Mangel I reckoned. And long as I could keep her going alright I were happy.
And happy I were, as I overtook a bus and stuck him two fingers in the mirror.
Monday, November 28, 2005
I don't normally write about personal things here on this blog. Far as I'm concerned it's not interesting or relevant or apporpriate. (Or even appropriate.) (But what a great typo.) However, I just have to give a big public CONGRATS to my wife Lisa, who has finally gone and got herself back into the teaching racket, after packing in her job at a London school (2.5 years ago) and moving up here to the sticks.
You would not believe how hard it's been. At every interview it's been "Ah, you were in second place", but reading between the lines I think it's more a case of "No thank you, this is a local school for local teachers. We don't need your sort around here, swanning around with your fancy qualifications and your London ways..." (However, that could just be me and my warped imagination, combined with a natural siege mentality.) But today she got one of them to crack. (I put it down to my little suggestion.)
Believe me, kids need teachers like her. Our own two have had her to themselves for all that time, but some people need to work, too.
Personally I'd rather dig trenches in Siberia than teach kids. But that's just me.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Let's all spare a thought for George Best, who scaled the heights and now plumbs the depths. I wish I could feel sorry for him, but I can't. No way should a man who enjoyed himself so much be pitied. The only thing I can't stand is the sanctimonious call of "he got what he deserved". I'm not arguing with that, but does it really need to be said? And do you really need to look so smug when you say it? I never heard him ask for all this media attention, for journalists to hang around his death-bed day and night. I doubt he even chased success in the first place. Fame, money and women were thrown at him because he had the gifts. Fair play to the lucky bastard.
Meanwhile sensible people live longer. Big deal.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
I stare at screens too much and I have a headache. Actually it's more like eye ache, but the two are often bound up together for me (I also get ferocious migraines, which feature eyeballs apparently puffing out to twice their normal size, thereby putting out a major strain on the whole head area).
Our eyes were designed to look at solid objects, not a bunch of flashy pixels which need to be interpreted. The more we get used to looking at virtual pictures and onscreen objects, the more we lose touch with reality. But we do it more and more. Computers at work, computers at home. TV/DVD/mobile phones. We strip all life out of the real world, and cultivate digital worlds full of verdure and dramatic landscapes. We yearn for a nice planet, so we create it. When CS Lewis talked about kids and wardrobes, he wasn't far wrong.
You know what he should do? We should all go and look at something real and solid. Like a tree.
Here ya go.
Friday, November 18, 2005
Thursday, November 17, 2005
I was going to write a long and serious post about the Crime Writer's Association, which is currently beset with controversy over it's decision to ban translations from it's "Dagger" awards. I was going to suggest that this controversy is besides the point, and that the real problem with the CWA is that it has so far largely ignored novels coming from the cutting edge, award-reaping publisher Serpent's Tail. Specifically, Serpent's Tail novels that are set in "lost towns", and narrated by unstable doormen. Specifically, novels of that ilk that contain a lot of swearing, violence, and tastefully portayed sex. That is the real problem with the CWA and their Dagger awards, as I see them.
I was going to write some heartfelt stuff along those lines, but I'm not sure if it do any good, you know? So instead, ladies and gents, I give you ugly footballers.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
I fancy watching a film later. But I can't decide between:
The Big LebowskiThe Big Lebowski* is always a contender when it's vid time. Any film I consider watching, it has to go up against the Dude, Walter, and Donny. Eraserhead simply puts me in a certain space that no other film can (I suspect it's to do with the sound). Halloween... no idea why I'm thinking of this. I don't really rate it as a slasher/horror flick. Groundbreaking (at least commercially) but this type of film has been done better. Nevertheless, it suggest itself. Identity... not watched this one. My mum gave it to me, raving about it (she knows what she's talking about, my mum. Honestly. It's her who got me into Stephen King, Thomas Hardy, and horror movies as a kid, just by leaving the stuff lying around. HOMEBOY is one of her favourite novels.) Wild At Heart... For all its quirkiness and great characters, Lynch seems to have pushed his "Lynchness" a bit too hard on this one. But maybe I'm wrong, so I want to watch it (yet) again to find out. You've got to keep reassessing, you know? Carnival of Souls (1962, not the Wes Craven remake), though appearing crap to the untrained eye, is actually a masterpiece of atmosphere and slow revelation.
Wild At Heart
Carnival of Souls
Which one will I go for?
Find out tomorrow!
* All IMDB links acquired by cross reference from each other. Clever eh?
Friday, November 11, 2005
I don't often blog about music here, but today, just briefly, I will. These guys are fucking marvellous. If you're in Britain, hopefully you know that already. If not, check em out. I'm a fan of the Smiths, but I sometimes wish they could rock it a bit more. You feel Johnny Marr begging to go for it, and Morrissey putting a clammy hand on his arm and saying: "Johnny, that's unseemly." Maximo Park DO go for it. APPLY SOME PRESSURE is the biggest full-on rock out, while THE COAST IS ALWAYS CHANGING is probably the most Smithsonian.
Like a lot of other new bands, they leapt forth out of Later With Jools Holland. I'm often bored to tears with the stuff Jools puts on, but I keep watching in the hope of finding something decent. A lot of this "new new wave" (or whatever) guitar bands just don't have it for me - The Bravery, Kaiser Chiefs, etc... It all seems a bit "Hey chums, let's dress up in snappy suits and rip off a lot of stuff from circa 1980". To be honest, I felt that way about Franz Ferdinand when I first saw them, but I've been proven wrong there.
Anyway, I didn't get that with Maximo Park (despite one or two very dodgy haircuts). This may or may not be because of lines like "I'll do graffiti if you sing to me in French". Or maybe it's to do with the broad and undiluted accent of lead singer Paul Smith. Or maybe it was because they simply rocked the house (and put the hugely dull Robbie Williams well in the shade).
Thursday, November 10, 2005
I've tarted up my website and made it all KING OF THE ROAD. I hope you like it. The cover image on the KING page is a bit knackered, but I can't do anything about that right now. Of course, as ever, doing anything on the site makes me question what it is for.
I'm sure other writers agree that we want a site to introduce new people to our stuff, and give something interesting to existing readers. To be honest, I don't think it does much of the former. I get quite a few new visitors every day, but you can see them clicking on "biog" and then sodding off (wrong Charlie Williams). Or they come from google and they're after a certain picture I've put up or linked to on this blog (current flavour of the month seems to be this one - beware if you're at work).
Then again, if the site is useful to ANYONE at all, it's worth having. So I guess I'll keep on with it.
(Mind you, if anyone can see any way I can make it better, or get it more widely seen, please let me know?)
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Lately I've been thinking about writing. With no vivid reason here to find (sorry, couldn't resist.) Specifically I've been thinking about what I want to do when I write a novel.
There are all kinds of novels out there. When I was younger (and didn't actually do any writing) I liked the idea of writing all different types of novels. I read and enjoyed lots of different types, rather than sticking to anything in particular, so it followed that I would want to do that myself, if I did anything. And I'm not talking about genres, either. I mean the structure of the novel, the different ways you can get to the reader by setting your material out in, well, different ways.
There's the "saga" type novel that spans several generations, yet keeps tight to the central thread. There's the novel that seems to flit all over the place, character to character, and has no apparent plot, yet still works. There's your suspense novel where you know what's going to happen, and watch in, er, suspense, as the hapless characters near their fate. There's the novel where the characters are all set up in the first third, then you dump the big one on them and they have to deal with it. Then there's the novel that builds and builds, cranking up the pressure all the way through to the end, where it may or may not explode.
