Thursday, April 28, 2005


Maybe I'm in a bad mood today (I blame it on that trucker). Whatever, I feel like slagging something off. I can't see the good things right now, only the bad. And one bad thing in particular:

The image of the "writer".

What I hate, right, is when you hear an author talk, or read him write (about himself), and you just know he loves being a writer. Not for the creative release it brings. Not for the sense of self it gives him, knowing there are people out there reading and thinking about his books. Not even for the money it brings him. No, this author loves being a writer because he gets to show off about it. You got to a party. You get introduced to someone and you ask them a question:

"What do you do?"
"I'm a writer, actually."

Simple exchange, right? Wrong. It's never just "I'm a writer". Those are the words spoken, but the undercurrent is something more. The whole vibe of the exchange is "I'm a writer, so I'm better than you."

Don't get me wrong. I'm not slagging off all writers. (Especially not ones in the crime genre, who tend - on the most part - to be more pragmatic and less pretentious. ) But there's always one. There's a whole slew of them in London, as you'll find if you go to a party in Shoreditch, or (for the older generations) Hampstead. I'm sure it's the same in New York, and I've no doubt it's like that in Paris (although there's a whole lorryload of other connotations thrown into the mix over there). But why? Why is "being a writer" seen as a more worthwhile, cool, or just plain better way to pass your working hours?

"What kind of work do you do, Barton, if you don't mind my asking?"

"Well, I'm a writer, actually."

"You don't say. That's a tough racket. My hat's off to anyone who can make a go of it. Damned interesting work, I'd imagine."

"Can be. Not easy, but - "

"Damned difficult, I'd imagine."

Is this what it's all about? Is "being a writer" perceived as difficult, so anyone who can do it as a bona fide occupation must be placed on some sort of pedestal? The writer at the party knows it, and he knows his inquisitor knows it, so the writer feels he has a right to assume the superior air. But why don't I see it? Why do I see it as way more impressive/interesting/daunting to hear "I'm a doctor"; or "I'm a farmer"; or "I'm a shelf-stacker, when I'm not looking after my three young kids or staring at the bottom of a glass"?

Yeah, OK - you could say I've found out a bit about writing now. I've glimpsed the Life of the Mind, and it wasn't halfway as glamourous as they said it would be. I don't do it full-time, mind. I need a full-time day job to keep things afloat, and so I'm not obliged to say "I'm a writer" at parties. Then again, I don't think I'd even say it if I was a full-time writer. I'd probably say "I'm a freelancer", or something equally stupid and evasive.

Believe me, I don't see anything wrong with being a full-time writer. It's a great (but precarious) way to spend your energies. But it's about the work, not the lifestyle. Outside his work he's the same as every other punter, and there's no reason why he shouldn't be. In fact, he should be. If he's not engaged in the quotidian life of wherever he lives, he can hardly write about the people who are. Your struggles, her struggles, his struggles... everyone has struggles.

"Okay. I'm just having trouble getting started. It's funny, I'm blocked up. I feel like I need some kind of indication of... what's expected - "

"Wallace Beery. Wrestling picture. What do you need, a road map? Look, you're confused? You need guidance? Talk to another writer."


"Jesus, throw a rock in here, you'll hit one. And do me a favor, Fink: Throw it HARD."

I feel better now.

NEXT WEEK: Charlie attacks an innocent person in the street.

Davy's on the Road Again

To the truck driver who wanted to play games on the A46 north of Stratford this morning...

If you want to ram me for overtaking you, ram me. Don't just put your lights on full beam and accelerate towards me, stopping at the last moment. That's what I expected you to do. And when you did it, I knew you were a pussy. I stuck my finger up and laughed at you. You should have gone for it, ploughing into the back of me and forcing me (and the stupid slow-moving Audi in front of me) off the road. That's the only card you truckers have, you know. At the back of our minds, there's always the fear that you might be the trucker from Duel...

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Liza Cody: Where are you?

