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I’m self-taught. Most of what I know, I learned before age 11 from reading books and thinking about the world. School unlearned me a lot of good stuff and it took decades to unpick the damage done.

All the work I did for my BA and MA came directly from things I’d already taught myself. My knowledge of storytelling came from reading the Greek and Norse myths as a kid, and from reading comics too.

I’ve read every day of my life since the age of three and I’m not done yet. If pushed, I can trace every one of the characters I’ve created and all of my stories to a formative book or myth, or an early experience.

Being an autodidact is almost a precondition of becoming a writer. Reading every day – sitting alone, deciphering words and meaning, following narrative, relating to the characters (sometimes, often, falling in love with them), and all of this for extended periods of time – is an absolute requirement.

 

a northern soul

 

Chatting to someone from a radio station that is interested in broadcasting Dealer No. 1 as an audiobook. I said of the protagonist, “I taught a lot of kids like Mickey – smart, very charming, but disaffected and often involved in crime, they lived in an entirely different world.”

It’d be good to tell their story.

Because no-one does.

 

 

clerisy

 

My experience of the publishing industry is that it is very middle to upper middle-class, very blairite-left, almost 100% metropolitan, majority female, and very ‘nice’ – and the best way to get in is if you’re just like them. If  you can write, sure, they’ll suffer your lack of cultural sensibilities and hold their nose while publishing your work, but they’d prefer it if you were the same as them.

For a rough working class boy like me, with a natural ability to tell a story but without the appropriate social graces, it’s an alien world. Whenever I journeyed to London to meet my agent or a publisher, I always felt like a barbarian journeying to Rome to have an audience with a Cardinal.

That’s not to complain – I prefer the rough hand that wields a hammer to the smooth skin, latin tongue and incense of a priest – just to observe the limitations of the industry, and the clerisy who serve that industry. Which is why, I ended up where I am.

A barbarian.

Who writes.

 

bullet train

 

Still feeling physically washed out, I’ve been staying in a lot, and watching more movies than I would normally, and I came across the new Brad Pitt vehicle. It was a fun B-movie, Brad Pitt was good, as always, and the pair of hitmen played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry could have had a movie of their own.

But it left me wondering what the same movie would have been like if the action had been made in a realistic manner. More grimy, more gritty, less cartoonish.

 

Die Hard

 

After reading Nothing Lasts Forever, I thought I’d go back and watch Die Hard, the movie based on the book. It wasn’t a critical success when it came out in 1987 but it’s a cracking movie. The characters are great, the Christmas-references are entertaining, and structurally it is sweet, all the plot threads are woven into a satisfying ending.

Bruce Willis is fantastic in this movie, and though each subsequent iteration, especially beyond the 3rd one, became increasingly weaker, this is the original version of the “John McClane fights bad guys” franchise and it’s sooo entertaining.

A proper movie.

 

low-drag

 

Being an independent writer is great.  Having had three agents and two publishers over the last twenty-odd years, the freedom I have now is tangible, and it’s liberating.

I do believe that in the long term, big-book publishing is dying out, bookshops are like living museums – the publishing industry is sustained by a tiny group of mega-successful authors – but I also think there’ll be room for low-cost, low-drag independents like me to function.

 

confucian

 

When I published Gun Jesus earlier this year, part of the premise was that there was a new Chinese Premier, with Xi having been ousted and the new leader being more of a Confucian in his approach.

Well, it looks like I got the first part of that right. We’ll see about the second.

site

 

Before I do anything else, I need to sort out the final choices on the new website.

This weekend, I think.

 

Harm’s Way

 

I’m ready to begin the first, rough draft of Harm’s Way, the third and final book in the Jago trilogy.

I’m stuffed to the gills with notes and ideas, snippets of conversation, narrative trajectories, characters. Was going to wait until the New Year – it’s not due out till Spring ’24 – but I might start soon.

I want to see how things play out.

 

science

 

I’m thankful for antibiotics. Saved my life when I was young. Saved me a lot of pain and illness since. And now, they’re easing me out of a throat/chest infection that was showing no signs of disappearing soon.

Still feel washed out though, like I’ve landed face-down on a beach after my ship capsized in a storm, and am barely able to crawl out of the water. But the thing is, I’m on the beach, not flailing about in choppy seas.

And on the topic of the beach, think I’ll chance a walk down there this morning, with my pooch, Angus. He hasn’t been getting his usual walks.

Angus. Always ready to walk. Or sleep.

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