That last one, I think, is the type of novel I attempt to write.
And I've come to a decision: Forget all those other types, I'm sticking with this one. I know what works for me, and I know what format allows me to do what I want to do, with the type of material I invariably drag out of the primordial soup of my brain.
What I want to do, OK, (dons beret and Gauloise) is take the reader on a journey. I'm interested in momentum. My ambition is to drag the valued punter to a place they do not want to go, show them something they do not want to see (or think they don't), make them think I've abandoned them there, then quietly open a door with a crack of daylight shining through it, and stand darkly by as they exit, trembling, heart thumping... and all the while they're loving it. It's lighting them up like they never thought a book could. They cannot put the thing down, and it's not clear why. (Remember: I'm not saying for a second that I've achieved that (or even come close), but it's what I have aimed for and STILL aim for.) The novels I want to write are like short, bloody battles, rather than your long and drawn-out war. They flare up and die down in a couple of days. The events in them might not change the world, but they affect the characters irrevocably.
You know what I think of, when I think of the kind of novel I want to write? (Please indulge me here...) (Remember I've still got the beret and the Gauloise...) A shaman. Or at least the picture of a shaman I have in my head - the guy dancing himself into a frenzy, surrounded by his tribe, working out all their psychic crap for them and then passing out. Of course, I am not the shaman. The shaman is the protagonist. He (or she - you never know) gets himself into darker and darker shit as the hours pass. As he digs himself deeper he enters new territory of the soul, and on it goes until he's at the place he needs to be, to confront the thing he needs to confront. He's still in the same old humdrum town, alongside everyone else carrying on with their daily shit, but within himself he's getting further and further away. He's going to places that no one else can reach, and this is what marks him out as your shaman.
I think the death of John Fowles got me thinking about all this. In THE MAGUS, Nicholas Urfe has to trek to a remote Greek island - the remotest corner of that remote Island - in order to get to where he is going. But in the Mangel books (which are in part about being trapped) Royston Blake doesn't really go anywhere in a geographical sense. Maybe a trip Hurk Wood, if need be. But, for me at least, he goes on a very long journey.
In other news, an Argentine woman has been living in a nest for a year.
Monday, November 07, 2005
Thursday, November 03, 2005
I've been thinking about narrative style recently.
That's not exactly the kind of opening gambit to get everyone sitting up and salivating, so I won't go on about it. Suffice to say I'm writing a novel in the third person, and the previous three have been first person... and the wrench from 1 to 3 is giving me a nice little challenge. I'm thinking about all these things you can do with the third person voice that you couldn't do with the first. I'm thinking about it as if I've never done it before. And then I remembered...
I have done this before.
Prior to writing DEADFOLK, I wrote a novel called MISERIMUS (sounds like a bag of laughs, eh?) I wrote it in the third person, and do you know what? I didn't even think about how I did it. The whole thing came naturally, which is probably how it's meant to come. Either that, or I didn't know what the hell I was doing, back then. This might be the reason why it never got published. Another reason for that is the genre.
See, it's horror.
Whisper that word, lest a publishing type overhears you and throws their lunch. Yes, horror is a publishing taboo these days, and has been for years (so long that it's more or less a publishing axiom: "Horror Don't Sell"). When was the last time you saw a new horror author come through? I don't mean an established author tinkering with the format (eg: the very excellent Chuck Pahlaniuk, or however you spell it), but a full-on, balls-out horror guy/gal exloding very viscerally into the world, a la Stephen King. Horror novels just do not get published any more, except by horror publishers. There may well be a renaissance of horror in cinema, but the books world ain't buying. The reason for that is probably the glut of terrible horror novels* it churned out in the 80's, riding the wave of King for all it was worth. This basically led punters to the notion that horror was rubbish after all, so they turned off it big time. And now we're left (in the publishing world at least) with the lingering notion that horror don't sell.
I still want to write horror. One day, no matter how public tastes change or otherwise, I'll come round to it again. I'm not one for adhering to genres, but there are certain things (feelings, styles, ideas, images) in horror fiction that I just dig, big time. Maybe I'll get around to tidying up MISERIMUS and sending it out there again. Maybe not. I love the story, but in many ways it's the prototype for the Mangel books, and therefore doesn't really move them on in any way. It's clearly the same place as Mangel (in all but name), and has the same "you can't leave" theme of imprisonment. But all the characters are different, and there aren't so many laughs.
A nod to Jenny D for getting me thinking about horror.
* Anyone want to sell me a copy of CHAINSAW TERROR by Nick Blake (pseudonym of a rather more (in)famous author)?
Monday, October 31, 2005
Dead people serve like letter of presentation for a novel, brutal author and amused, who gives a new color to the novel of intrigues Briton. If by something she emphasizes Charlie Williams is by his clinical eye at the time of portraying rural England, its customs and the form in which the villagers express themselves, combining of original way a fine humor, costumbrismo and outbreaks of irrational violence.
Magnus Mills, oft-namedropped by myself as the current main man of lit (of any stripe), has just cemented his position. He has well and truly sat himself down atop the podium of bookish excellence, tipped a sack of Blue Circle into a sturdy barrow, mixed it up gradually with water (taking care to maintain a good working consistency), and spaded the lot of it all around his seating area. That's not bad going, considering he sat down before getting started on the cement, when he perhaps would have been wiser to stay on his feet a bit longer. Of course, you may well be wondering what the hell I'm on about?
EXPLORERS OF THE NEW CENTURY, that's what.
What starts out as a kind of tally-ho adventure story about two rival teams hoping to navigate their way across increasingly rough terrain towards The Agreed Furthest Point, slowly turns (in classic Mills fasion) into a study on life itself. In this case, communal life - how we live alongside others who we don't necessarily get along with, and what to do about it if you decide you cannot. The trick in this novel (needless to say, "trick" is not the word, but I'm in a hurry) is that, for the first half of it at least, we get to know the characters isolated outside their natural environments. We're interested in how they cope with the obstacles they meet, and don't even think about the kind of world they come from (and hope to get back to). We kind of assume it's a recogniseable world, much like our own (or the one we used to have, about 100 years ago), based on their speech and habits and apparent morals, but we don't know. And neither do we know the real reason for this race to The Agreed Furthest Point. But when these two things start coming clear, this becomes a dark novel indeed.
Pure and simple, I am overjoyed that we have Magnus Mills out there in the world, prancing around on his ancient horse, pen in hand, hacking down the nasty dragons of formula fiction and spearing the barbarians of boredom. He is an original. He is THE original. READ THIS BOOK.
And pay attention to the mules.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
I've got something on my mind today. And it's bothering me. Why are things and people from Canada called "Canadian"? Why are they not just called "Canadan"? Cuba has Cuban; Bermuda has Bermudan; America has American, etc... So why the hell do the people of the red maple leaf insist on inserting that "i" in there?
Is it just to throw people? Surely not - they have always struck me as such a reasonable people. Is it all down to a mistake? Was it a historical admin cock-up, and by the time anyone noticed (opening up the new office stationary) it was too late?
It was, wasn't it?
Look, it's NOT too late. If you just admit it to the world, we can all work together to welcome the word "Canadan" into our languages. It sounds a bit odd right now, but we'll all get used to it in time. Or we could just call your country "Canadia". Up to you.
Let me know.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
God only knows how I found him, but this artist if great. Salty Dave is described on his website as "a Boston based illustrator, painter and drunk". Anyone know him? Hey, you're welcome to buy me one of his works as a present.
