Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Putting the writer in H Writer; Haggard.

It's been pointed out to me that I haven't updated this blog in a while. So here I am updating the blog. I had a birthday. I'm a year older. I feel ten years older but I suppose I'll never have to go back to being 40 again, the worst year of my life.

It was a quiet affair: I cooked Duck Montmorency for family and friends, and drank some wine. It was necessarily sedate. These people had jobs to go to in the morning. Spent the morning strolling around Stormount with Kelly's family and Maggie the dog, who took it upon herself to display a previously not hinted at death-wish, hurtling with a clang and a yelp into an electricity meter and, through successive bouts of self-harm, bleeding prodigiously from her drooling mouth. She looked as though she had just savaged a kindergarten group before limping off back to the lab like Zoltan: Hound of Dracula.

The other big news is, I suppose, the publication of my book. The "sort of" publication of my book. I finally released the damn thing through Jottify and the next day Jack, the Jottify boss, contacted me directly, asking me if I wanted to be the flag-ship publication for Jottify's first sortie into the world of direct sales. Or rather sales from somewhere people might have heard of.

I've sold twenty five books on Jottify. That may be the glass ceiling. I suspect I've sold many more on Amazon, as the book, briefly, went top ten. I was unable to maintain that position however. Which was fine. I have, at this point, no way of knowing how many books have been sold or how much money I've made. Who knows: I might be a hundredaire!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Just one more thing

Kelly loved Columbo. Columbo engaged with her on almost every level: he was a crumpled and creased outsider figure; a committed pacifist who never carried a gun. He was a working-class stiff who tussled with the upper classes and consistently out-performed them, dazzling them with a dizzying intellectual gavotte, turning on a dime with a tasty kick-flare and a “just one more thing…”

Then there was his clear lack of interest in materiel possessions: his shit-brown European car, his antiquated rain-wear, the perfect blue of his five o’clock shadow. Hell, any time is shadow time for Columbo, I doubt he even had a watch. If he did it would be one with only sentimental value, an elastic strapped piece of junk that required a slap before coughing up a grudging “Tock”. The tics were model’s own. It would have been given to him on an early date by his invisible wife and won on a Coney Island ring toss or shooting gallery, in preference to a kewpie doll. He would never part with it.

But there was also something in Columbo’s methodology and the easy, lengthy sprawl of the episodes. They are glacially slow and, significantly, front-loaded. The murder takes place at the beginning of the show, in camera. There is no “whodunit”, no mystery, just the slow attrition of a blue-chip stock-broker or the sinking of a captain of industry. Columbo’s approach is to instantly and magically latch onto the murderer and just hassle them for two hours. He is a “Detective de Cons”. Deflating hauteur is his chief weapon; he flaps the unflappable and he ruffles the feathers of swans. He is always spookily, uncannily right and we know it – we were in on the murder! This puts us in an unusual position; we start to sympathise will the murderer. This seems strange. The killer will be stiff-backed and arrogant, superficially charming and eloquent and invariably played by Patrick MacGoohan (in fact he only appeared in four episodes but if you do ever catch one on TV, by chance, which is always the best way to watch Columbo, it’s always one of his. Or the one in which Leslie Neilson gets killed under a pier, by, I think, Robert Culp).

What you’re watching is a programme that is nominally about a policeman named Columbo but in fact the structure conforms to that of a traditional comic double act: McGoohan’s suave, clubbable persona is continually undermined by Falk’s ego-pricking bits of business. The average Columbo film, and they’re all average in a non- pejorative sense, is a long form episode of Cannon and Ball, the golfing smooth and crisply slacked tripped up by the crumpled and shabby.

Each episode starts with “the plan” where we are shown the bullet-proof sophistication of the ruse; nobody ever dies from having a tin of paint dropped on them from the top of a step-ladder in Columbo. The plans are delicate clock-work procedures, each interlocking cog neatly placed and always exquisitely far-fetched. This is obviously necessary. There would be no point in Columbo pitting his wits against a shit murderer. This is why, counter intuitively, they never hire hit-men, despite being busy and having the means to do so. These murderers are hands-on alpha males, even when, especially when, they are women. They are also routinely convinced of their own genius. In a job interview situation they would, when asked about their faults, cite perfectionism and an inability to delegate. (One plus would be their excellent time-keeping!) So it is deeply upsetting for them when, after a single meeting, Colombo latches on to them, following them around, contriving meetings, waffling on about his wife, wearing them down. You can tell exactly where you are during an episode of Columbo by the antagonists’ forced smile beneath a Vaseline smear moustache, or how kinked their straight pink partings have become and how much their eyes dart, nervously. Columbo is the beating of a tell-tale heart, his mere persistence unravels them, makes them question themselves; they fall apart in his hands like a sick pet.