I got a spam in my work inbox this morning, subject:

The BEST wrestling movie ever in theaters soon!!! Starring The Fabulous Moolah, The Great Mae Young, Penny Banner, Ella Waldek, Ida Martinez & Gladys "Killem" Gillem

I hate spams, but I've never seen one pimping a movie before. And that "starring the fabulous Moolah" really had me curious. So I went and looked it up on IMDB. Of course, the spam didn't mention the full title of the movie (otherwise it would never have got through the work email server):

Lipstick & Dynamite, Piss & Vinegar:
The First Ladies of Wrestling

I have no idea if this has ever been at theatres or not. Anyone seen it? Looks good. Really. I mean, you cannot beat a bit of female wrestling. Right?

Anyway, this got me thinking about Liza Cody, author of the suberb "Bucket Nut" novels (BUCKET NUT, MONKEY WRENCH, MUSCLEBOUND), starring the amazing Eva Wylie (aka The London Lassassin), female wrestler. These books are incredible (especially the first two). It's all about Eva, the rude, delusional narrator. She's quite possibly one of the finest characters in literature. (If that's too much hyperbole, you can narrow it down to English lit. Or London lit. Or South London lit. I'm not narrowing it down any more.)

What makes her so great is her "philosophy". Not that Eva would ever use such a pompous word as that, but she knows how she wants to live, and she protects that way of life like a rottweiler bitch protects her puppies. She totally opts out of the modern world, refusing to have her name on any lists or official records, and living in a Portakabin on a rubbish dump (in return for providing overnight security). Money she picks up from wrestling (when she can get a gig), and the odd bit of dirty work here and there, which is where the actual plots come from.

And the plots are almost irrelevant. When the character is as epic as this, you could have a whole novel about her trying to open a tin of beans and it would work... as long as she gets to fight. Each novel has a wrestling bout as the centre-piece. And boy, does Liza Cody nail the atmosphere. You can almost smell the vinegar and piss.... (from Bucket Nut:)

Far below was the ring.
They were playing my music.
I could feel it all, down to the tips of my toes. The dogs, pulling my arm off. The heat. The dark. The crowd turning. Everyone straining their necks to watch me come down.
'This is mine,' I said. 'Nobody's going to take it off me. Nobody.'
'The London Lassassin,' yelled the MC in the ring.
The crowd started baying and booing like they always do.
'Shut yer face,' I yelled back. 'Who d'you think you are?'
'Yak-yak-yak,' went Lineker.
'Ro-ro-ro,' went Ramses.
And as we passed the crowd went batshit.
'Look at the dogs!' they shouted.
'She brought the dogs!'
'The bitch brought her dogs! Ha-ha-ha!'
'Shut yer freakin' mouth,' I shouted. 'Yer all morons.'
But... but but but... What has happened to Liza Cody, creator of this beautiful monster? Eva Wylie's last outing was MUSCLEBOUND in 1997, and since then we've only had the standalone GIMME MORE in 2000. Is she still writing? Anyone know? Maybe she's making movies now, like LIPSTICK & DYNAMITE, and using spam to promote them?

Any information gratefully received.

(BTW: anyone who has read DEADFOLK and notices a certain "kinship" between Royston Blake and Eva Wylie, you're bang on. I freely admit that Liza Cody was an influence. Only an influence, mind. Plenty of other fictional creations also paved the way. And one or two flesh and blood ones.)

Friday, April 22, 2005

"New shit has come to light"

I've put a "dedicated" FAGS AND LAGER page up on my site. Nothing much new there, if you've been checking this blog for a while. But if you haven't, it's all there baby.

(Anyone know where the quote up there comes from? Yeah, of course you do.)

Happy Friday.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

This one's for Ivan

"Russian rights to Charlie Williams's DEADFOLK and FAGS AND LAGER, the first two novels of the Mangel trilogy featuring head nightclub doorman Royston Blake in demented and dark tales from the heart of England, to Alex Kervey at AST/Tough Press, by Robin Jones at Imrie & Dervis on behalf of Serpents Tail. French rights to Gallimard, and to Baldini in Italy, at auction, to Alex Kervey at Tough Press."
I'm off to get bladdered on Stolly.

