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Literary Stalker – A ‘Gay Novel’ by a Straight Author

February 1, 2019 Leave a comment

As part of The Ginger Nuts of Horror LGBTQ+ Horror Month, I have penned this piece concerning the rationale and technical challenges I faced in producing Literary Stalker as a ‘gay novel’, with references to gay novelists Alan Hollinghurst, William Burroughs, Joel Lane and others. William Burroughs’s second novel Queer was a particular inspiration, as was Joel Lane’s From Blue To Black. Queer photo: 1986 Picador edition.


 

At the Hay Festival last year, prominent gay novelist Alan Hollinghurst declared that the gay novel has had its day. He said that in earlier decades it possessed urgency and novelty, but now it is ‘…dissolving back into everything else and we are living increasingly in a culture where sexuality is not so strongly defined.’ Broadly speaking, Hollinghurst feels that as homosexuality is now so familiar and generally accepted, the ‘gay novel’ no longer has an edge.

Yet the recent story of Matt Cain and The Madonna of Bolton (published in 2018), shows there is some vibrancy left in the phenomenon of the ‘gay novel’. A tale of a northern gay lad growing up in the 1980s and worshipping the singer Madonna, Cain’s novel was widely rejected by publishers for being ‘too gay’, ‘a little niche’ and also for not having the highbrow literary credentials of Hollinghurst’s work. But through a crowdfunding campaign and the support of backers such as David Walliams, Mark Gatiss and Lisa Jewell, it was published and proved popular with a large audience.

Nonetheless Hollinghurst does have a point. In an age where gay love stories and their tribulations are featured universally in screen dramas and soaps such as Coronation Street, what can the ‘gay novel’ do to be transgressive again? It has become a well-trodden path with familiar tropes, and so has the status of a genre one can dabble in, such as horror or science fiction. Which is the precise point where I personally interfaced with its world. For reasons of plot expediency, I set out, as a straight man, to manufacture – to the best of my ability – a ‘gay novel’.

Read more on: The Ginger Nuts of Horror

To read other Ginger Nuts Literary Stalker pieces, please follow these links:

Book Excerpt, Medusacon 2006

Author Interview with Roger Keen

Review of Literary Stalker by Jim Mcleod

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Ginger Nuts of Horror Review of Literary Stalker

December 4, 2018 Leave a comment

Here, Ginger Nuts main man Jim Mcleod playfully explores his scepticism of ‘meta-horror’ by writing a ‘meta-review’, but through grappling with the ideas he comes out positive about the whole concept:

In all seriousness, though Literary Stalker is an ambitious book and one that for the vast majority of its length works exceptionally well. This is a rich and slightly darkly comic novel that has a lot to say about the not so new culture of social media and the instant unearned quest for fame and validation…Keen could have taken the easy route and written this as a straightforward novel with a linear narrative, but Keen isn’t your average writer, and his use of a story within a story multidimensional narrative is more than just a gimmick, it takes reading experience into a whole new level of cleverness.

So here is yet another most generous review from a high profile critic or writer. Big thanks is due to Jim for the review and for hosting the interview and book excerpt, making up the package (see posts below). In January I will be contributing an article to Ginger Nuts LGBT+ Month, concerning the challenge of a straight author creating an authentic gay narrator for Literary Stalker, touching on the influence of gay novelists such as William Burroughs and Joel Lane, and looking at the phenomenon of the ‘gay novel’.

Read the full review on: The Ginger Nuts of Horror

Ginger Nuts of Horror Interview with Roger Keen

November 22, 2018 Leave a comment

In conjunction with other Literary Stalker-related material on the Ginger Nuts site, this author interview deals with early influences, my views on horror literature, writing technique, social media and the process of being reviewed by peers. It contains thoughts about the semi-autobiographical and metafictional strands in The Mad Artist and Literary Stalker, and other things, such as the importance of character naming.

Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

I went to art college in the 1970s and was very involved in the counter-culture scene of that era. I particularly loved the Beat writers, Burroughs and Kerouac, and surrealist painters such as Dali and Magritte. I painted for a while and then took up photography and filmmaking, and after college I worked in TV, including the drama series Robin of Sherwood in the ’80s. I’ve always liked Gothic fiction and movies, and in the ’90s I started writing horror stories and got into the scene, as it was then. More recently I’ve been reviving those associations because Literary Stalker is a return to the horror/crime genre and also it’s ‘about’ the horror-writing world.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Watching films and TV and reading, naturally. I try to root out more obscure films and novels I’ve always meant to watch and read – and also classics – and when I finally get around to experiencing them it’s always rewarding. Also I like walking, sometimes in wild country such as the Lake District and the Alps, and occasionally I play golf and ski in winter. I’m a big fan of Indian food and West Country cider, usually in that order.

