Monday, June 29, 2009


Took a few photos yesterday as research for a new novel. These shots will be printed and maybe put up on a notice board, maybe tossed in a drawer. either way, they will probably never be looked at again. I don't need photographs for reference, only for inspiration. I kind of believe that the mere act of pointing a camera at a thing and capturing it in pixels will turn a switch somewhere in my mind. Sometimes it's an image from a newspaper or google. Either way, you print it and file it.

Same with notes. I've kept notebooks for years, jotting down whatever piece of crap of an idea takes my fancy. I do look back over those notebooks sometimes but it's a cringe-inducing experience. You have to brace yourself for the discovery you are about to make: that you are actually a bit thick. But there, in amongst all the detritus of the modern, overstimulated and undernourished mind, you find that piece of gold that you might be able to fashion into something really quite passable. And that one nugget makes it all worthwhile. You're a genius after all! OK, maybe not a genius. You're not a complete moron after all!

This is the kind of stuff that happens for me at the start of something new. Right now, hopefully, it's a novel. Characters, premises, plots and even set pieces are running around up there in the old swede, jostling for position like sperm that don't know which direction they're supposed to be swimming in. One of them will find the exit and fertilise the golden ovary of the blank Word document.

That, right there, is either the most awful metaphor in history.

Or the finest.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

To most of the people who come to this blog from Google...

This is what you're looking for:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Button it

(NB: This post eventually comes around to writing, so bear with it if you know diddly squat about racing cars.)

If you're in the UK, you can't not have heard all about Mr Jensen Button, currently sitting way atop the Formula One driver's championship after six wins from seven races. You will have heard all about his story, the guy who - prior to this season - had won only one one race in nine years as a pro. Suddenly he's got maestro engineer Ross Brawn as his boss and it's all turned around. He's not only winning, but spanking the bare arses off the competition. (Erm, I didn't mean like that.)

Obviously, every man and his dominatrix puts it down to the car, not the driver.

Fair enough, but I think it's more subtle than that. In Jensen Button you have a driver who needs things to be just right. Things are off, he stops trying. He'll coast. He smiles to the outside world, secretly burning with frustration inside, waiting for something that might never come. But it did come: the Brawn GP car. Finally he has things just the way he wants them. The balance and movement of the car is perfectly attuned to his mind and body. He can operate it like an extension of himself. He can express himself in it.

Now, I said this would come around to writing and now it's going to. Over the past few years I've been having a bit of trial and error action with the novels I've been writing. There are one or two (written since KING OF THE ROAD - my last published one as we speak) that will never see the light of day. I was as surprised as anyone to learn that, and for a good long while I was smiling to the outside world, secretly burning with frustration inside. Then I made a discovery.

I am the Jensen Button of the book world.

(But without the money, fame, success etc...)

When I write a novel (not sure this holds for short stories) I need to feel like I'm in the skin of the narrator. I don't want to have to think hard about what he might do here, what reaction he might have to this comment or to that turn of events. That shit has to come naturally, man. If it feels like work, it is work. And I get enough of that in my day job. No, I truly believe - in fact, I know - that a brilliant novel can come from no more effort than applying arse to seat and repeating until done. If the conditions are right (ie: the author is right in the head of the narrator, playing him like Billy Preston on a Hammond organ) then the end product is gold.

I'm coming at this from the angle of first-person narrations. I don't really know how it applies to your third-person affairs. To be honest, that third-person stuff is like witchcraft to me. Telling the story through a character I can do, but tell the story yourself, talking about a bunch of people who don't exist? That's just weird. Third-person guys, I salute thee. (But I also fear you and your mysterious ways. So don't wave that necklace of shrunken heads anywhere near me, OK?)

I hope Jensen Button can pull it off and become world champion. I know he's a rich, pampered playboy type, but fuck it, the world needs those kind of guys. And it needs the kind of characters I can get along with.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I am Rock 'n Roll

Not only that, but INDIE rock 'n roll. That's how it feels to see my name mentioned on the Rough Trade website. We are talking biker jacket, spiky hair, syringe... the works. While it lasts, anyway.

Erm, I think it's worn off now. Where's my woolly jumper?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Hey sexy

Thanks a lot, "sexy" from Taipai (AKA for hitting a bunch of my blog posts with comments in what I can only assume is Taiwanese. I'm sure you're a fan of Royston Blake and the Mangel books, and wanted to express your admiration. Really, I had no idea the books had made it as far as Taiwan. Thank you for your kind words.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Nice to be remembered

This from the Nerd of Noir:

Charlie Williams hasn't given us a book since 2006 when he wrapped up the Mangel Trilogy, one of the most fucked up and hilarious series in recent years. Stairway to Hell marks his triumphant return. It's got soul-swapping and David Bowie and Jimmy Page sounds fucking insane is what I'm trying to say.
I can't be the judge of that, but I think I did go a bit loco in the writing of it. I'm of the opinion that letting yourself go for a while is a good thing for a writer. But sooner or later you're going to have to take a bath. And make sure your novel hangs together. Possibly at the same time.

Also cool (and daunting) to be anticipated alongside Jason Starr, Megan Abbott, Anthony Neil Smith and Victor Gischler (check the link above). Big cheers to Peter AKA Nerd of Noir.