Monday, April 18, 2005

So come and dance with me, Royston...

There's a little piece by yours truly on the Serpent's Tail site, about the new book (and the old book). Similar to this one for DEADFOLK in some ways. But in other ways, not.

So now you can:

  1. Read the article
  2. gasp with pleasure
  3. place an order for the book.
(It's a 3-step program, so no cutting corners.)

700 pages of crap you can't even fit in a coat pocket

Nice article on pulp in The Guardian.

Few would argue that the genre - one which peaked in popularity during the 1950s contains much in the way of literary merit. Indeed, in their day, they were considered so low-brow that copies were sold mainly at news stands or from subway vending machines. Booker Prize winners they weren't.
OK, so it's a "nice article" in that I'm interested in pulp, and the article is about pulp. But what I find odd, right, is that whenever the subject of "literary value" crops up, someone has to mention the Booker prize. Please, can someone demonstrate to me how Booker Prize-winning books are better examples of the art of the novel than A Hell of a Woman, Pick Up, or Down There? It's scary, the amount of assumption (prejudice) that goes on in the literary world. The Line of Beauty must be great because it won the Booker. The Killer Inside Me must be shit because it was printed on cheap paper and flogged at newsstands, decades ago. No one is putting quite like that, but they might as well. To which all I can quote is this:
"For fuck's fucking sake."
The Restraint of Beasts, Magnus Mills, 1998 (Booker Prize-shortlisted)

(As a slightly irrelevant side issue, take a look at those last two covers linked to above. Doesn't it sum it up? Which image makes you want to open the book?)

Final word goes to pulp collector Peter Chapman (from the Guardian article):

"Back in the old days, these books were 120 pages and they had a beginning, middle and end. That was it. Who needs 700 pages of crap you can't even fit in a coat pocket?"
Amen to that.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Mother - there is no other

You need to check this out. There are some people who just know what's important, and how to send out a message to the world in a compelling way. Mr T is one of those people, and you need to listen to him. And watch, too - his dance moves carry just as much weight as the words. And don't forget the grey camouflage shorts - the patterns swirl around as he moves, creating new meanings.

And don't forget the three mothers on backing vocals. If you look closely, you'll see it's actually (left to right) Margaret Hamilton, Traci Lords, and Chaka Khan.

'M' is for the moan and the miserable groan
From the pain that she felt when I was boan
'O' is for the oven with the burning heat
When she stood making sure I had something to eat

(Thanks to Ray for his supernatural ability to unearth the web's most important documents. Next Hoff joke I get, it's yours.)

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Sorry Ray, I'm scooping you on this one...

From Popbitch:

David Hasselhoff walks into a bar and says to
the barman, "I want you to call me David Hoff".

The barman replies "Sure thing Dave... no hassle."

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Royston, it was really nothing

I wrote this "article" last year, not long before DEADFOLK came out. I was sure one of the broadsheets (probably The Guardian) would be desperate for something by me to coincide with publication, so I wrote it in advance, knowing that I might be too busy when the call came.

The call never came. Not from The Guardian. Not from The Times. Not even from the Shitsville Gazette. So it's appearing here, on The Charlie Williams Blog, as an exclusive.

It's about the origins of DEADFOLK. With FAGS AND LAGER due for publication in less than four weeks, I thought I'd get it out now before it becomes obsolete. (Mind you, it's really about the origins of the whole trilogy, DEADFOLK being the first episode)....

Thirteen Years, Twenty-nine Cups of Tea, and a Funeral

This is a couple of years ago.

I'm sitting at my laptop, very specific ideas in my head about the great novel I am about to write. This is going to be the third one (but first published). This time I'm going to nail everything, all those ingredients that are sure to make it magical.

Urban. London. I've been living down here for years so it's about time I start writing about it. The characters are going to be products of the city, overloaded with data, cynical, lost. The devilish plot will lead them to a bittersweet resolution, a recapture of identity, yet at a cost...

So I'm here, writing it down.

But it won't come. I'm losing my way.


