Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Five star review for White City

White City has been available on Kindle for the past few weeks and it has received its first review, and it's five stars! Read it below:

"I love reading books that are culturally rich and have a real life quality to them, this book didn't disappoint, the characters felt so true to life I quite missed them when it finished! Anyone whose grown up with a group of mates getting up to things and living for the weekend will at once fall into this book and its great descriptions of a decade that was one to remember that's if you weren't 'enjoying' the cultural side of it too much and if you need a reminder look no further. Without giving to much away, it follows the main character Ryan who has a the sort of personality you grow to really like, he can come across as quite dry and aloof, but your typical bloke who is up to his neck, but likes to keep a Peripheral view on everything even his emotions!....The book follows Ryan and hes close mates dealing drugs in the height of the rave scene, there location of Norfolk adding the perfect backdrop for illegal parties and raves. All's not rosy in there seemingly smooth operation and as cracks begin to appear so do relationships with friends, family, girlfriend and ex girlfriends start to suffer. The parts of the books with Ryan's family are so funny and sometimes a bit to close to home! The book is like a trip in every sense of the word through the high funny times and the sticky classic situations. Its like a grown up grange hill for the Rave generation and I loved every minute!"

Buy White City here

Friday, 10 August 2012

Harland Miller: Cover story

Perhaps one of the most original and witty artists I have found since I wondered at the wit of Banksy has to be Harland Miller. He basically reproduces book covers, noteably Penguin, on canvas and substitutes titles for his own somewhat raw phrases. I think the shock factor is part of the fun. And no, these aren't actual books, although his portfolio does state that he is a "writer and artist." http://www.harlandmiller.com/

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Kate Upton to play Sindy

In the film adaption of White City, when and not if, it happens, Sindy the drug smuggling air stewardess will be played by Kate Upton, even though she has as far as I know, yet to star in a movie.

But Kate is young, which means we have plenty of time to: a) find someone willing to make a movie of the film and b) train Kate to act.

Time, for once, is on my side. And in the meantime, here's some pictures, courtesy of Terry Richardson.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

White City preview: Chapter one

It would be daft of me to run a blog focussing on my writing and therefore what is at the moment my only novel without including at least a taste of what you can expect. So what follows is the opening chapter. It doesn't tell you a lot, but you should get an idea of where things are going. If you like it, click the link at the bottom of the page or alternatively at the side of this blog to be taken through to Amazon, where you can download a three-chapter sample or buy the whole thing. Sorry about the formatting. It is harder to get it right in Blogger than it was to write the book.
Here we go then:

