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.)


Jenny D said...

I love Liza Cody's books, that other series too...

Congratulations on the foreign book deals, it's excellent. Moscow is a Royston Blake kind of town, you must go there if you can...

Charlie Williams said...

Jenny - I never read any of the Anna Lee ones. Having read Eva Wylie first, I just didn't think they'd match up. Maybe I'm wrong.

Thanks re foreign sales. I find it amazing, I really do... Royston Blake on a world tour.

I'd love to go to Moscow. I'll have to take your word for it for now though.

Ray said...

Absolutely congratulations on the foreign deals, especially Mother Russia. Did you know you're rubbing shoulders with Burroughs and Bukowski with Tough Press?

And personally, I like the idea of Blakey going on a world tour. Who needs to leave Mangel when you can take it with you?

Charlie Williams said...

Burroughs and Bukowski... I found out about their list when Al pointed me at their website. Awesome. Prior to that the only book I knew they had done was BLOWJOB by Stewart Home.

> Who needs to leave Mangel when
> you can take it with you?

It's the sweetest irony...

Marge, readaholic said...

I'm glad to see someone else that got the same bang out of Eva Wylie. I, too, devoured all 3 of the Bucket Nut books, but could never bring myself to read the Anna Lee stuff - it couldn't possibly match up. I did take a look at the beginning of one of them, but it looked like a relatively standard private dick mystery, and I dropped it. (Now, The Rift - another by Liza Cody - is a different kettle of fish all over again; you might want to take a look there.)
I don't see why people keep calling the Eva books mysteries, and her a sleuth. Or moral. Hah!! But gripping? Yowsah! Reading one of her fight scenes gives me a pump like a weightlifting session!
Those books are sad and funny, and wrenching and just plain impossible to put down. I'll let you know if I ever manage to find out what Liza Cody is doing these days.

elkiedee said...

I was pointed here by a post on DorothyL.

I started reading the Anna Lee books because I liked women PI novels in the days when I had no money and relied on the library (early 1990s). I read Bucket Nut when it came out too, but it didn't appeal to me as much at the time as Anna Lee. Years later I discovered the Eva Wylie books all over again.

Liza Cody is still writing but I think mainly short stories. There was a novel called Gimme More a few years ago about a rock star's widow, well of course there's more to her than that. She's also edited a few short story anthologies. She works with Peter Lovesey and Michael Z Lewin doing a performance thing which I've seen at a couple of conventions - Bouchercon Las Vegas (2003) (I think) and was it Left Coast Crime in Bristol England in 2003? Anyway, she's still around, still writing.

A US publisher that publishes collections of short stories did one for Liza Cody which includes one about one of the other characters in the Eva Wylie books, I think.

Sorry for vagueness of information but I'm sure a little googling will turn up titles for the collected stories and the anthology work.

tworoads said...

I must admit that at least once or twice a year, I make a beeline to the mystery section just to see if Liza Cody has published a new one. Am disappointed not to find one. Then I make my way to the customer service desk to have them make sure nothing is out there. I look at all the mystery offerings, and say to myself, nothing like Liza Cody's books here. Liza, where are you? We need you!

joturner said...

Me too! EVERY TIME I hit a book store - first stop is Fiction - C. What's new from Liza Cody? I read the Anna Lee books first and they got me hooked in the first place. Then Eva Wylie arrived - Wow! Eva is the most lovable, desperate, tough, crazy character I've ever come across in fiction. So, yes, I miss Liza Cody too. Apparently she's also written "Lucky Dip and Other Stories (short stories)" but I'm still to find a copy.

barberoux said...

Eva Wylie has to be one of the most appealing characters in popular fiction. I read "Bucket Nut" three times and I still check the library for new Liza Cody books. She is missed.

zinnia said...

Liza Cody is certainly still writing, but publishers whose accountants only want more of what they had last time don't give her the attention she deserves. The Anna Lee books were particularly notable because they were the first in the UK about a female private eye (and Anna Lee predated both Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton, though not Marcia Muller.) Then there was Rift, and the Evas. Gimme More is an amazing piece of fiction - mystery and music - and it will finally have a US edition, probably in 2008. And there are more manuscripts... Get out there and clamor for them.

tworoads said...

Liza Cody's books and stories gave me and many others hours of great enjoyment. The down-to-earth characters, who are also strong women, are accessible and fresh and leave a lasting impression.

