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UNCOLLECTED GUARDIAN PIECES

JTS columns from the Guardian newspaper

 
15. Between Chapters


"This is too
much like your Guardian writing," Clive Allison said when he rejected "Crying Makes Your Nose Run". "Just a minute - this is my Guardian writing," said I. You lot must have been reading bits of the book back in October. Well, I had heartbreak, arthritis in the neck, who wouldn't get things mixed up a little? Here, in response to no requests, is Edgar R Wallace in a Soho scene from the book:

There are so
me cellar-bars in Soho that only pot-holers dare to go into. Brinkley's is bigger than that but even so 20 smoking, drinking, chattering people make it seem like a demo. Paul was there, as I knew he would be.
"I thought you weren't drinking," he said.
"I thought you weren't s
moking," I said.
He's a photographer. I can't describe hi
m because I can't describe anybody. Like all your friends he's a bit of a bloody bore sometimes, other times you walk a mile to see him. Paul feels the same about me, I'm sure.
"Don't spoil it by talking," is one of his warm expressions if he's just given you a wave in the street and kept walking. Now he said: "How's Linda?" I gave him a heavenly look. "Jenny?" Thunderclouds. "Work? Money?" A sigh. He bought me red wine with lemonade in it. He was smoking pot-resin with cigarette shag and enjoying it as if it were co
mpany.
"What do you want
me to do?" he was asking.
"Have an affair with Jenny. Get her juices flowing again. Give her so
me appetites. Then she might agree to a divorce."
"What's the ti
me?" he asked, dismissing it...

The writer who conveys the i
mpression in his writing that his friends don't like him seems to me to be a very likeable writer. Suffering from the name Edgar Wallace he puts an R in the middle and calls himself Richard. Before my 3,000 readers (average book sales) can read about him however I have to find one publisher who likes him. Luckily I still have these brilliant ideas. The most sympathetic thing you can do with an unsympathetic leading character is kill him off before the book starts. There is nothing fortuitous about this, the seeds are planted on page 135:

When I stroked the tears fro
m her cheeks I couldn't feel the moisture; my fingers were already numb. That was when I knew I would need Linda as a nurse as long as I lived...

If you write while you're still involved in your raw material the sub-conscious fails to convert. Three
months later the missing bits might bubble up. Richard must now find a letter which Linda has written to her physiotherapy friend Celia:

Dear Celia - We're glad you don't like Richard's book either. We're trying to get him to change it. He is an older and altogether nicer person than you
might suspect from the writing. Otherwise I wouldn't love him. "He's got a heart like a marshmallow," Penelope said, "and he thinks nobody knows about it." People like his agent Robin Speight, who have only known Richard since his "showbiz" days consider him a bit of a failure. This is a compliment. Because Richard has a spinal condition that will put him out of work within five years.
Then he'll be back in his own world,
my world, the real world.
"But I want to be fa
mous for you," he frets. For us, I tell him, fame would be an intrusion.
About your other questions, yes, we have a good love life, though I'm not quite the raver he makes out. Anyway, C, it's perfectly safe for you to treat hi
m, though I don't think there's any hope for a cure. I'm going to love Richard until he dies and then marry Paul. They both know that.
Love: Linda

Of course, Richard wouldn't be paralysed if he hadn't fallen over a horse trough. There's this horse trough down at his wife Jenny's riding stables near Dorking. One dark night Richard is hoping to catch Jenny in bed with a policeman but instead the police dogs get a whiff of pot fro
m Richard's filthy old suede jacket and chase him.

"It was turning into a rotten night," Richard says on page 122. "We should never have gone back. The whole thing would have sounded better by post..."


There'll be a foreword written, ostensibly, by his best friend Paul, explaining how the book was put together after Richard's death and why it's got three endings. (I've tried to explain this one and failed) - they didn't know which ending Richard intended to use so they used them all, one after the other. Incidentally the reader doesn't discover until about halfway through the book that Paul is black. After a bad drea
m Richard wakes up in his hotel room in Tenerife with the sure feeling that Paul is with Linda in the Swiss Cottage flat (page 80).