I start again.

Sit down. Laptop. London. Bla. Cynical metropolitan types. Bla. Identity. Bla...

That's what it feels like, the writing. Pasting words together. Bricks and mortar. Bla bla bla.

No, it's not working. I throw it all in the air. I want to write. I need to write. I've written lots before, so what's up now? Maybe I've lost it. Maybe I've written myself out, said what needed saying. Maybe not.

Back to laptop.

Bla bla bla.


Something happens.

Reality steps in.

A phone call. A family member has died. My father-in-law. It's not happening. He's healthy and a good man, and this situation is just plain ridiculous.

Only it's not.

We travel up, to that provincial town from which I so triumphantly escaped years ago. I do the best I can for my wife and her relatives and everyone else within range of a squeeze on the shoulder and a nice cup of tea. That's about all I can do, me being me. I talk a bit, but mostly I listen. Listening is easier. I don't have the same feelings about it all as everyone else. He was my father-in-law, the guy who I dreaded meeting for the first time a few years ago but then found out he was OK. But everyone else has known him forever. I'm in the thick of it, right there at the front, yet standing to one side, trying not to get in the way.

So I listen.

I'm OK, listening.


The funeral comes. It shouldn't be happening. He was healthy and a good man, and this situation is just plain ridiculous.

People cry.

People sing and eat vol-au-vents and have a drink.

People laugh.

I laugh. I eat the vol-au-vents and drink and sing. But most of all I listen, to these people from back home who knew him so well. I listen and keep quiet, thinking I know them so well, too. It's like turning the dial on your radio and finding that station you thought had closed down for good years ago. Same songs, different DJ.

I know these people. Maybe not as individuals, but something about them chimes in me. The voice? The haircut? More than that. I lived amongst them for the first eighteen years of my life. It's their essence I know.


It shouldn't have happened.


A good man.

A ridiculous situation...

Well, maybe not, people are beginning to think as the flowers begin to wither. The sun's still shining on this little old town after all. It comes up in the morning and goes down at night. Always did, always will. The people go away and leave my wife and her mother to mourn. And I'm still not sure what to do. I make cups of tea.

I put arms around shoulders.

I try to listen but it's getting hard, to be honest. Not because I can't bear it. I can bear it. But something else is expected of me now. Hey you, I'm hearing. Yeah you, the guy over there who's been doing all the listening. No one's saying that, of course. I don't even think anyone's thinking it. But I'm hearing it. Well, you've heard enough. Now say something. I'm hearing it alright. Say something!


I'm not being much use, really. And the worst bit is that I haven't cried, not like everyone else has. I listened and made tea and didn't cry, and now to cap it all I don't know what to say.

So I slink away.

Sit down. Laptop. Write.

But I can't get back there, to that difficult metropolitan novel. It's dead. I close my eyes and blink back the tears. It shouldn't have happened, you know. It was healthy and a good novel, and this situation is just plain...

Shut up, Charlie. That's awful. Awful. Just write something you... you...


I start again.

Laptop. Keyboard. Tap tap tap. Words are coming. I've been here for two hours and I haven't stopped. But it's... It's not...

It's not urban.

It's not London.

It's not even about products of the city, overloaded with data, cynical, lost. No. This is...

I don't know. What is it, this strange place? And who is this strange narrator who has thrust his voice into my head and down through my tapping fingers? You know, it's a bit like...

No, don't tell me that. I left this town thirteen years ago. It tried to stop me but I slipped from it's grasp. You can't have me, old town. I don't belong here. I'll never be part of you and you'll never be part of me. Now shut up and let me write, stupid old town.

I'm over you.

I write about other things now.

London, for example.

But I have to write. There's a voice up there and I might as well get it out. I don't know who it is, or where he comes from. We'll argue about that later. Let's just get the thing down.


I finish.

It's unlike anything I've written before. I'm wondering if I really did write it. I know I tapped the keys and swapped words around here and there, but there was a guy up there feeding it to me, a guy with a strange yokel accent who lives in an even stranger backwater town called Mangel. Royston Blake, he calls himself. He's a doorman, right in the thick of it yet standing to one side, letting folks past. I try to conjure a title for this new novel. "Deadfolk," he says. "Deadfolk, by Royston Blake."