The first work I read was "Lucky Dip" after listening to it on tape several times while I was driving long distances. I went and found the other books after that. I really miss reading about Eva and her exploits. I re-read the books of course!

Okay, I also read Grafton and Paretsky, but Anna Lee and Eva take the cake!

To whom shall I clamor? Publishers/agents? Maybe start a Liza Cody fansite?

zinnia said...

Publishers are the key. Clamor to publishing houses that publish relatively up-market mysteries and general fiction. Or other fiction you like. If one editor gets enthusiastic, that's more than half the job. Relatively neglected writers are responsive to editors who really want to publish them. Another - parallel? - route would be to muster enthusiasm among librarians who, in turn, would request books from publishers. I've not heard of a fan site leading to books on shelves but why not?

Charlie Williams said...

Great to see a Liza movement getting going. I think the best route to take would be her current or former publishers. If no new books are coming out and manuscripts exist, someone is turning them down. Those rejecters need to know that here is a market out there for this stuff.

zinnia said...

Part of the problem is that editors retire (as Liza's in the UK did) and editors move to new jobs. But any letters or messages addressed to publishers will call someone's attention to the fact that people care enough to make the effort.

Megan said...

Been in the garden reading "Lucky Dip" in a collection of short stories published in 1991 edited by Sara Paretsky which arrived this morning from Canada (long live ebay!) and it sent me back 10 years when I first read the Eva Wylie books and was blown away.If a stick in the mud infant teacher like me can be blown away ,these stories are good.Made me run to google in hopes there were more out there now but sadly I see there aren't.Still I can now buy them and read them all over again.Was going to read the Anna Lee as well but seeing the comments might not now.Will grab "Gimme More"first since I enjoyed the short story today so much,but if Liza Cody is still out there {and not retired which she is of an age to do and I can recommend it!)then her next project could be continuing the Lucky Dip short story and making it into a book because I am sure I am not the only one who was so engaged with the character and wants to know what happened next.If I knew anything about writing to publishers I would as well.

popcorn said...

Have you seen the collection of Liza's stories - Lucky Dip and Other Stories? There've been one or two in Ellery Queen since it too. And, if you're interested, sometime later this year Liza will have a website...

popcorn said...

Re the Lucky Dip characters. Thinking about it, those characters do reappear in a novel. They're in the second Eva Wylie book, MUSCLEBOUND.

Anonymous said...

Um..so if liza cody is going to have her own website, when? There's no point in trying to inveigle publishers into publishing her work if she's not got anything IN the works. If she is writing anything she could let us know and then fans etc. could inveigle at will and hopefully in large numbers. I'd happily read anything she writes - it's that really gritty Londony sort of stuff and all my copies of her books are so old the paper's starting to turn brown at the edges.

tworoads said...

Liza's writing again! She's about to publish! There's a picture of her writing on her new website! HOOOOOOOOORRRRAAAAAAAAYYY!

No really. I'm not kidding.

There's even a new book coming out called "Gimmie More."

This made my day, my week, my summer! Thank you, Liza!


zinnia said...

For anyone who's interested... Liza Cody never stopped writing. Her book, Gimme More, came out in the US a couple of years ago and a new book, Ballad of a Dead Nobody, will come out in paper and electronic forms in the next couple of months. More details on her website, www.LizaCody.com

Kenneth Robinson said...

I recently sent this message to Liza Cody:

I'm going crazy waiting for more books from you. Why can't you be more prolific? Why aren't there ten Eva Wylie novels like there are twelve or whatever Jack Reacher novels? Or fifty or whatever of Robert B. Parker's Spenser stories? Please, please, please make a study of how you work your magic--how you shape a scene, fit your ideas into it, and lend it rhythm--and indulge it and me and you all day every day for the next thirty years. I love you, Liza. Yours, Ken

And received this response.

Dear Ken, See, this is the problem when you don't indulge in ritualistic behaviour or writing by rote. You never know how to do a thing, cos in certain real ways you've never done it before. In fact, you're forever inventing the wheel. It makes life exciting, sure, but it scares you half to death too. And worse, you end up with 5 books while the clever ones write 50. That said, there may well be a new book out next year, called Miss Terry. Hugs. LC 30 December 2011

She sent me hugs!!!

Charlie Williams said...

I totally get where Liza is coming from. Plus I can see it in her books - the immediacy of it. I don't know about her, but I sometimes think of writing as like method acting - you get into the character's head and see where it goes. In the Bucket Nut novels Liza is well and truly in Eva's head.