Anyway, please check out his amazing paintings. Pay particular attention to the "Clown Suicide" series, and the heartbreaking "The Agonizing Aftermath of Trust".
Monday, October 24, 2005
Verb, pertaining to David Hasselhoff.
To be Hoffed - to be sent homoerotic images of David Hasselhoff in questionable outfits/poses with various props/animals. Considered an extreme insult, the most common form of Hoffing is done through electronic mail although various new and inventive methods have recently been discovered. The first ever hoffing is said to have taken place in 1997 in the town of Heidelberg in Germany where David Hasselhoff is an extremely popular singer. According to urban legend, a young male high school student sent the David Hasselhoff calendar (if you have never seen this consider yourself lucky) to a girl he had a crush on in an attempt to woo her. The attempt backfired when the horrified girl choked on a chicken sandwich which she was eating whilst opening the calendar. The act of Hoffing has since spread from smalltown Germany to the mainstream claiming thousands of victims. Although not usually resulting in loss of life, a Hoffing can lead to severe psychological trauma, temporary loss of motor function and 9 times out of 10 it will affect the Hoffee's up-chuck mechanism.
Many thanks [cough... splutter] to Jenny for the pointer. Those Aussie Yahoo guys are really showing the way forward.
Friday, October 21, 2005
Remember Sledge Hammer? Wow, that was a great show. Sledge was one of the greatest cops on TV for a while, and what man didn't have a crush on the lovely Dori Doreau? Sledge Hammer is widely recognised as one of the most realistic police shows on TV, and was acclaimed for telling it how it really is for a cop. In fact it was so realistic it took me until season 2 before I realised it wasn't a reality show about an average American cop, going about his daily business. And then someone told me it was supposed to be comedy, and I lost interest.
Trivia Q: Which British pop legend of the early 80s did a cameo? (Er, not George Michael.) First correct answer receives a... erm... beer mat.
Monday, October 17, 2005
Anyone else have a problem with that phrase? "It's time to kick back and relax..." What an odd thing to say. Kicking back surely means aggressive defiance. When you're in a corner, and the other guy is about to finish you off, you kick back. Right? You don't put your slippers on and lie back in your recliner, mug of Horlicks in hand, picking up the remote and switching to Granada Men and Motors.
Or do you?
Is this people's idea of a fight-back, these days? Is this really what has become of our civilisation, in these sedentary times? I blame it on video games. To a whole generation of spotty adolescents with BO and baseball caps welded to their heads (and the men they became*), kicking back is what you do when the bad guy has got you down and your life bar is almost empty. It involves getting slightly excited, just enough to knock that mug of Horlicks off the recliner edge.
Next person who says "kick back and relax", you know what I'm going to do? Kick them. In the back. And then relax.
With a nice mug of Horlicks.
* Me included. (Commodore 64)
...50 emails in my "Spam box", and 1 in my "Inbox". However, that one message was from a Lucius P. Delinquent, telling me about how I can buy "meds" for cheap. Presuming he meant "MEds", and not having any need for a Masters in Education (cheap or otherwise), I sent him Spamward as well.
Please, somebody, send me a non-spam email!
Masters in Education... Actually that's a (borderline) interesting point. I've noticed that a lot of writers are also teachers. Or a lot of teachers become writers, or vice versa, or whatever the hell. And it's usually English or Creative Writing that they teach (how many novelists are also Geography teachers? One? Two, tops?) I don't understand this. If you spend so much time holed up in a quiet corner, slaving over words on the page, the last thing you want to do is go in front of a bunch of brats and try to convince them how great words on the page are, when they'd rather be out taking drugs, stealing, or trying to have sex. Maybe I'm wrong. To be honest, even before the idea that I could write novels crystallised in my mind, I knew I could never be a teacher. I'd end up knocking some poor misunderstood thugs' teeth out and going to jail. And have you seen the way some of those 16-year-old girls dress? That is TROUBLE, and I'm staying away.
Mind you, I wasn't really keen on school when I was there. To be honest I was known as a "disruptive influence", and tolerated rather than nurtured, which is what the teachers should have been doing. They were all bastards anyway, and were more interested in busting me for minor crimes than educating me. If they only knew that I was MISUNDERSTOOD.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
At long last, Rocky VI has been announced. From The Guardian:
This time the story will open with Rocky Balboa in the middle of a lonely retirement. In an effort to cheer himself up and keep his hand in, he embarks on a few low-key bouts but becomes a media sensation when he's approached to go head to head with reigning heavyweight champ Mason "The Line" Dixon.
But Sly, didn't you read any of the treatments I sent you? What happened to the Balboa/Creed homosexual subplot (see picture below)? And what about the idea of Clubber Lang turning up as a top Al Qaida terrorist, so George Bush recruits Rocky (under duress - they are holding Adrian and Rocky Jnr hostage) to defeat him? It turns out that Lang's right-hand man is Ivan Drago, so Rocky calls up Tommy Gunn to make up the numbers, and it all builds to a huge four-headed slugfest in the Afghan desert. What about all that? As I told you, I ask for no payment. Just give me a credit.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
A Mr D. Mangel writes in from cyberspace (I swear this is real):
Hey whats up I was Just surfin the werb and I saw you were useing my name on your site and I was wondering if I could recive some compensation money, for all my pane a sophring.
To this end, I am launching the Royston Blake Pane a Sophring Fund, to provide aid to poor people like D. Mangel who have been damaged by thisismangel.com. Please donate freely. (UK taxpayer? Just giving will add an automatic 28% bonus to your donation at no cost to you.)
On a related note, I will be suing the Williams Formula 1 Team for several millions, for all my pane a sophring. Alternatively I will accept a driver spot, as long as I get to drive a Ford Capri. (I'm not playing second string to Mark Webber, though.)
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Above you see the (provisional) cover of my next book - KING OF THE ROAD (due out 7th Feb from Serpent's Tail), and the Spanish edition of DEADFOLK, entitled GENTE MUERTA (due out some time soon, apparently, from Factoria de Ideas). Nice bit of incidental colour coordination there, no? Comments welcome, as frank as you like.
These are the moments I love, being a writer/blogger ("retired"). I get to actually show you something, rather than just waffling on about the writing (which I don't do, so I end up waffling on about irrelevant things).
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Ronnie Barker is dead. It's a long time since The Two Ronnies, Porridge, Open All Hours, and (don't forget) Going Straight, but all of them are right up there in the pantheon of great British comedy shows. I grew up watching him on the box, and he probably defines comedy for me better than anyone. A lot of people look at that old school style of enduring characters with gags and one-liners and call it obvious, crude, simplistic, and (*gasp*) un-PC. I say bring it on!
Interestingly, he never seemed to work alone in the high profile shows. There was always a sidekick to set him off - Ronnie Corbett, Richard Beckinsale, and David Jason. But despite the quality of those three he was never even close to being upstaged, nor would he (I'll bet my house) have dreamed of upstaging them.
Observant Hoff disciples and automobile fetishists in Edinburgh would have noticed this last friday, and got themselves along to the university to stroke and fondle the "famous black car". Unobservant ones would have to make do with playing this (listening very carefully to the lyrics), or watching this.
Thanks to Al for the tip. Being a sensible Edinburgh boy, I'm sure he was there.
