"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 some
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 smoking," I said.
He's a photographer. I can't describe him
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 company.
"What do you want me to do?" he was asking.
"Have an affair with Jenny. Get her juices flowing again. Give her some
appetites. Then she might agree to a divorce."
"What's the time?" he asked, dismissing
The writer who conveys the impression 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 from 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 famous 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 him, 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
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 from 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 dream 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 room the rest of the night waiting for Linda to get up so I could phone
"Linda?" I said. "This is Paul," said Paul. "You double-crossing two-faced
black bastard," I told him.
"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 him...
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,
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 some 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 Williams,
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 treatment. 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 common
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
famous film about which there was divided critical opinion...
Suicide is inevitable with such a subject; in fact it's always welcomed
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 December 1972)