Chapter one

‘So when was the last time you saw him?’
‘A couple of weeks ago? Three, maybe, I say. ‘Then I’ve gone around there this morning and there’s a note saying “RIP Danny” pinned to the door by a massive great knife.’
‘What sort of knife?’
‘I dunno. A sharp one? Kitchen knife? Does it matter?’
‘Suppose not. RIP. That’s original.’ As Mark Baxter says this a waitress arrives behind him, slides a plate onto the table with a towering burger on it, about an inch of beef, fries scattered around the side. Onion rings. A tiny American flag pierces the bun, as if it has been conquered.
‘Short and to the point,’ I say. I lift my bottle of Bud to make way for my plate, smile at the waitress, who smiles back, chews her gum a couple of times and says, ‘Is there anything else I can get you?’ in an accent which is a cross between Norfolk and a deep Texan drawl.
‘RIP?’ says Jimmy Waller as his burger is delivered in front of him.
‘Rest in peace, you plum,’ says Mark.
‘I know what it means,’ says Jimmy, offended.
‘Well what are you saying then?’ says Mark.
I reach over and remove Jimmy’s flag, say, ‘You’ll have your eye out with that.’
‘They’d have done better not to have written the note,’ says Mark, back to me. ‘Why not just leave a knife? More impact. Waste of a good knife if you ask me.’
‘Waste of a good note on that twat,’ I say. ‘Anyway I got rid of it to make sure he doesn’t think he needs to pay them first.’
‘I wonder who else he’s skanked,’ says Mark, to himself, I think. ‘How much does he owe you?’ he adds. He swigs from his Bud.
‘Two fucking grand. I’ve been around everyone I could think of, he’s disappeared off the face of the earth.’
‘He’ll show up, Ryan. He can’t stay out of the way for too long.’
‘Johnny Deckchair said he’d gone to Canada.’
‘Canada? You’ve had it, then.’
‘That’s what I thought.’
‘No way,’ insists Mark. ‘He’ll show up, he’s probably in some bedsit up the road right now,
doing your gear.’ Mark takes his burger in both hands, studies it and takes a bite. He chews, once, twice, about six times. He screws his face up, looks like he’s about to gag. He swallows, takes a breath, then exclaims, ‘Gherkins!’
I glance up from my burger. ‘Yeah?’
‘I told ‘em no gherkins. Sam! You heard me. Didn’t I say no gherkins? Sam? Sam! Give her a nudge will you Jim? Christ. Is she still in there?’ He flaps his hands at Sam, yells ‘Hel-lo!’ She is staring at her salad.
‘The lettuce is limp as well!’ Mark continues. He has flopped these green things with the appearance of sliced moluscs on the table and now he is dangling something from between his fingers which swings from side to side, dripping burger sauce. ‘Call this an American diner? Should have gone to Zak’s.’
‘I don’t know what’s wrong with McDonald’s,’ says Jimmy.
‘They put gherkins in their burgers there, too,’ I say.
There’s now a ringing noise coming from Mark’s pocket.
‘Your phone, Mark,’ I say.
‘What?’ He stops inspecting his burger. ‘Oh, right.’ He gets up from the table, shouting into the Nokia mobile phone he’s pulled out of the inside pocket of his Stone Island jacket, which is supposed to glow in the dark for some reason. He got a good deal on it in Jonathan Trumbull’s gents’ outfitters.
‘Didn’t they give you a trolley with that?’ says Jimmy, pointing at Mark’s phone. ‘Doesn’t look very mobile to me.’ He smirks at his observation.
Mark ignores him, wanders toward the exit which is covered in American road signs, just like every other wall in the restaurant, shouting: ‘Hello? Hello? I can’t hear a fucking thing in here! I don’t even like the Beach Boys!’ He slops a handful of pink goo into a plantpot, wipes his hand on the Stars and Stripes hanging beside the swing doors, then barges through them with his shoulder.
‘I don’t know what’s up with gherkins,’ says Jimmy as Mark disappears outside. I can still hear him on the phone, shouting something. ‘They taste alright to me.’
‘I’m more concerned about Danny Kane and that two grand,’ I say.
‘Did you hear him say “no gherkins”?’ says Jim. ‘I didn’t.’
‘Nah I never heard him. What about you Samantha?’
‘Huh?’ says Samantha.
‘I said … actually don’t bother.’
‘What? What is it Ryan? Tell me.’
‘It’s OK, really. Get on with your salad,’ I say to her, and then: ‘Are you stoned?’ She glares at me. Her eyes are glazed. She looks back down at her plate.
I turn to Jimmy, study him.
‘What?’ he says.
‘Nothing,’ I say.
‘Stop looking at me then, you’re freaking me out.’ He looks bashful, sinks his teeth into his burger and tries to ignore me and then, mid chew, pleads, ‘Whaaaaat? What do you keep looking at? You’re giving me The Fear Ryan.’ Crumbs are flying out of his mouth.
‘You’re stoned too, aren’t you?’
‘I had a little smoke earlier,’ says Jimmy. ‘Didn’t you?’
‘I thought we had things to discuss,’ I say.
‘So we’d get it done a lot quicker if we weren’t all stoned.’
‘Mark is.’
‘So I’m the only one who isn’t.’
Jimmy looks at Samantha, who is still inspecting her salad. ‘I think so,’ he says.
‘Great,’ I say.
‘Do you reckon we’ll be here long?’ says Jimmy. ‘This place is freaking me out.’
‘What are you talking about?’ I say.
‘It feels a bit menacing. There’s too much going on with the walls, all those pictures and road signs and little statues and Mickey Mouse over there and Daffy Duck in the corner,’ he’s throwing his arms around, pointing in different directions. ‘It’s all a bit much, it’s making me dizzy. I feel like I’m in a Chucky film.’
The door crashes open and Mark is back at the table.
‘Right,’ he says. ‘Where were we? I bet this burger’s cold now. Where’s that ketchup?’ He takes the ketchup from the table, lifts the lid of the bun, squirts a dollop in, takes the  burger in both hands. He has his mouth open as wide as it will go, on the verge of taking an almighty bite, when all the lights go out. And in the silence, just before Stevie Wonder cranks up and starts singing Happy Birthday to Ya, and the waitress brings the cake out with the candles on it for the little girl sitting across the way to blow out, only one sound can be heard: Mark Baxter yelling, ‘That’s fucking it! I’ve had enough. I’m off!’
And another voice says, ‘I’m coming with you.’
When the singing has stopped and the lights go back up, I’m looking at two empty places where Mark and Jimmy once sat and Samantha is still sitting there staring at this piece of lettuce on her fork like it holds the secret to a happy life and I don’t even think she realises that the lights went out.