Sorry Royston.

I did the typing, so I get my name on the cover.


People move around in Ford Capris in Deadfolk. They drive Allegros and Marinas and Vivas. The protagonist is a man who knows himself. Royston Blake, Head Doorman of Hoppers Wine Bar & Bistro. Oh yes, he knows who he is alright. Everyone in Mangel knows who he is. But what happens if you start to pick at him?

How firm is that firm jaw?

How hard is that close-cropped head?

Deadfolk is the book I always had in me, since the days when the rain fell down in a humdrum town and I dreamed of escape. All it took to bring it out was thirteen years, twenty-nine cups of tea, and a funeral.

Saturday, April 09, 2005


It's not published for another month yet, but I got my complimentary copies today. And they look great (though they're four short).

Many thanks to Mark Billingham and Ken Bruen for saying nice things about it on the cover. I owe you a pack of Bensons and a four-pack of Heineken (between you).

I'm off the celebrate down the pub...

Friday, April 08, 2005

Mamma fuckin' mia!

Someone passed this to me, (via Publisher's Marketplace):

Italian rights to Charlie Williams's DEADFOLK and FAGS AND LAGER, two "demented and hilarious" crime novels set in Gloucestershire, England's answer to the Deep South, to Baldini and Castoldi, at auction, by Malcolm Imrie at Imrie & Dervis on behalf of Serpent's Tail. French rights have already been sold to Gallimard.
It's amazing what you hear on the grapevine. This is incredible news... I'm off to celebrate with a huge pizza!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

rocky eats poo

The above is the exact Google keyword search someone used to reach my site. I've seen a few odd search strings, but none beats that for sheer... er, sheer... I dunno, sheer something or other. Of course, I'm proud that "rocky eats poo" led someone to

Ah, shit (literally)... I just tried that string myself, to see what kind of results you get back. Trust me - don't do it. Do yourself a favour and check out Ray's blog instead. You get corrupted slightly more slowly that way.

To the "rocky eats poo" seeker - I hope you found it. And bon appetit.

Top of the Lager League

Trying to secure the number one spot on Google for the search string "charlie williams" is one competitive ticket. Just when my site ( finally emerged from 4-digit obscurity and shifted into double figures, and looked destined for the top spot, some other Charlie Williams hits a run of form and gets there before me. Currently (though this changes day by day) the king of "charlie williams" is Ayup Magazine, which takes the cheeky-but-dead Northern comic as its subject. I don't mind that. I can handle a faded god of light entertainment as my conquistador. It's these other guys that piss me off...

Actually that's not quite true. Another "charlie williams" I've come to know and respect is the Korean Dragon, possibly the most unlikely-monikered Korean I've ever come across. Anyone who wins fame and fortune by playing pub games is fine by me.

But who is this baseball guy? OK, I know who he is. He's "charlie williams", isn't he. But baseball? We used to play that at school when the wicket was being relaid (Maybe that was rounders. But, you know...)

I can put up with this Dallas Cowboys player. Anyone with shoulders like that can go in front of me in any list of search results. But they're not real shoulders, are they. Everyone knows American Football players are built like small children underneath all that padding. So get behind me, helmet boy.

Then there's the pastoral counseling guru. What can you say about him? (Ah, I know - "his name is Charlie Williams." That's what you can say.)

One day I'll be number one. Then everyone will be saying "Who the fuck is this Deadfolk guy? Where's the real Charlie Williams? You know, the champion truck puller?"

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

"A little whisky is good for the system."

I finally worked out a way of watching the Region 1 DVD in my Region 2 world, which involved borrowing a laptop, downloading drivers, hooking up speakers etc. But it was well worth it. It was well, well worth it.

Because now I've seen The Pope of Greenwich Village.

