Friday, 28 February 2014

Children of the After: Awakening [Book One] - Review

If you're a Young Adult enthusiast, fan of thrillers and post-apocalyptic novels you won't get much better than Jeremy Laszlo's Children of the After: Awakening [Book One].

Children of the After: Awakening has something that's all too often missing from Young Adult fiction, and genre fiction in general. Gravitas. Laszlo handles the third person narrative of three siblings and their journey, not just through post-apocalyptic Chicago, but through loss with style. Rarely is the drama of the narrative overplayed, sentimentalised or egged. The emotions are given time to brew honestly and emerge genuinely and for that there are few peers to this first in the series. Taut, intelligent and extremely well paced, Children of the After: Awakening will have to counting the remaining pages, wishing there were more.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Get Lost This Weekend

Lost Angeles is free on Amazon Kindle today and tomorrow.  My roman á clef debut is currently sitting at No. 2 in the British and Irish Isles bestsellers so grab yourself a copy and push it over to top and give me a good reason to celebrate this weekend.

In addition to the semi-biographical tale of Doug Morgan the Kindle edition carries a free short story called Advice From A Dog [preview here] so there's even more reason to grab a copy before the sun peaks up over the horizon come Sunday morning.

Full time whiskey enthusiast Doug Morgan is on a downward spiral.  Over the past two years the Irish man has played witness to the slow and steady decay of his life and he’s finally called time.  Haunted by an unacknowledged pain Doug swaps the white collar nine to five of Belfast for one last charge into oblivion in the City of Angels.  A scotch-soaked stranger in a strange land Doug befriends a series of like minded and self destructive vagabonds who, like him, are aiming for chaos.  In a city that sees thousands of people per year come to be discovered why has one man come to get lost?

“TRULY IMPRESSIVE…A WORK OF ART!” Wendy Powers – author of ‘The Testament of Judith Barton’


Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Down to the Bone - with Clive Scully

Last year I sat down with Clive Scully to talk about Lost Angeles and the egotistic/self loathing nature of the writer.  Now, with a fresh book to whore, I’ve sat down with him again to go over the progress of the past year and to discuss the idea of a bone idol.

CS: Hello, again.
DL: Hello yourself.
CS: So the last time we chatted you told me you were going to name a character after me…
DL: [opens two beers] Right.
CS: …and I thought it would be a main character but it turns out to be a barman who’s in like three pages.
DL: [chuckles to himself] Yeah, I kinda stiffed you there man.  I didn’t mean to but if it’s any consolation I’m really lazy with names so there’ll be another Clive coming up shortly and you can be that guy.  How’s that?
CS: [takes a beer] Better I guess.  So answer me this, what’s a bone idol?
DL: Straight into the plugging, I like that.  You’ll make someone a good whore one of these days.
CS: Thanks.
DL: I’m from a stretch of tarmac in North Belfast that’s referred to as The Bone.  It’s working class in ethos…and only moderately working in practice but it’s got this real sense that art, and creativity, and expression are for other people.  It was kinda difficult to overcome that but I always wanted to…even as a child.  And I felt conflicted about it Clive, I felt like I wasn’t a good little bone-head for wanting more than a clock to punch twenty times a week or a disability that was hard to disprove, or a street corner to sell bad marijuana on.  But I did.  I wanted more, so a bone idol is someone from The Bone that wants more from life.
CS: So the book, Bone Idol [bohn ahyd-l] is about your childhood then?
DL: More or less.  I mean, if anyone knows me there’s bits they’ll read and go that’s bullshit and bits that smack of oh fuck I remember that but that’s what it is.  It’s basically Doug Morgan’s life from the age of three up until he hits about nineteen…thereabouts.
CS: The last time we talked you were working on something completely different, what happened there then?  Did Doug call to you?
DL: No.
CS: Care to elaborate?
DL: I didn’t want to write another Doug Morgan exploit.  I was a little tired with all the emotion that Lost Angeles kicked up so I started writing this third person piece about a woman who comes home to Belfast to bury her father and gets caught up in this mystery but my fucking computer ate it and after three months of writing I was left with nothing. 
CS: Fuck man, that sucks.
DS: Copious amounts of cock, Clive.  It sucks major dick.  Anyway, I started rewriting it but every line I punched out was bullshit.  I preferred the original, I couldn’t remember what the words were exactly but I just knew I preferred the original…it was probably its energy.  So I stopped.  [drinks beer and stares off somewhere for a moment]  I started thinking what do I want to write?  And I started thinking about Doug again, and about how even though I gave him an ending it wasn’t the ending to his story because he’s a fucking misfit…
CS: Are you a misfit?