Friday, September 30, 2005
I'm coming back for just this one post. This will not be like Sugar Ray Leonard, who came out of retirement in 1987 to (sort of) beat Hagler, then went on to sully his record for another 10 years, getting beat by the likes of Hector Camacho. My ring career is over. This is just a one-off. Honest.
I've just seen George Romero's LAND OF THE DEAD. Er... I mean LAND OF THE DEAD. This baby has been hyped and hyped for years. Not in a concerted way by the studios, but by the fans - speculating on what will be the nature of this epilogue to the "Dead" trilogy. For a long time word was that it was going to be called TWILIGHT OF THE DEAD, which I think would have been better. Not because it sounds better, but because it signals an end. "LAND OF THE DEAD" just doesn't sound right to me. But so much for the title. On to the movie...
What the hell went on here? Is Romero too old? Was his vision diluted by meddling studio execs? Did he just take too long to make it? I don't know, but the film is just not good enough. As a decent B-movie about zombies running around, it's OK. But for something that is being heralded as the return of a great genre master, it lets you down like a flat-chested stripper. The narrative is weak, the boat isn't pushed out far enough (except for gory set-pieces), and the overall feel is hero vs villain. That, and the performances are crap. (Someone should come out and admit that Dennis Hopper's last dance with greatness was BLUE VELVET.)
A lot has been made of Romero's political and social issues in the other DEAD films, particularly racism in NIGHT, and consumerism (yawn) in DAWN. It's a long time since 1985's DAY OF THE DEAD (my personal favourite), and since then he has become a kind of exiled king of political horror. So it's no surpise that he comes out in this one with all metaphors blazing, hoping to show the world how it really is, illustrating his point with, well, zombies. He's talked in recent interviews about this being a post-9/11 movie, and the "I don't negotiate with terrorists" Dennis Hopper quote has been much bandied around, as if to prove that credential.
And, boy, is this ever a post-9/11 movie.
A bunch of rich bastards are holed up in Hopper's state-of-art secure skyscraper, literally buying into the illusion that everything is OK in the world. Meanwhile less fortunate survivors fend for themselves on the ground, and the zombies are kept out of the city by sentries, electric fences, and a river. So rather than them and us, it's them and them and us. Keep the trash and the zombies out, by whatever means necessary.
The rich bastards don't get to learn much about the zombies (ie: bother reading the Koran), but they don't have to worry about them either, them being over there. Then a renagade prole (white convert to Islam?) goes out there and points missiles at the sacred skyscraper, glorious symbol of prosperity (um, could that be a subtle reference to something or other?)... and the zombies flood across the barriers.
To make things worse for Hopper & co, the muslims (did I say muslims? I meant, of course, ZOMBIES) are not dumb any more. No more the shambling, innocent flesh-eaters (ie: servile Eastern countries) of yore. They are learning about our culture, working out ways to get around it (flying lessons, anyone?). And what's more they are led by a rage-fueled king zombie known (in the credits) as Big Daddy, who periodically looks up at the beautiful skyscraper in the distance and roars a battle-cry. (A coincidence that Big Daddy and Bin Laden contain the exact same number of letters? Of course!)
Sounds pretty overt so far, right? Romero's stance is clear - the rich humans (ie: polital classes) are the villains, the ground-level humans (ie: apolitical working Schmoes) are the innocent victims, and the zombies (ie: al Quaida) are kind of incidental catalysts, who are simply following their flesh-rending natures and giving us what we've got coming. This is all fine and dandy, if you like your politics dripping with blood and rammed down your lacerated throat. But then what does Romero go and do at the end?
*** SPOILER ***
The zombies walk off into the distance, and our hero (who is so bland I haven't even mentioned him yet) says to his female sidekick, raising her machine gun at them... "Leave them. They're just like us, just looking for a place to go."
*** END OF SPOILER ***
Beautiful sentiment, but... Can we drop the politics for a moment? These are fucking ZOMBIES. They will eat your fucking children! George, zombies can be great symbols for some things, but ... towel-heads. You're on shaky ground, man!
Last year's DAWN OF THE DEAD remake by Zack Snyder, and the earlier 28 DAYS LATER by Danny Boyle show that you can still make a great zombie movie. But neither of these guys attempted to eviscerate the audience with sixth-form politics. They made turbo charged horror suspense movies, having their fun with the format but still paying their dues to the genre. This is what Romero fails to do in LAND OF THE DEAD. At some point during his long exile, he has fallen for the myth that he is a political filmmaker, and the result is like an Australian soap star trying to make it in the RSC.
And George, I don't care what your age is, but your material is old. Horror has moved on, and dragging your tired shit around don't cut it no more. Like the 41-year-old Sugar Ray, you're going to get your old ass whupped by an unworthy opponent.
That aside, great film!
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
This blog is rubbish. I'm closing it down.
Actually I have specific reasons for doing this. I'm not sure what blogs are supposed to be, but I'm sure they're not what I'm doing. Blogs should be about more day-to-day things, thoughts about stuff going on in the world, cultural or otherwise. I should maybe share a bit more of myself. But I don't. This is because:
a. I don't have time. I've got two kids, a wife, a full-time job 80 miles away, two dogs, 85 fish (don't ask), and a cat. Somewhere in there I want to read and write books. That's OK, but the blog suffers (and the fish).
b. It's against my nature to share too much of myself. Maybe in a book I can do it. In a book you can obscure the truth, and there is a healthy distance between author and reader. But here, it's a bit dodgy. Hey, nothing personal - if I met you in a pub, I'd tell you everything. But this ain't a pub. (And if it was, it would be like the one at the top of this page, third from left).
c. Is there really anything new to say about David Hasselhoff and Mr T?
So, my apologies if you have become chemically addicted to this blog. As a substitute, I recommend Marmite, Consulates, ketamine, or any of the blogs on the right. From now on, anything I really need to announce, I'll do it on charliewilliams.net.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Please, please bring BIFF back to the Review. BIFF was the reason I started buying the Guardian, many years ago, and has remained the undisputed highlight of my Saturdays ever since... even in my days of drunken debauchery. Just bring back BIFF. Garratt and Kidd have created an enduring cultural icon, and it needs the outlet you give it. In fact, you should do a feature on them.
No one sees the world (particularly our corner of it) the way BIFF does. Doonesbury may be more famous, but BIFF is cleverer, funnier, and BRITISH.
I sent the above to email@example.com. Please do the same. We need BIFF in our lives.
(Unsure what BIFF is? See here.)
Monday, September 19, 2005
When the google referrals on my site suddenly go through the roof, you can be sure something has happened to another Charlie Williams. It happened this weekend, with a shedload of first time visitors hitting the main page, maybe checking the bio page, then taking the hunt elsewhere (probably thinking "Who is THAT weirdo? Man, I really didn't want to go there...")
So I did some searching and found out that this guy died. It took me a while to work out what "First black ump to work plate in World Series dies" means, but I think it's to do with baseball, or something.
Anyway, here's to Charlie Williams.
Only one search string this time (that has led someone, via goodle or whatever, to my website), but it's just about the best keyword search I've ever seen:
charlie williams funny smellOther news... Walking the dogs late one evening last week I got attacked by a badger. To be accurate he didn't techinically attack me, but he came charging at me through the long grass, looking pretty mean. When he saw the hounds he stopped, looked like a demoralised badger, and ran off.
Do you think he was attracted by the funny smell?
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Gallimard have bought the French rights to FAGS AND LAGER. (They already have DEADFOLK, which will no doubt come out over there some time.) The French, as we all know, have a great love for fags and lager (you don't know what a fag is until you've had a Gitane), so I hope my humble offering will not disappoint.