I'd never heard of this film. I used to like Mickey Rourke (before he kind of disappeared), but I didn't know about this one. Maybe it wasn't released in the UK for some reason. Mind you, I could be wrong. I was a bit young in 1984, and more interested in watching things like BMX Bandits and Beat Street. But you'd think I would have heard of such a great movie as this. It's crime, it's mafia, it's Mickey Rourke. It's got a great cast of character actors, and is full of the kind of dialogue that'll make you want to learn the whole thing by heart. It fits right into that tradition of New York stories. All these are things that should bring it to wider attention. But no - maybe it was just me, but I missed it.

Until Charlie Stella stepped in (and the Region 1/2 saga began).

Charlie (Rourke's character, not Mr Stella or myself), is trying to get by in NY, burdened by his fuck-up cousin Paulie (played by Eric Roberts. Why have I never heard of this amazing actor? Is there some kind of conspiracy going on?) Paulie helps Charlie lose his job, then comes up with a sure-thing race-horse scam, which means robbing 150k from somewhere. Cue the real movie, which is all about the relationship between these two guys.

But forget the story. This movie is not about story. It's about dialogue (this, I believe, is why Stella is such a fan). Check this out:

Paulie: See where it says F? F - that means filly. They call the girl horses fillys, and if you see a G, Charlie, that means gelding. That's when they whack the horse's dick off. baboom - it's a memory...
Charlie: [rubbing temples] Balls, balls.
P: The balls?
C: Balls.
P: The dick, man.
C: They whack the balls off, they don't whack the dick
P: [pause] Yeah, OK. Um...
Paulie is one of those characters I love. Dumb, head in the clouds, fragile, dangerous, but ultimately good. Reminds me in some ways of the John Turturro character in Miller's Crossing, though Bernie Berbaum is ultimately bad. The two films are otherwise v.different. (Trivia: M.Emmett Walsh plays a cop in THE POPE... and starred in Coen brothers' debut BLOOD SIMPLE the same year.)

Anyone read the novel (by Vincent Patrick)? has a great user review: "Not vry gd bk bcs it about criminol". Makes you wonder, don't it? You know, about people.

Many thanks to the wonderful Charlie "Chaloots" Stella.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Hay Change

A message to any sad cases who might have made a note in their diaries for my Hay Festival appearance: "The date has changed."

Also it turns out I'll be appearing alongside James Hawes* and Robert Lewis**.

Yes, the organisers have correctly identified our event as the main draw for the whole festival, and have been shuffling everyone else around (Elvis Costello, Spike Lee, Jane Fonda... etc. Some writers too, I think) to give us the prime time slot - 5pm, Wednesday, June 1st. I'm told the event will be at a place called "Four". All I know about "Four" is that it is not "One", "Two", or "Three" (which has got to be good, right? I mean, would you rather have one cake or four cakes, if the cake man was handing them out for free?) Mind you, I've asked around and all I can find out about "Four" is that it's "the patch of dirt behind the gents' at the Bull Inn. Watch out for the dog - he's blind in one eye and if you creep up on him, he'll go for you." But that can't be right, can it? No, no - it will surely be a nice plush festival building, or a big marquee with state-of-the-art multimedia. Yeah.

* James Hawes, of course, was meant to be at the Bath Lit Fest with me and Griffiths and Barry. I'm chuffed to get a second chance to meet the guy (A WHITE MERC WITH FINS - one of my fave debuts... SPEAK FOR ENGLAND - superb piece of satire/nostalgia/fantasy/politics. He wears JG Ballard and PG Wodehouse hats simultaneously and actually pulls it off, to which I say: "Fair play to you, Hawesy").

** Robert Lewis - new Serpent's Tail author with the excellent, booze-drenched THE LAST LLANELLI TRAIN. Is there such a genre as "pub fiction"? If so, slot this effort near the top of the cannon. It's a PI novel (set in Bristol), definitely in the Bruen "Jack Taylor" tradition of heroic fuck-ups (the protagonist, not the novel.) I'll blog more about it later, but suffice to say it's marvellous. I'll also be reading with Rob at The Dylan Thomas Festival in Swansea.