I paced up and down the roo
m the rest of the night waiting for Linda to get up so I could phone her...
"Linda?" I said. "This is Paul," said Paul. "You double-crossing two-faced black bastard," I told hi
m. "What are you doing in my flat?"
"I'm not in your flat. I'm in my flat..." Because I'd had him on my mind all night. I'd rung hi
m...

This is typical of Richard's over-anxiety about a love affair which is already perfectly safe if only he'd let sleeping girls lie (page 15):

I told her that I loved her and her alone, that there was nobody else, that I would die if she stopped loving
me, that I would soon be free to marry her and have children or pets or whatever she wanted and I kept running my finger-tips very lightly over her body in an attempt to rouse her secretarial passions. The whole performance just put her to sleep. I have this very deep, gravelly, monotonous voice...

The explanatory foreword, an over-heard telephone conversation, the odd letter or even breaking into third-person narrative here and there will, I hope,
make Richard, if not more sympathetic, easier to understand. Richard plays all the good story elements (the drama) down to the point of extinction.

Consequently so
me find "Crying makes Your Nose Run" 'too slight'. So is a cry of pain, heard in the night, when it's too cold to get out of bed.

On the other hand, the relationship that breaks like thunder is also there. Ray Cry Cry Willia
ms, the famous film producer, is now so obsessed with grief about his departed girl friend that he can't remember what he's famous for (page 6):

"That film was just a lucky hotch-potch that became known as the Ray Williams touch. He's been struggling to repeat it ever since but of course he can't. It would be like trying to throw up identical vomit..."

The psychiatrist, Marlene Stroh, explains this to Richard during Cry Cry's daily shock treat
ment. The film they are working on now is also about broken love affairs; they nest inside my new book like Chinese puzzle eggs. Cry Cry is all yolk:

"People think I'
m crying. I'm not crying. I've got this sinus condition. It's something between catarrh and hay fever. I have to keep blowing my nose. It makes my eyes red."
"Would you like
me to finish the script?" I suggested, but he missed it by sniffing.
"I stopped crying about Barby years ago. I'm just sorry for her, that's all. You know what she did after she'd finished with this bloody hooray? She went to bed with all my friends. She turned into a little whore. She was always a little whore. I gave her life, I gave her status, I put a little culture into that co
mmon bloody little hole she calls her mind."
"Oh, I see," I said, politely.
Ray Williams talked non-stop about the tragedy of his life as if it were a fa
mous film about which there was divided critical opinion...

Suicide is inevitable with such a subject; in fact it's always welco
med by the Strohs when the victim is a patient, for it enlivens the academic treatise they are preparing - another egg inside an egg.

Happy endings however for Richard and Linda, pregnant and on honeymoon in the Lakes. They feel like lucky survivors of a
major disaster (page 134):

"Barby wouldn't have his babies," Linda said, killing another
mosquito. "She wouldn't marry him. She was saving herself for somebody she didn't even know yet. I think that's a cruel kind of love..."

Still, having got that out of the way we can hear the lover's litany. I love you, I love you and I love you
mouth to mouth breath to breath tongue to tongue, more clearly: coin, currency and restatement of the innermost spirit of love. Like the rest of this year's debris collected with a dustpan, it diminishes but never vanishes until finally you stick it under the carpet.


Just as Edgar R Wallace's death is hidden in the prologue so's not to spoil our happy ending, poor sod.


(The Guardian, Saturday 30 Dece
mber 1972)

 

Jack Trevor Story's texts copyright   the estate of Jack Trevor Story 2002. Not for reproduction. Copyright in all work by Jack Trevor Story is the property of the author's heirs. Permission for use of this material can be obtained through Jackie Edwards (Story), Peter Story, Lee Story or Michael Moorcock. Reproduction of copyright material whether in text, visual or audio form by unauthorised sources strictly forbidden.

 

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