My books will be swimming in Williams-infested waters at Gallimard, which already include the likes of Charles Williams, Tennessee Williams, and William Carlos Williams among others.
I'm off to celebrate with some lager!
In my excitement I forget to mention... Many thanks to Malcolm Imrie of Imrie and Dervis for brokering this deal (and all the other foreign deals).
Monday, September 12, 2005
Major congrats go to Messrs Starr and Bruen for burdening their mantelpieces with more silverware. Bruen gets a Macavity for THE KILLING OF THE TINKERS, and Starr receives an Anthony for TWISTED CITY. Normally I don't give a shit about awards because they seem to go to the same boring old farts year after year, but these two wins give them new credibility.
Make a note in your diaries for May next year, when this baby comes out.
In other news, COME ON ENGLAND.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
As predicted by Mr Banks and myself many, many decades ago:
Hodder & Stoughton is delighted to announce the acquisition of World Rights for the autobiography of 'The Most Watched Star in The World', David Hasselhoff Described as a "living legend" and a "counterculture icon", with "super-human allure" David Hasselhoff has been named one of "TV's Ten Most Powerful Stars." The Hoff holds the official Guinness Book of World Records Award for 'The Most Watched TV Star in the World', with an estimated weekly audience of more than 76.1 billion in 6,348 countries. His Baywatch series has been seen by a combined audience of 275.7 trillion people - just short of the population of the entire universe.
But really, nearly all of that passage is extraneous. It could be reduced to just one simple word, as could any other piece of writing (including the Bible). The word?
Thanks to Sarah W for this world-changing news.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
As for research--whenever I start researching something I stop because I'mI agree. (If I'm understanding him right. Not very clear, is it?) I hate research. When you're writing fiction, you're creating a world in your head and putting it down on the page. Once you've taken the first step into fiction (ie: writing down stuff that is not actually true), you're stepping outside the real world. You're past with reality is broken, so there's no requirement to make things authentic. I realise this does not work for all types of fiction, but it works for me. And it works for Mr Ellis.
writing fiction and the reality never adds up to what I want to do in a novel.
Research is basically paying attention to the world and if you're a writer you
can pretty much pull stuff from your relationship to the world and what you've
witnessed and use it in your fiction no matter what the subject matter is...
Plus I'm lazy, and research means work.
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Some of the regular readers of this blog will be in Chicago right now, hanging out at BoucherCon (the world's biggest crime writing convention). All I can say is: what a bunch of bastards*. I'd have been there myself under better circumstances but, like the Will Oldham gig, it weren't to be. Noir, noir noir. I would say "Hey, definitely next year!" but I already said that last year, and I have precious little credibility left in the "I'm going to B'Con" stakes.
Mind you, there is one consolation... I WILL be at next year's Harrogate Crime Writing Festival (which should be easier to get to).
Other news... Well, not much. I hear talk of a cover image for the upcoming KING OF THE ROAD, so I should be able to show you that soon. Oh, and I had a dream last night involving Madonna. (She's often hanging around my dreams. Is it the same for everyone? Or just a personal quirk of mine that can be traced to my method of birth? Jung, or Freud?) Other than that, I'm just keeping on keeping on.
Oh, and a question for you, oh techno-savvy reader of this blog: Is there something wrong with the MP3 I posted the other day? Some punters can play it, others cannot. Pourquoi?
* Bastards or no, I hope you all have a top time. No, I know you will.
So I went to the Green Man Fest the other week, which featured the peerless Will Oldham. Great, right? Well, no. I was at the fest alright, but I had to go home before Oldham came on. Why? I had my reasons. And I'm OK about it. Will Oldham might be one of the few musicians I would consider having a tooth pulled to see live, and I See A Darkness one of my fave songs... but I'm OK about it. I was a bit cut up at the time (hence my total avoidance of the issue here), but some things just ain't to be. C'est la vie, right? Right. Until I read this review in The Indie:
Beneath the canopy of twinkling stars a yellow full moon hung suspended over the stage, illuminating the scenic backdrop of the Black Mountains beyond. As Bonnie "Prince" Billy began to play a blisteringly intense version of "I See a Darkness" - his most famous song, covered by the late Johnny Cash - someone fired off a red flare into the sky and the whole scene lit up with an unearthly carmine glow, part late-Turner watercolour, part Apocalypse Now. It was one of those utterly magical moments that everyone there will remember...Mind you, I did see the man walking around, earlier on. His beard really is something to behold. And his shirt was truly dazzling, being a shade of red hitherto unseen in that part of Wales. So that's something, right?
No. This is not "something". This is NOIR. And no amount of red fabric or facial hair can make it better. Like the man said... and then I see a darkness.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
The cats at Serpent's Tail asked me to record myself doing a reading of KING OF THE ROAD, so they can put together a CD of new releases and send it out to sales reps. The idea is to give the reps a better idea of the books, so they can do a better job of trying to sell them. This is something I've done for the previous two books as well. And it doesn't get much easier. I'm still sat alone in a room, reading the words off the screen, trying to sound dramatic (and Mangelese). I tried to get Vincent Price to do it but he wasn't available.
Anyway, if you have a spare ten minutes of your life you would like to get rid of, you might want to check out the reading for yourself, which I have put up here as an MP3. I blather briefly about the book, then mumble the first couple of pages.
(Update: No one seems able to get that to work. If you're finding the same, simply right-click the file, save to disk, relax with a bottle of whisky, drink whisky, place empty bottle on floor beside you, play mp3 file at leisure.)
Just make sure you REALLY don't need those ten minutes.
Monday, August 22, 2005
Green Man Fest was pretty good. I couldn't stay for the whole weekend due to one thing or abother, but what I saw was great. As for our (Rob Lewis, John Williams, myself) event, it was interesting. One punter turned up.
Seeing as she didn't even know who we were anyway, we did a little "speed reading" (one page each) and fucked off to the pub. Maybe we should have made more of it, but come on... Anyway, we saw the funny side. (Mind you, I haven't seen Rob since. And his hat was found on the banks of the nearby River Wye... And John's silver Vauxhall Cavalier was found abandoned at Aust Services near the Severn Bridge...)
Many thanks to that one solitary punter. You really saved our dignity.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
...la daaa da-de-da.
I am still around, in case you are wondering. Just had a collision with reality, and everything goes out the window (including writing). (However, there's no way I'm missing the Green Man Fest on Saturday. Reality can go hang.) Hopefully I'll be up and running again soon.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Just read Alan Moore and David Lloyd's V FOR VENDETTA. Wow, what a piece of work. My reading of graphic novels over the years has been quite thin, but this is the best example of the form I have ever seen. I know it's an age-old argument as to whether the two things can be compared or not, but I would but V up there in my top five novels of all time, graphics or no.
So... I read a great piece of fiction, then I want to find out a bit more about it. Interviews from the authors about it, what other people thought of it, etc. And what do I find? V FOR VENDETTA appears to be a big, hollywood blockbuster movie, coming out later this year.
And it pisses me off.
Now, I realise I am behind the times. I've had 20-odd years to read V, and I couldn't expect material like this to remain untouched forever. But even so, why does Hollywood have to vandalise EVERY decent piece of fiction? It's OK, you don't have to give me reasons. I know - comics are hot in Hollywood... Alan Moore comics in particular. But is it good? Is it a good thing that V FOR VENDETTA will henceforth be known as a big movie starring the suit guy from THE MATRIX?