Buster’s is located on the first floor above a DIY shop in an old part of Norwich called Pottergate. The streets are narrow and the buildings are timber framed and someone once compared it to The Lanes in Brighton but I suspect that was an effort to make it sound cool.
In order to exit the restaurant you have to negotiate a set of stairs that leads down to street level. This is not an issue when you have paid for your meal and you can take them at a leisurely pace. But it takes a bit of concentration when you’re leaping down three steps at a time. Which is why I didn’t realise Samantha hadn’t followed me out of the door. Which is why, as I approach the exit to the street, I hear the restaurant door crash open above me and a crunch as Samantha trips in her black patent heels and hits the wall at the top of the stairs and a shadow looms over her and a huge hand reaches down and grabs her arm, so she’s almost dangling in mid air, pirouetting on one toe like a floppy ballerina.
Buster, I’m guessing, judging by the tattoos and the bald head, but more tellingly the grease-spattered apron, spits, ‘Where the fuck do you think you’re going?’
Samantha is nothing to me, really. She is Mark’s girlfriend and frankly I don’t know what she was doing at the meal in the first place. She contributed nothing to the conversation and although she looks quite good, this is offset by the fact that she always seems to be out of it and her presence, if anything, only served to stifle proceedings.
‘I’m going to the toilet. Let go of me!’
But much as I would like to leave her to the whims of this restaurant owner, I am forced to turn back by my sense of common decency, drilled into me by my loving parents.
‘The toilet’s through there,’ says Buster, pointing back into the restaurant.
‘Hang on Buster, hang on mate, she’s with me,’ I say putting my hands up in what I hope is a calming gesture. I make my way back up the stairs towards them. ‘There’s obviously been a misunderstanding. Didn’t one of the others leave the money?’
‘You didn’t even ask for the bill,’ says Buster. His face is a brilliant red and there’s a vein bulging from his temple.
‘I think there was an issue with the gherkins.’
‘Gherkins? What are you talking about, gherkins?’
‘There … was one in his burger?’
‘So you thought you’d leg it while we were singing happy birthday? Because of a fucking gherkin?’
I shrug, say, ‘he requested you take the gherkins out.’
He keeps hold of Samantha, then he says, ‘I’m calling the police.’
My hand is already in my pocket, struggling to pull out a roll of twenties.
‘Look, Buster, it was just a bit of a laugh.’
‘Don’t give me that crap. What’s so funny about that? We’ll see if the Old Bill finds it funny shall we?’
‘I’ll sort it out Buster. Let’s not cause a scene. I can pay you. She’s got nothing to do with it. Let her go. How much was the bill?’
‘A hundred and fifty.’
‘A ... a hundred and fifty? Fuck off.’
‘That’s how much it is.’
‘It’s daylight robbery.’
‘Three burgers, one caesar salad, three beers, one glass of wine, and attempted theft. Now you pay, or I keep hold of her until the police arrive.’
‘We didn’t even eat the burgers!’
‘You don’t have to eat the burgers. You ordered them, I cooked them. Now pay the fuck up!’
‘Ryan just pay him for fuck’s sake! My arm hurts,’ whines Samantha.
I peel off the notes, slowly. ‘You got a tenner change?’ I say.
Buster actually goes a slight shade of purple.
I slap the notes in his open palm. ‘Here, and don’t expect us to come in here again,’ I tell him.
He drops Samantha, who goes sprawling down at least another three stairs, hair all over the place, skirt up over her waist, long tanned legs in the air, a flash of red knickers in the light of the stairwell.  
He glares at me: ‘You wouldn’t fucking dare. And stop calling me Buster. Twat.’
As I turn round to close the door at the bottom of the stairs, Buster is still standing there, like he’s hoping for an excuse to fill me in. I give him a little wave.

