Monday, November 28, 2005

She's Back

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

What the hell

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

Screen Ache

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


The beginning of the end?

(Beware - football content.)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

My Thoughts on the CWA

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

Movie Madness

I fancy watching a film later. But I can't decide between:

The Big Lebowski
Wild At Heart
Carnival of Souls
The 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.

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

Maximo Park

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

King Of The Website Overhauls

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

Road Trip of the Soul

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

The Horror! The Horror!

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)?