Good things about V FOR VENDETTA, THE MOVIE:
- You never know - it might be alright.
- No Keanu Reeves.
- Will lead lots of people to the book, which will lead them to more books.
- No Vin Diesel.
- Why did they have to do it?
- I've only just discovered the thing, independently of movie buzz or anything. And now I'll look like a bandwagon-jumper if I bring it up in conversation. The same thing happened with SIN CITY, and it's just not on.
- Just why?
- No Mr T.
- Is nothing sacred?
- No Hoff.
Monday, August 08, 2005
In the absence of anything better to offer you, here are some recent keyword searches that been leading punters to thisismangel.com:
- web desine
- smoking a fag
- hillman imp
- sandra mangel
- fat birds fucking
- fucking donkeys
- fucking motors
- pigg fuck
- hoy fucking
- would you like some chat up
- respect elders and betters
- naked bird
- steven dowie
- see through dress
- what does tarting it up mean?
- fuck the informer
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
You, the readers, are very important to me. That is why I only give you the freshest content, the most in-depth interviews, the sleaziest photographs, etc. Continuing in this tradition I want to present to you here, as a WORLD EXCLUSIVE, the cover art for Bruen and Starr's upcoming novel from Hard Case Crime, BUST...
Is that a beauty or what? I can't get enough of HCC's pulp covers, and this one is right up there. As you probably already know, Ken Bruen and Jason Starr are the Siegried and Roy of the noir world. No, no... er, they're the Torville and Dean of... Ah, they're Bruen and Starr, and their books are quite simply where it's at, noir-wise.
BUST comes out in the Spring of 2006, so look out for it.
08/08/05 update: Cover slightly changed (reflected above). Spot the diff!
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
I was reading this article about a blog that actually made a difference, and then I thought about this blog, the one you're reading now. I'm well aware that I don't really give much of myself here. Let's face it - I try to keep this thing going with little bits of info about any readings I do (or am looking forward to doing), the odd rave about a great book or film, irrelevant posts about 80's music, and a little bit of Hasselhoff.
But the truth is, I don't think I could give any more.
The first reason is time. I do a full-time job as well as writing. I am in fact writing this during my lunch-break (so if there's a lot of typos it's because I didn't have time to check). Then there's the writing itself. It's well reported that blogging is the perfect excuse not to write. I think it's fine for a full-time author to blog, because I can't see how anyone can spend 8 hours a day on a novel alone. But for the rest of us who have about an hour or day tops to get some words down, a blog is somewhat of an indulgence.
The other reason I don't blog much life-changing content is that, like that old Jesus story, the writing part of my brain generates two things: wheat and chaff. And it has two outlets: my novels and this blog. One gets the wheat, the other gets the chaff. Which do you think gets what?
Nevertheless, I will blog on. I really feel there is a place in the world for my chaff. You like it sometimes, right? Come on, admit it - you're a big chaff monster. Hey, I'm quite partial to a bit of chaff myself. Other people's, mind. (What, you think I'm sick?)
Monday, August 01, 2005
Friday, July 29, 2005
No one knows who did the song "Imagination"? Or are you just all holding back to punish me, because I quoted Dire Straits?
In other news, this post means I have posted every day this week. Which isn't bad going, considering, like Duane S, I never talk about day-to-day writing here. Anyway, I'm off to celebrate with a Forfar bridie.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
In the early 80s there was this song called "Imagination". It was nothing to do with the camp trio called "Imagination", but was in fact by a completely different set of people. My question is, who were they?
Just to help you a bit, the chorus sort of went: "Imagi-naaay-shun". Remember it?
This is not a quiz or anything. Ever since someone put the question into my head at the weekend, it's been driving me insane. I'm starting to see flashy lights in my peripheral vision, and hear voices... Imagi-NAAAY-shun... Please help me.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
These days authors need to diversify if they want to survive, which means looking for other ways to make a buck. One way I found, being crafty, was to use my website to sell books through Amazon, thereby skimming off a nice chunk of commission. Well, I just got a quarterly statement from them and my total income for last quarter was 34p. This is great, because the previous quarter I only got 26p. That's a 30% increase, guys. SERIOUS performance. I'm off to celebrate with a packet of Doritos (if someone would just lend me 6p...)
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Ah, almost missed this one (being cut off from the world in a noir isolation chamber for the past while)... Congrats to Mark Billingham for winning the first Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, for his LAZYBONES. Couldn't have happened to a more worthy recipient (except, possibly, Cal de Fed).
Mark wins ten pints of Old Peculier, a kebab, and a taxi home.
Monday, July 25, 2005
Had a great time at the Port Eliot Festival at the weekend, even though it was rained out. First thing we did when we got there was spread a few flyers around the place, seeing as no one would know who we were, and we were hoping for an audience of at least two (other than my wife and Rob's girlfiend). We put the flyer together the night before at about 2am. Credit must go to Johnny Walker (both Red and Black Label)...
Anyway, the flyer (or more likely the fact that it was pissing it down outside) seemed to work, and the marquee was packed out at showtime minus five minutes. The act onstage before us - some rapper poets I forget the name of - seemed to be rocking the house, so that would have got a lot of bums on seats too. Anyway, all of these matters conspired to pile the pressure on us big time, as we paced around backstage... roaring, shadow-boxing, and chest-thumping (each other's). Also it didn't help that I couldn't find our "backing" CD, which meant Rob would have to make his entrance unaccompanied by his Survivor theme tune. Luckily I found the thing with literally five seconds to spare. I threw it across the backstage area like a frisbee. It sailed through the air as the MC shouted: "Ladies and gentlemen, a big round of applause for... er...". The sound engineer caught it as Rob thumped his chest one last time and jumped stageward. Just before he landed and started doing his thing, the first crunching blow of EYE OF THE TIGER hit home. Phew.
Anyway, after that it was a bit of a daze. I went on and did my nutty Mangel-esque professor routine, explaining about the roots of noir, paying particular attention to film, music, and the roman noir (invented by Julius Caesar in 266BC). I had course notes to hand out and everything...
The fest itself was great. Wish I could have seen more of the place, but even with mudslides and lightning blowing up trees and torrential flooding, everyone seemed happy. And I met Jai there, who I know online from way back. And... AND... we saw this big giant wickerman running alongside the motorway on the way home:
Anyone care to guess which film the above quote comes from?
Friday, July 22, 2005
Hi. This is The Hoff, and my pet eagle, guest-blogging for Charley Williamson. Charley has gone off to the Port Eliot Festival now, where he will be doing his "noir academy" thing at 9pm Saturday. But you know what I'd rather be doing at that time on a Saturday night? I'd rather be sitting in a high class restaurant with a beautiful woman, gently singing one of my many ballads into her ear. Or I could be straddling the Berlin Wall, ripping it down brick by brick while singing "Looking For Freedom".
Anyway, if you're not going to this Port Eliot Festival, I suggest you entertain yourself with this fun David Hasselhoff Pac-man game. It's great.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
You can now "search inside" DEADFOLK at Amazon.co.uk (page down a bit). This means you can search the entire text for specific words, and Amazon shows you the bit of text where the word occurs. Plus you can discover interesting facts like the word "love" appearing eight times, whereas "hate" appears not at all. Meanwhile "Mangel" is in there a whopping 77 times, which has got to be a record.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
I should say a bit more about what this is. I have mentioned KING OF THE ROAD once or twice elsewhere, but anyone chancing on this blog wouldn't know what I'm talking about. It is the final instalment in a trilogy which started with DEADFOLK and went on with FAGS AND LAGER. This will be the last one with Royston Blake and Mangel. I said I'd do three when I first spoke to Serpent's Tail, and I'm sticking with it.