DL: I was.  I was a broken toy for sure, now I don’t know.  You’ll have to ask someone else that question.  Anyway, I got thinking about what happens to misfits when they try to fit in and I kept thinking about road movies because traditionally misfits are forced out on to the open road in these movies because they have no place in society.  This got me thinking about Jack Kerouac, which got me re-reading On The Road and by about sixty percent in I had decided I was going to write a completely fictional Doug Morgan story.  It was about Doug trying to make it in LA, working on Swasucka and chaperoning this old exploitation actor around town.  This guy is a god-damn degenerate but he gets to talking about his life, about his kid…this kid who must be forty now and living in Oskaloosa, Ohio.  She’s got the sickness.  She’s an alcoholic like her old man so Doug and this guy, George, set off across country during a two week break in the movie shoot to visit his daughter…and that’s it.  East to Oskaloosa.
CS: Sounds great, how’s it coming along?
DL: It’s dead, Clive.  It’s dead like Hemingway, like Dylan Thomas.  I got a draft out of it.  I was working on a way of making it feel real so I mirrored Doug’s relationship with George to Doug’s relationship, as a child, with his dad Jack.  It didn’t work.  I let the missus read it and she was kind but it was pretty clear that East to Oskaloosa was a dry cumshot…
CS: Nice.
DL: [winks] So I set it down and I went back to reading.  I read Bad Boy by Jim Thompson and Bukowski’s Ham on Rye back to back and suddenly remembered working at a dog track as a kid.  I mean I had completely forgotten about that and suddenly I could smell the kennels again.  I sat down and read East to Oskaloosa again and she was right.  It was bad.  Formulaic bullshit but the earlier moments between Doug and Jack had some heart in it.  So I pulled them all out and got to thinking about my childhood.  The conflict between art and work, relationships between parents and kids and what happens when even the slightest connection is seemingly impossible.  I got to thinking about the fears I grew up with, my fear that I was inevitably growing up to be just like him.
CS: I think we all fear that.
DL: Some of us worse than others baby, my old man was a piece of shit.  I got the idea into my head that starting a novel mid-sentence would be cool.  Like we’ve just dropped in on someone so I sat down over Christmas through Easter last year and worked my way through the remains of East to Oskaloosa.  I wrote page after page of new stuff and eventually came up with a first draft that would ultimately become Bone Idol [bohn ahyd-l].
CS: I got a Ham on Rye feel when reading it.  Was that something you were striving towards?
DL: Striving in the sense that it was the quality level I was shooting for but it wasn’t an attempt to replicate.  There’s always an internal conflict between striving to achieve high-art in the two tone mundanity of the everyman life and packing in as many dick jokes as possible.  Not many people achieve that but Hank could do that in his sleep.
CS: How are sales?
DL: In the toilet, though Lost Angeles was selling pretty well for a while.
CS: [opening two more beers] Oh yeah?
DL: Yeah.  December was pretty good actually.  Made a few greenbacks from it and obviously I’ve the compilation thingy…thank you for that by the way.
CS: You’re very welcome.  So if Doug Morgan is kinda you, is Jack Morgan kinda your dad.
DL: Yeah.  I mean, there are more friendly interactions between Doug and Jack than there ever was between me and my old man but I found it interesting to go back and showcase how someone like Doug could be made.
CS: Like nature versus nurture, huh?
DL: With dick jokes.
CS: The book is split into three parts, and there’s three important deaths in the piece.  Was that intentional?
DL: The three deaths were intentional because they’re real and it goes to highlight how Doug is incapable of holding on to real connections.  I was trying to figure out a way of demonstrating time passing without writing two years later and having a story end and then a page with part II written across it felt like a nice, clean break.
CS: The last time we chatted you were struggling with this idea of wanting to be a writer.  Bone Idol [bohn ahyd-l] is clearly you exorcising this demon.  Do you find it easier saying I’m a writer now?
DL: No.  I mean, yeah I’ve allowed myself to come to terms with it a little more but there are still times when I’m a fragile little child about it.