Outside it’s a warm May evening. The air is thick with the scent of Joop and Obsession and the street is thronging with evening drinkers, all milling about without their jackets on. In the middle of them stands Samantha, looking like she’s just come off a fairground ride, more animated than she has been all night, doing some sort of jig, flopping her hands in the air.
‘Wooooh!!! That was fucking great Ryan!’ she says. ‘Where’s Mark? Let’s do it again!’
Now she’s straightening her skirt, gripping the hem and wiggling it around her hips. Her hair is all over her face and her elbow is already a fiery red. She couldn’t be attracting more attention if she had a spotlight on her.
I pretend not to see her, turn to walk down the street. She clatters after me.
‘We’d have got away if it wasn’t for these shoes Ryan,’ she grabs me for balance, wide-eyed and breathless and lifts her foot to show me her stilettos. ‘Shitty girly shoes, no good for that sort of thing.’
She reaches in her bag and pulls out a pack of Marlboro Lights, puts one between her lips, cups her hand over it and lights it. The end glows as she takes a long drag.
‘I was enjoying that burger,’ I tell her. ‘Didn’t even get to eat half of it. Have you seen your elbow?’
‘Hah! Look at that!’ She’s letting out a cloud of smoke and twisting her arm round the other way, inspecting this lump that seems to be getting bigger by the second.
I set off to find Mark and Jimmy. I reckon I know exactly where they are.
‘Where are you going Ryan?’ yells Samantha.
‘To find your boyfriend.’ I shout over my shoulder as I pick my pace up.
‘Wait for me! Ryan. Ryyyyan!’

Find the book on Amazon here

'Sell your heart' - a letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is the kind of feedback every aspiring writer dreams of. In a letter to Frances Turnbull F. Scott Fitzgerald, a friend of the family, spells out in blunt terms exactly what she needs to do to become a professional writer. The fact that Frances Turnbull hasn't gone down in history as a celebrated novelist could indicate that she took the letter a little too much to heart. Regardless, it is sage advice and has already led me to question whether I actually sold my heart enough. I've yet to hear otherwise.

November 9, 1938

Dear Frances:

I've read the story carefully and, Frances, I'm afraid the price for doing professional work is a good deal higher than you are prepared to pay at present. You've got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell.

This is the experience of all writers. It was necessary for Dickens to put into Oliver Twist the child's passionate resentment at being abused and starved that had haunted his whole childhood. Ernest Hemingway's first stories "In Our Time" went right down to the bottom of all that he had ever felt and known. In "This Side of Paradise" I wrote about a love affair that was still bleeding as fresh as the skin wound on a haemophile.

The amateur, seeing how the professional having learned all that he'll ever learn about writing can take a trivial thing such as the most superficial reactions of three uncharacterized girls and make it witty and charming—the amateur thinks he or she can do the same. But the amateur can only realize his ability to transfer his emotions to another person by some such desperate and radical expedient as tearing your first tragic love story out of your heart and putting it on pages for people to see.

That, anyhow, is the price of admission. Whether you are prepared to pay it or, whether it coincides or conflicts with your attitude on what is "nice" is something for you to decide. But literature, even light literature, will accept nothing less from the neophyte. It is one of those professions that wants the "works." You wouldn't be interested in a soldier who was only a little brave.

In the light of this, it doesn't seem worth while to analyze why this story isn't saleable but I am too fond of you to kid you along about it, as one tends to do at my age. If you ever decide to tell your stories, no one would be more interested than,

Your old friend,

F. Scott Fitzgerald

P.S. I might say that the writing is smooth and agreeable and some of the pages very apt and charming. You have talent—which is the equivalent of a soldier having the right physical qualifications for entering West Point.