You know, I do feel a bit uncomfortable using the word "trilogy". I think it's been hijacked by a certain type of fantasy novel over the years. You think "trilogy", you think "Tolkien". I've got nothing against the old duffer, but I just don't write that kind of stuff. If the word doesn't conjure up images of goblins and wizards, it makes you think: Uh oh, this guy's up his own arse. He'll be talking about his "work" next, and referring to himself in the third person. Well, I promise I won't do that. Charlie Williams is not pompous at all about his work.
Nevertheless, I still say that what I've written is a trilogy. There's no other word for it. It's not a series. A series, in the novelistic (and TV, and movie) sense, is a device where you pick up the same character(s) or setting time and again, and use them as tools to construct some new story. I have no interest whatsoever in that. What interested me, from some moment during the writing of DEADFOLK, was progression. I wanted to take Royston Blake and Mangel and see what would happen with them over a period of time. The world moves on and certain types of folks get left behind, while others have their moment in the sun. This is what I've seen over the years, and this is what I wanted to write about. But you can't do that and go on forever. I think you have to put a cap on it, otherwise the sense of progression gets severely diluted. And for me, that was three books tops. Start, middle, end. Intrigue, crisis, catharsis. Acts 1, 2, 3. A trilogy.
Shit, that turned into one self-absorbed post. I only meant to say "Er, that's KING OF THE ROAD - Mangel book three and final." I guess what I'm trying to say, in my convoluted and arse-about way, is that I am very excited at the prospect of having this trilogy out there. Until I had KING OF THE ROAD written and edited, I was worried that I might get run over by a bus. Now it doesn't matter, so I guess I'll stop looking both ways.
I still hate the word "trilogy" though.
(Mind you, it's better than "quartet".)
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
(A glittering prize to whoever gets where the above quote is from.)
Browsing on Amazon, as you do, I found this winter baby. Makes me cold just thinking about it.
Other news... the pigeons have gone away now. I think they must have defeated Captain Howdy, because I feel lighter on my feet and that Mike Oldfield music is no longer in my head (cheers Jim). Well done pigeons.
You know pigeons?
You know that bit towards the end of The Exorcist where the two guys of the cloth are really going at it, spraying holy water everywhere and shouting "The power of Christ compels you... The power of Christ compels you... etc"? You know that bit, yes?
And you know pigeons?
Well, I've got a bit of both. I'm sat here at home, doing some work, and outside the window there's these two pigeons doing their hooty mating call thing, or whatever it is. And it's exactly like "The power of Christ compels you... etc".
Do you think this means something? What are they compelling me to do, these pigeons and their power of Christ? Are they trying to make me come out there with some bread? Or do they want me to shoot the cat, or something? I don't know. They want something, and it's starting to get to me.
Are they trying to exorcise me? Maybe I'm really a human spirit, inhabiting the body of a pigeon? Or maybe I am physically a human, but I'm playing host to a little pigeon spirit, and those guys out there are after him with incantations and holy pigeon water? It's possible.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
"The Idiot" is three things:
1. A great novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
2. A great album by Iggy Pop.
3. A great description of me.
Why? Because I left the link off that Mr T post yersterday. So please, go back and review it again.
I must not leave the link off
I must not leave the link off
I must not leave the link off
I must not leave the link off
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
"When I met Mr. T, I cried. It was at an autograph signing, with Mary Lou Retton, of all people, and I got my arm signed and my photograph taken with him. Then I just went outside and I cried."
I don't know. Is this guy genuine or not? Is he a real T-man, or just a prankster? The tattoo on his arm suggests a mild degree of commitment, but what's this about a "Dolce & Gabbana trucker hat, the bill pulled slightly to the left"? Is a Dolce & Gabbana anything truly in the spirit of T?
I think not.
Be that as it may, if you're in New York go along to the Orchard Street Art Gallery on the Lower East Side, where you can see these guys' exhibition of T action figures, entitled "I Pity the Dolls."
Cheers to Ms W for the link.
Monday, July 11, 2005
People have been heralding the return of horror movies to the mainstream for years. You had the likes of The Blair Witch Project, last year's Dawn of the Dead reworking, and the odd quirky little one like Dog Soldiers. But, you know, I think it's bullshit. I think the studios have wanted horror to come screaming and roaring back into the multiplexes because it's capable of hooking the biggest market - teens. And it's probably been doing OK at that, with things like Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, The Haunting remake, The Ring remake, The Remake remake... etc. But you can see where I'm going with this, right? The bucks might be rolling in (to some degree), but the product is not exactly going to be remembered fondly.
Some of it will, of course. Far as Blair Witch goes, I'm in the "impressed" camp. A breathtaking piece of film (or video), all the more incredible considering the production limitations. Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead last year was just full-on. He seemed to be giving us a new type of horror film, and I'm not sure how he did it. Whatever... in that cinema, with those zombies up there running around chasing everyone, I did serious damage to the arm of my multiplex seat (and my brother actually shit his pants). And there was Neil Marshall's Dog Soldiers, which was sort of like an old 80's-style horror - full-on gore, siege, and jokes aplenty. But the rebirth of horror cinema? As I said back there: bullshit.
Until last night, when I went to see The Descent - Neil Marshall's new one.
Suddenly it's not quite so bullshit anymore.
Quite sensibly, my brother thought better of coming to see this one. And boy, was he ever right. Shit his pants? He would have shit his whole digestive system at this one. (Nice image, huh? You ought to see the movie.) Dog Soldiers might have made good use of humour, but there ain't a joke in sight here. Marshall has the confidence to make a proper horror film - one that horrifies. And for that I applaud him. For too long, horror films have been post-modern and knowing, directors only feeling justified within the genre if they can cock a snook at it, just to say "hey, I'm dabbling". Fuck that. I wanted to see real horror, and here I got it.
You know what? I can't be arsed to tell you what it's about. Go look it up here. (I'd make a great movie critic, eh?)
One bit I must tell you about: all the characters are female. This is a female buddy movie, a bunch of crazy danger loving birds going off into the great outdoors, the whole expedition centred around helping out one of their number who has gone through great loss. I found it interesting that a male director should choose to do it this way. But hell, does it work. I'm not sure if it works because it's all women, or in spite of it. And we're not talking a bunch of flappy victims here (when was the last horror movie when the women were just flappy victims?) It's about the quiet, slow-burning tensions that go on for years between women, without ever getting resolved. It's about helping out your friends. It's about finding new uses for mountaineering axes.
That's enough of an outline for you. Just go and see it. Experience cinematic terror in all its glory. (And I can't urge you enough - watch it in the CINEMA. This kind of stuff relies so much on atmosphere.) But just do your fellow viewers a favour, OK? Try not to shit your pants.
(Apologies to brother Hugh, who didn't shit his pants really.)
(He just pissed himself.)
Ray Banks - the acclaimed Tyne-exiled Scottish noirist - has called me out, or something. I've got to say, I hate the word "meme". (Unless it's got a funny hat in the middle, making it the French word for "same".) But twenty questions (or four) I can do.
Anyway, I think the idea is that I have to spout some answers, and pass them on to some others on the web, thereby perpetuating one of these meme things. Anyway, lets roll...