Columbo is like The Fall: always different, always the same. And it was this disinclination to fuck with the formula that Kelly so loved about the show. When she was depressed she could sit back and watch the narrative unfold as smoothly and slowly as rolling out pastry. It is two hours of certainty, where the bad guy gets it and the little man lords it over the gentry in every episode for thirty years. Even Scooby Doo can’t compete with that level of consistency. Maybe MacDonald’s can. This security blanket snuggliness was only one part of her, her music taste turned to free jazz as she was no longer interested in verse/chorus repetition, she wanted to be excited and surprised by music. But Columbo represented something else to her: it was somewhere between a power fantasy, an idyll and a duvet.

She loved it and I loved her for loving it.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

An advert I endorse...

So it seems that I alone can see the adverts on here. Probably some sort of booze-related, itchy-skinned gremlin. That's okay then. I'm used to that. However, here is an advert...well...for me!

The Narwhal and other stories.
By guysmiley
Price: £2.99

This portmanteau of stories deals with the unknown, of the howling chaos that we insulate ourselves against, with our mortgages, our satellite television packages and our celebrity cellulite obsessions. John Patrick Higgins’ occultism is never hidden. His monsters are on the street where you live: doctors, business men and work colleagues; grey-faced invisibles and quotidian killers. These are paranoid tales where the ultimate fear is that of being found out, of being taken to task, of not getting away with it. There are no soft landings for his protagonists; the best that they can hope for is a stay of execution, a phone-call from the governor that never comes.

In “temp” the titular office worker discovers exactly how far his new company will go to stay ahead of the pack.

“The Narwhal” presents us with a city boy who pays a heavy price for both his vanity and his giant, robotic penis.

In “Something old, something blue” hapless club comedian, Jimmy Gemini finds that an accidental death propels him to the top of his profession.

“The Rum Barbers” sees a library book on sympathetic magic used in a turf war between two South London hairdressers.

All of these stories find people attempting to use a power that they don’t understand and suffering for that ignorance.

In “Ding, Dong, Dell” an interior designer discovers the bones of a child under the floor of a stately home that she is refurbishing.

And “A Cup of Cold Sick” remains a disturbingly literal title.

There is a morbid uncertainty at play, a notion that nothing is yours and that everything can be taken away from you at a moment’s notice. And you won’t know why because you don’t know the rules.

John Patrick Higgins makes every day feel like your first day at big school. He throws you in the swimming pool with your shoes on. Here’s to that sinking feeling.

- Guy Smiley, North Hampshire.

This ebook is compatible with almost all ereader devices including the Apple iPad, Amazon Kindle and Sony Ereader

Word count: 19,882

Download a free sample of this book

Click here to submit your review.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

For Fucks Sake

I'm not sure I can continue to write on here if these adverts are going to carry on appearing at the top of my posts. It's somewhat off-putting. Blogger is remarkably shit any way, but this looks very much like it might be a parting of the ways. It's unacceptable.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

8 Months

It's 8 months since Kelly died. I spend most of my time constructing weak puns on Facebook and going on crash diets. Actually, that's not true. I'm fiendishly busy. I'm writing three books, I'm illustrating a book for somebody else, I'm making films, I'm doing a theme tune for a film (that doesn't even want it)and I'm still writing reviews and doing articles for local magazines. I'm even attempting to network for the first time in my life. And I'm not that bad at it.

And it's all just to fill up the empty space at the centre of my life. I can't believe you're not here. I can't believe you dont exist. I look at your photos and see that terrible vibrancy, that vividness, that urgency. I can't believe it's gone. I miss you so much, darling. It's nearly a year since I last saw you. Astonishing.