I am just about ready to publish ‘Senseless’, a second Derek Blackstone detective novel, so it will be nice to put that to bed after 5 months of effort, when I just sat down a few evenings ago and started writing. It had a title, ‘Dysfunctional’, and now it’s got a beginning and a life but I realised that I was not doing what I had done with my previous 5 novels. I was writing a kind of stream of consciousness. Not in a James Joyce kind of way, it was just about this young boy who grows up an only child in a boring Northern England town whose parents don’t get along and kind of ignore him and when I read it I thought it sounded like me. And maybe it is, but it wasn’t meant to be. It wasn’t meant to be anything really and I probably won’t do anything with it but it was just what came out when my mind was switched off.
So this got me thinking about what I have done with my books so far, planning, notes, scribbles, working out the last sentence of the story before starting (I nicked that from John Irvine). In other words I realised that when I wrote them I was trying to write a ‘good’ book, as close to perfection as I could manage in the conventional sense of the words. I consciously wrote them around the structure of other books I admired and wanted to, in some sense, emulate. This new thing is wild and untamed and may end up being the biggest load of crap ever written in the English language (or whatever other language I might be tempted to throw in) but it has no gravity it has unwieldy gravitas.
I remember, many years ago, picking up Joyce’s Ulysses, and wanting to like it but I couldn’t get past page 100 or something like that no matter how many times I tried, yet it is revered as a classic. Maybe it’s time to try again given as how I seemed to have decided to take my chances without a parachute for the next little while. When I look at what I have done so far most of my chapters tend to be about the same length with a tangible link between the ending of one and the start of another – the way I thought they should be, but in this new stuff the third chapter is one word (‘Shit!’), and why not? At the moment I love Picasso more than Monet. I want Monty Python to do a ‘Carry on’ film.
I can look at what I have done so far in the other stories and think they might read like a lot of new music sounds nowadays, made to try and be perfect in a digital, cut’n’paste ProTools kind of way with all the instruments in tune (in the early Stones records they weren’t and they were great). So now I feel like I’m trying free-form experimentation, stupid ideas, prattish things some of which might work while some won’t. I think people will enjoy the stories I’ve written so far but I want to write something that is quixotic and will endure for a long time.
I am interested in what you think so let me know whether I ought to grow-up or grow a pair or something. I’m going to lie down now.