(1) Imagine it's 2015. You are visiting the library at a major research university. You go over to a computer terminal (or whatever it is they use in 2015) that gives you immediate access to any book or journal article on any topic you want. What do you look up? In other words, what do you hope somebody will have written in the meantime?
Ah, come on. How can I answer that? Too hard.
(2) What is the strangest thing you've ever heard or seen at a conference? No names, please. Refer to "Professor X" or "Ms. Y" if you must. Double credit if you were directly affected. Triple if you then said or did something equally weird.
Never been to a conference. Next question.
(3) Name a writer, scholar, or otherwise worthy person you admire so much that meeting him or her would probably reduce you to awestruck silence.
This is a tough one, but one I will try to answer (seeing as we're halfway through and I haven't answered any yet). I'd like to think I wouldn't be awed into silence by anyone. But who knows? The problem is, some of best writers seem to be such nice people, when you read interviews with them and the like. So you wouldn't be shitting your pants at the thought of meeting them. But to stand next to someone and think... my god, this is the mind that created... Hmm, I think some horror authors would probably stun me into silence. Trouble is, most are dead. Steve Rasnic Tem - he's alive. There you go, a nice obscure one for you. (Er, is he alive?) Go and look him up anyway. If you can, find the short story called "City Fishing". There is a mind that knows darkness.
Thought of another - Nick Cave. He qualifies as a writer through AND THE ASS SAW THE ANGEL. But it's probably his other output that would have me silenced.
(4) What are two or three blogs or other Web sites you often read that don't seem to be on many people's radar?
(Another hard one. Why are all these questions so hard?) I dunno, how about Jenny Davidson's? Sure, it's linked well enough, but do people realise what a great blogger she is? Also there's one by the horror author Tim Lebbon. I used to be in on the horror fiction scene, and he is one of the big up-and-comers. Americans might know him, but sadly horror novels just don't sell over here in the UK. Anyway, I check his journal now and then to see what he's up to.
That was a hard, hard set of questions. Now I'm knackered. Thanks a lot Ray.
Right then, this is the bit where I have to call out other people. Not so easy, as I hardly know any blogger-type people (save ones who will already have done these questions). How about Jai Clare, Jenny Davidson, and um... Neil Gaiman (looking at his blog, seems he's on a world tour - but I can still call him out, right?). (Oh, he's never heard of me and would never have seen this blog... but I can still call him out, right?)
Friday, July 08, 2005
I am v.happy to announce that I'll be at the Green Man Festival once again this year. John Williams has asked me along, and I guess I'll be reading from FAGS AND LAGER. This is a great festival, if you like Green Men. Actually it's a great festival no matter what colour of men you like (or women). Great beer, great music, great people walking around in strange costumes. Just great.
And it's even greater this year: Will Oldham (aka Bonny Prince Billy) is headlining.
Will Oldham, if you don't know, wrote (and originally recorded) "I See a Darkness", the incredible track on Johnny Cash's AMERICAN 3: SOLITARY MAN album. Do yourself a favour and buy this, let it sink in, and realise his version is even better.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
Bloody hell, what do you say to this? Mind you, having spent most of my working in life in London, I know she'll just be getting on with it. Those worthless fuckers can bring down the tube and murder dozens, but still she keeps going. Bombs, terrorists, orchestrated hatred: she's seen it all before.
Take it easy and get home OK.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
No, not the "supergroup" starring Robert Palmer and those two out of Duran Duran. I'm talking about a real power station - a station that makes power. (Or made power, in this case.) The one at Battersea, which dominates the South Bank of the Thames.
Anyway, the old place has been earmarked for a big shopping complex. This is really great news, because as we all know, the people of London have been cruelly deprived of places to shop for far, far too long. So, thanks to the efforts of Bob Geldof and the Live8 people, emergency supplies of consumer brand-name goods are being airlifted into SW8.
Meanwhile, let us glory at the splendour of Battersea Power Station one last time.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
As I mentioned elsewhere, I'm booked to appear at the Port Eliot Festival in a couple of weeks, alongside Rob Lewis. We're supposed to do something other than a reading, something creative or off-the-wall, or something. Anyway, we (OK, Rob) thought up a great idea:
That's not the definitive flyer, but it's close. Any suggestions, please let me know! What other apect of noir could we examine, dissect, and totally bastardise?
Monday, July 04, 2005
Are we going to see this book one day? I dunno, maybe it's been done already?
I've no idea how they manage to get together all the snail letters an author wrote, so this could be tougher, but just as meaningful in terms of material. Mind you, isn't everything that was ever sent over the net archived somewhere?
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Been thinking (easy now) about blogs, blogging, and bloggers. More specifically, writers who blog. All bloggers are writers by definition, but there are a few who are also "authors of note".
Once upon a time, we looked at authors via a couple of sources: Their Works (novels, plays, poems, etc); their collected letters; their diaries; and published interviews. Some authors write some great Works, but if you want to really get them best of them, you have to go to the less formal scribblings and outpourings.
But now that's all changed. Because we have these blog things.
Authors who blog are going to share a lot more of themselves with the world, on a much more regular basis, and with little or no delay whatsoever. Back in the day, you often had to wait until the guy popped his clogs before you could see his letters and find out what he was really about. But now you get it in real time. You can read the novel one minute, click on the blog the next, finding out what A.N. Author had for dinner last night. A bit confusing, no? Fiction on one hand, fact on the other. All of it going into your brain at once...
Look at Neil Gaiman. As far as I know (and I probably don't know very far), he is the most high profile author who has a regular blog. He posts a hell of a lot there on his blog, telling you about his world travels, different projects, sexual peccadilloes, cultural interests, family stuff etc. (Did I say "sexual peccadilloes"? I meant "menstrual armadilloes".) (Did I say "menstrual armadilloes"? I meant, of course "letters from readers". Jesus, you've got a sick mind.) Anyway, you get to know a lot more about Neil Gaiman.
This means, of course, that he can no longer be the mysterious creator of the strange, fantastical stuff he puts out. We never really believed he lived in a garret in the middle of a forest, writing by night with a feather quill on parchment. But, without the blog, any lingering doubt is removed. On the other hand, if the Work is all that you see of an author, the mystery remains.
But does that help? Does "the mystery" add to the enjoyment of an author's Work?
Now look at Magnus Mills. He has published four great novels, and a couple of short story collections. Elsewhere, there are few cursory interviews, and a lot of hype at the beginning of his career, with all the "bus driver gets huge advance, longlisted for Booker" malarkey. He has no web site that I know of, definitely no blog, and you don't really get much of him in the media. (There are hundreds of authors this applies to, but I'm only picking on the authors I like mostest.) Sometimes I wish he did a blog, or had a website with some more (non-fic) material on it. His novels seem to come from such a strange place, I want to know more about it. But would it really add to the reading of them, knowing that he's doing a book signing at Burnley Waterstones on July 15th, and it would be great if you turned up?
No, it wouldn't.
It wouldn't help if he went on at length about his influences and interests either, or what film he saw last night. The work stands alone. And do you know what? I think blogs, websites, and maintaining any kind of high media profile probably takes away from it.
Nevertheless, I find myself sitting here, doing a blog. Hmm............
OK, here's my conclusion... (Because we need closure, right?) You have blogs, and you have books. They are two separate things. Some are great authors, some are great bloggers. Sometimes you have both. And sometimes you have a great author who is also a great bricklayer. Does his bricklaying add or subtract from his writing? No. Does it have anything to do with it? Not really.
Then again, I bet Neil Gaiman builds some mind-boggling walls, when he gets the old cement and trowel out.