CS: For example?
DL: [chewing on his finger nails] Like when someone I actually know in the real world stumbles upon my dirty little secret life.  That’s a real panic attack moment.  I want to rush home and burn the internet to the ground.  I was having beers with a friend and he said, so what’s this about a book?  I freaked out and made him promise he wouldn’t read it.  I told him, it’s a piece of shit, stay away from it.  [laughs] Or when I’m getting ready to release something new. 
CS: You get the fear when Bone Idol [bohn ahyd-l] came out?
DL: The brown shorts were absolutely being rocked when Bone Idol [bohn ahyd-l] came out.  I had read and re-read and re-wrote and tinkered and finally got myself to a point where I found it tolerable but the second it was in the public realm I read two lines and fucking hated it.  I was Venom spitting, bone crushing, ball tighteningly frightened of anyone reading it.
CS: What do you do when that strikes?
DL: When Lost Angeles was first out there and I hated it, I drank.  Now I know it comes with the territory.  I still drink, but this time it’s recreational rather than medicinal.  I posted a short story on my blog called Death RRP $19.99.  At the time of writing it I thought I was God with a fourteen-incher.  Then I posted it and someone read it and I felt like a fraud.
CS: And do you still feel like a fraud?
DL: I am a fraud.  We all are.  Every day we climb out of bed to work towards fulfilling someone else’s dream for money we’re defrauding ourselves.  Every day we punch a clock we don’t want to punch, take a meeting we don’t want to take, have to apologise for something we don’t feel sorry for, simply because the customer is always right.  You ever read Laurence Lipton’s The Holy Barbarians? 
CS: I can’t say that I have, no.
DL: Do it.  It’ll make you understand the trade off.  Yes, sure I have to work for a living but that doesn’t mean I can’t also do my own thing while I’m doing it.  Lipton and those guys stole time from their employers all the time.  Sneaking to the can to write a poem, or a short story.  There’s beauty in that.  I’m not always proud of what I do [for a living], I’m not always proud of what I write but at least it’s honest.  Lost Angeles I can read now and it’s a documentation of who I was then.  Who I was in 2012 when it was pushed out.  The fears I hate, the emotions and scars I was working through.
CS: And what about Bone Idol [bohn ahyd-l]?  Have you worked through the issues of that?
DL: In its own time.  I’m looking forward to being proud of it.  I like the cover if that’s something.  I know we’re not meant to judge on that but still.  I think I’ve dealt with some.  I mean I’d be full of shit if I said yeah, nailed it.  Because I haven’t.  I’m not as retardedly backwards now as I was but I’m still not doing everything I could be doing to get Bone Idol [bohn ahyd-l] out there.  I still live the secret life and I haven’t even bothered with any readings or anything like that.
CS: Why do you think that is?
DL: It’s a confidence thing.
CS: You’re telling me you’re low in confidence?
DL: I’m an infant, don’t let my height fool you.  I’d love to be a public speaker, I’d love nothing more than to be able to be proud of what I’m writing.  But I don’t see it as something to necessarily to be proud of.  I still feel like I’m purging myself of something that needs to come out. 
CS: You’re going to have to overcome the public speaking issue soon though.
DL: Fucking right I am.  I’m getting married in April.  One way or another I’m going to have to untie my tongue and form sounds with my mouth.  That’s not as scary though because I know all the people that’ll be there.
CS: It says on your blog that Death RRP $19.99 is part of a work in progress called Short Stories That All Definitely Happened, is that what’s next?  A collection of short stories?
DL: Who knows.  I mean I thought my Belfast mystery thing was next [after Lost Angeles] and look how that turned out.  I thought East to Oskaloosa was next and that was slaughtered to make the foundations for Bone Idol [bohn ahyd-l].  I like the short story, it gives you freedom to leap in, tell a quick tale and nip out.  It lacks consequence.  It might be next, then again I’m kinda working on a noir film idea set in Belfast and if that works out I might be busy with that.
CS: A noir in Belfast?  What’s that about?

DL: Everything Clive, it’s about everything.