(Source: F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters)

Via Letters of note

Monday, 6 August 2012

White City: the drugs and the consequences

White City was not written to glorify drug use. It simply presents the casual attitude to drug use among young people. This was the case in 1993 and I'm sure it is still the case now, and no laws or nanny-state interference are going to change that. In fact, recent research by a number of think tanks is proving that the "war on drugs" is being lost.

However recreational drug use is not without its consequences. Only now is the ecstasy generation of the late Eighties and early Nineties discovering that years of popping pills, speed, and the like does have long-term consequences. Many former ravers report high levels of anxiety and panic attacks.

Ryan experiences bouts of paranoia in the book. He sits up all night simply looking out of the window of his flat for any signs of movement which might indicate that he is under surveillance. Then there is the sinister blue car he begins to spot on a regular basis.

On top of that, I have included references to the consequences of drug dependency, such as the scag-head who Ryan and Mark bump into on their way back to their car, who used to be an acquaintance. There is also a visit to a crack den, with its plastic chairs and bare lightbulb - as far a cry from Mark and Ryan's upper-working class world as you could get.

This also serves to illustrate the use of drugs in all walks of society, contrasting as it does against the party in the penthouse apartment they have just left.

The overall message in White City is that drugs should be treated with caution. If not, the ramifications are many and varied.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

RIP Gore Vidal

The Guardian has compiled a list of some of the more memorable quotes from Gore Vidal following his death yesterday aged 86, which I'm sure they won't mind me reproducing here. They can hardly claim copyright, after all.

"I never miss a chance to have sex or appear on television."

"It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail."

"A narcissist is someone better looking than you are."

"Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically by definition be disqualified from ever doing so."

"Democracy is supposed to give you the feeling of choice like, Painkiller X and Painkiller Y. But they're both just aspirin."

"Envy is the central fact of American life."

"Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little."

"The United States was founded by the brightest people in the country — and we haven't seen them since."

"Every four years the naive half who vote are encouraged to believe that if we can elect a really nice man or woman President everything will be all right. But it won't be."

"Andy Warhol is the only genius I've ever known with an IQ of 60"

"A good deed never goes unpunished."

"All children alarm their parents, if only because you are forever expecting to encounter yourself."

"Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates."

"Fifty percent of people won't vote, and fifty percent don't read newspapers. I hope it's the same fifty percent."

"Some writers take to drink, others take to audiences."

"The genius of our ruling class is that it has kept a majority of the people from ever questioning the inequity of a system where most people drudge along, paying heavy taxes for which they get nothing in return"

"Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn."

"The more money an American accumulates, the less interesting he becomes."

"The four most beautiful words in our common language: I told you so."

"Congress no longer declares war or makes budgets. So that's the end of the constitution as a working machine."

"We should stop going around babbling about how we're the greatest democracy on earth, when we're not even a democracy. We are a sort of militarised republic."

"As the age of television progresses the Reagans will be the rule, not
the exception. To be perfect for television is all a President has to
be these days."

"Sex is. There is nothing more to be done about it. Sex builds no roads, writes no novels and sex certainly gives no meaning to anything in life but itself."

"Think of the earth as a living organism that is being attacked by billions of bacteria whose numbers double every forty years. Either the host dies, or the virus dies, or both die."

"There is no such thing as a homosexual or a heterosexual person. There are only homo- or heterosexual acts. Most people are a mixture of impulses if not practices."

"There is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise."

New film exposes the futility of drug laws

As they say in this trailer, the drug trade is the only growth industry in the US, "and they're hiring."

This 90-minute film is basically an expose of the effect anti-drug policy is having on the US, and for some it's going to make for uncomfortable viewing.

The Great Gatsby trailer

I'm reading The Great Gatsby so when the film comes out later in the year I can compare it to the book, and also because I find inspiration in these Great American Authors and their style of storytelling.

And inspiration is what I'm looking for right now as I weigh up all the ideas running through my mind for my second novel.

In the spirit of the likes of Fitzgerald, or Twain, Salinger and Steinbeck, I would like to pen the equivalent of the great American novel.

But in my case it would be the Great Essex Novel. With fake tan.


'There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired'
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby