Partly because it’s been about a month since the last one, and partly because I’m full of cold and feeling sorry for myself so I’m not in the mood to write a proper post, the third chapter of Resurrection Joe is now available. Think of it as an early Christmas present, if you like (but I don’t imagine you’ll have much success if you try taking it back to Marks and Spencer in January).
OneMonkey, reading a Doctor Who novel (yes, he does it too), just asked if every fictional character who gets poisoned by a cup of tea suddenly starts appearing in the first person instead of the third. It’s an intriguing question, and one I may get back to. But for now, here’s Resurrection Joe Chapter 2.
A year or so ago I read an article in The Guardian about a promising young author named Gwendoline Riley. The brief description of her and her writing resonated with me, and I decided to investigate in the hope that I might be inspired or pick up some tips.
Since Sick Notes was the only one of her novels in my local library, that was the one I read, thoroughly and critically. I could see a superficial similarity of approach in Sick Notes and in my own first novel (unpublished, naturally), but I couldn’t find any common ground with the characters and I found I didn’t really care what happened to them. Not any criticism of Riley’s writing, just a comment on the different aspects of (for want of a better phrase) youth culture we’d used as settings; hers was an alien world to me, as is Raymond Chandler’s LA, but unlike Chandler, Riley didn’t present me with any enticing surroundings that I wanted to set up camp in.
For what it’s worth, and in case anyone else feels like comparing my first novel with any of Gwendoline Riley’s, I’ll put the first chapter here, probably serialising the rest of it later as I get round to it (a free novel – don’t all clamour at once). It’s about the same length as Sick Notes, as it happens, and I wrote it when I had too much time on my hands, back in the Winter/Spring of 2000/1. Thus far, only about half a dozen friends have read it, and very likely that’s the way it will stay (who has the time to read these days?). My style’s changed over the last seven or eight years, and I like to think I’ve improved with time and effort, but maybe I’m just deluding myself.
Ladies and gentlemen, Resurrection Joe, chapter 1…
This morning I was woken from my peaceful, if overlong, weekend slumbers by an excited phonecall from One Monkey’s dad. Being retired and having broadband, for the last two weeks he’s been checking 365tomorrows eagerly over his morning coffee, and this morning my story appeared. That woke me up about as quickly as a cold flannel to the back of the neck, and before I was even tea-and-croissanted the message had been passed along to my parents and siblings. Big Brother (the sibling as opposed to the shadowy authority figure. Although…) facetiously asked if I’d had a call from a publisher yet, though you could tell there was a bit of pride there by the way we quickly established that my writing is partly his fault: we used to act out Goon Shows from my dad’s books of the scripts, and BB (as we may as well call him, if only for the Goons’ 1985 reference) suggested I write one of my own. Thus was born the infamous (in our family, anyway) Goon script in which a mysterious deadly weapon turns out to be my dad’s sweaty socks; neither BB nor I can find the script now, which is probably a good thing as it’s undoubtedly not nearly as funny as we remember it.
He may not have single-handedly set me off down the path of the writer, but BB and his Goon Show encouragement certainly set me off a year or two later with the equally infamous Boss and Whoops; these bungling burglars created by my best friend T and I in an English lesson at the age of 11 or so, featured repeatedly in English and Drama for the next few years. We started out with a Goons-style radio script, we did stories, mimes, and eventually a full-blown and rather complicated play, rehearsals for which allowed us to stay indoors during school lunchbreaks for a term or two, though due to bad organisation, and one of the lead actresses getting sent away to boarding school to try and keep her out of trouble, the play itself was never performed. This may have been for the best; though T and I had been brought up on Hancock and the Goons, as well as a liberal helping of Monty Python, most of our contemporaries had a very different sense of humour, and I can’t imagine that it would have gone down too well.
Which brings me neatly back to today (clever, eh?) – my first wholly independent (i.e. not following on from a previous installment like the BBC7 episode) work of fiction in the public domain. Some people will think it’s rubbish, some may offer constructive criticism, and I hope that some will enjoy it. As with everything I write, I look back at it now and see a dozen changes I could make, glaring lines that cry out for improvement or removal, but I’ve cut it loose now and it has to stand as I left it. The initial excitement gives way to nervousness as I realise how vulnerable a writer becomes with every publication.
Typically, just as I’ve enumerated my few successes, I have another one to add – a forthcoming story on 365 Tomorrows, but as yet I don’t know when it will appear. Watch this space, as they say.