Working on this Mark Barrett story at the moment. It’s high-concept, action-packed, with a tough, attractive disruptor of a protagonist. Hope to complete it before the Autumn. Here’s the blurb:
Some said he was a Georgian, others that he was Jewish, or Arab. They said he’d served in Seal Team Six, he was Spetsnaz, he was former IDF, ex SBS, that he was a radical green activist, a former Jihadi, gone global, a lone wolf, ex CIA. No one knew for sure.
Whatever he was, they said, it was all bad: and the trail of corpses he left behind proved it. Now it was a race against time to find him, before he got to the man whose assassination would cause World War 3.
Only Mark Barrett knew who he was. And he wasn’t telling. Because he gave his word. Gave his word to a solitary man in an almost empty airport – a man he trusted; a man who, after one brief meeting, he actually liked. This was the man the slavers called Dracul; the man the sheiks believed was the ghost of Hassan al Sabbah returned to strike down the wicked; the man the Cartels called Gun Jesus.
And while Mark didn’t think the man was a dragon, or the reincarnation of the very first assassin, or Jesus himself, he recognised a saint when he saw one.
I finished reading Room at the Top tonight. It took longer than my usual 1 book/1 day speed to complete but it was a change from my usual diet of junk-fiction, there was a whole lot more to it; it was more chewable, somehow. I read it many years ago, along with the sequel, but couldn’t remember anything about it, which could be a problem in some situations, but in this case was a blessing.
This book is of a time, the cultural references are almost historical artefacts, there’s a callousness born of post-war fatigue, and even Joe Lampton’s ambition, his desire to grab what he sees as his fair share by the throat, seems old-fashioned. But it’s an excellent read, and I’d forgotten how shocking the ending is.
I was chatting to my man Wilson about school bullies, and told him about the older kid who made a steel knuckleduster in metalwork (shop, as the Americans say) and pinned me to the wall as he left the class, telling me he was going to use it on me at break time.
He didn’t catch me. That time.
Wilson went to an even worse school than mine, a derelict place in an old pit village where the English teacher used to give them money if they behaved themselves. He told me there was a kid there who brought a chain and padlock to school and chained Wilson to a large radiator by his wrist, telling him he was off to find a craft knife so he could cut him up a bit. Despite being literally chained up, Wilson managed to drag his wrist out of the manacles and run.
Stories about narrow escapes are often fun to tell, whereas the stories about getting caught, and caught, and caught again are just grim. The point is, the lesson I learned at school, possibly the only one I learned (the others all being self-taught), is that there are no safe spaces. None.
We take the havens where we find them, we accept the kindness of strangers and the warmth of those who love us, and we strive to be kind and warm to others in return. But that twitch of the pulse, that checking the rear view mirror, that glancing over the shoulder as a stranger passes us on a dark evening, that knowledge that there are people who would do us harm, for no reason, and enjoy doing it.
It never goes away.
Please. Grind into dust all computer programmes that automatically ‘correct’ spellings.
Reduce those binary codes to an infinite string of zeros.
And I think Angie is one of the great loves songs, and I choose to believe it was written about Bowie’s then-wife, whatever people say to the contrary, because Bowie quotes Jagger’s tone-shift in this song, on virtually the same word.
I could be completely wrong, but I’m sticking with that theory.
Lishman likened the Technocratic Elite to the Holy Alliance, determined to reimpose the divine right of kings and restrain unruly freedoms.
I asked him, I wonder if they see the irony? Probably not. They’re smart, hyper-focussed smart, but being super-IT savvy isn’t a signifier of good people-skills – often it correlates in the opposite direction – neither is it indicative of perspective or wisdom. And unlike the cannons of the Holy Alliance the algorithms and software of the self-appointed elite point in both directions, so I don’t expect their drive towards the perfectability of humankind to succeed.
Anyway, when it comes to Utopia, whatever the good intentions, things always turn murderous. Without fail. First the Revolution, then the Terror, then the Dictator. So I don’t want one, not even a short-term one, because what follows is calamitous.
Given the choice between messy, unpredictable humanity or the inflexible, relentless logic of binary code, I know which I’ll choose.
I began re-reading Room at the Top. A present for Chistmas, it’s an old copy, with annotations and notes in German, so there’s a story there that I’ll never discover. But the writing is gripping already. I’m drawn in.
At the same time, the book, part of a cutting-edge, revolutionary movement when released, is now an antique, referencing things that just don’t exist any more.
Talking to KW tonight and I said that I’m not much of a literary critic; I read like a fan. I just love stories, so reading a good one leaves me feeling very happy, not critical. When I’m engrossed in a story I’m barely even aware of what the writer is doing, beyond the spell that is being cast over me.
In fact, I can tell when I’m not enjoying a book because I begin to see what the writer is doing. I begin to see the machine beneath.
Of course, some theorists tell me it’s all machine, there is no ghost lurking in there. But that idea is an absurd French plot, devised by people who can’t write and hide the fact behind disdain.