Read more on: The Ginger Nuts of Horror

Book Excerpt: Literary Stalker

November 20, 2018 Leave a comment

The first of three pieces featuring on the prestigious Ginger Nuts of Horror site, this excerpt is taken from Chapter 11 of Literary Stalker, about half way through, dealing with a tipping point in stalker Nick’s obsession where his intent turns nasty. It is set at a fictional horror convention called ‘Medusacon’ in London in 2006, drawing on many convention experiences. It also features cameo appearances from several real-life horror writers: Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Kim Newman and Brian Lumley.

Medusacon 2006 was held at a big swish hotel in London’s Docklands, with commanding views of the Thames, Canary Wharf and the pristine Docklands Light Railway providing a cool backdrop to the proceedings. All the ‘usual suspect’ horror, fantasy and sci-fi writers were present, including Stan, Darren, Crimpy, Otto and Darius, together with more illustrious scribes and the Guests of Honour. Film critic and writer Kim Newman attended, in Victorian Gothic mode as usual, with his long flowing hair and full moustache, silk waistcoat and cravat. Horror veteran Brian Lumley enlivened the atmosphere, looking awesome in a white suit and shirt with silver collar tips, and a leather bolo tie and ornate aiguillette around his neck. And horror newcomer Joe Hill floated around enigmatically, with his jet black hair and equally jet black full beard, having recently come out as the son of Stephen King. I liked the look of him, but of course he was married and straight. And besides I was after bigger fish, as the Guests of Honour were Neil Gaiman and the man himself: Hugh Canford-Eversleigh.

Read more on: The Ginger Nuts of Horror

Reviews In The Machine : An American Werewolf In London (1981) by Roger Keen

November 10, 2018 Leave a comment

A retro review for the guys at Machine Mean, Thomas and Chad, looking fondly back at a favourite horror film of yesteryear.

Machine Mean

werewolf1An American Werewolf in London

Watching An American Werewolf in London now, one of the first things that strikes you is how long ago 1981 was, and how much the world – specifically England – has changed since then. This is partly due to the observational eye of American director John Landis, achieving a detached touristy perspective on the closed community of East Proctor in rural Yorkshire, with its shifty paranoid locals who talk in broad accents and fear strangers; and also taking in the sights and sounds of swinging London – Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, and not forgetting the seedy crepuscular interior of a Soho porn cinema. Notable too is the appearance of Jenny Agutter as love interest Nurse Alex Price, then still at the height of her nubility and fantasy material for legions of young men after a string of scantily clad roles in movies such…

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William S. Burroughs: A Life

October 3, 2018 2 comments

What follows is an extended review of Barry Miles’s biography: William S. Burroughs: A Life (American title: Call Me Burroughs: A Life), which was published in February 2014 to mark the centenary of Burroughs’s birth.

The review first appeared in the Psychedelic Press magazine Vol IV 2014, and has never before been online. It is reprinted now because of its in-depth quality and the fact it provides a whistle-stop tour of Burroughs’s life through the lens of Barry Miles’s updated facts.


 

Barry Miles is no stranger to writing about William Burroughs or the wider Beat scene. He had known Burroughs and been part of his circle since the mid-1960s, when Burroughs lived in London, and has catalogued his work, collaborated with others on restored texts of his novels and has written a portrait of Burroughs, El Hombre Invisible, which for many years has served as the standard primer or introduction to the life and work of the man. Miles has also penned biographies of Kerouac and Ginsberg and other works related to the Beats, such as The Beat Hotel. He therefore seems ideally equipped to write this new definitive biography of Burroughs, published to coincide with the centenary of the author’s birth in 1914.

As he tells us in the introduction, Miles had a hand in the making of the myth of Burroughs, a phenomenon which has now become so powerful that it has ensured Burroughs a place as a character in history independent of his place in the hall of great writers. It was in 1984 that Miles discovered a lost Burroughs manuscript, Interzone, which together with another from the past that he’d previously uncovered was instrumental in getting Burroughs a new publishing deal. That other manuscript was Queer, Burroughs’ second novel, written in the early ’50s but never published at that time. In the ’85 edition Burroughs supplied a short introduction, a few pages of autobiographical background that were to prove seminal in establishing the Burroughs ‘myth’.

Read more on: Medium

The Man and the Legend: An Appreciation of Howard Marks

September 11, 2018 Leave a comment

My in-depth study of Howard Marks, originally published in Issue XXI of the Psychedelic Press journal, is now available online.


 

Dennis Howard Marks, cannabis smuggler extraordinaire, died from cancer in 2016 at the age of 70. Born in 1945, he belonged to that generation who came of age as the alternative society and psychedelic drug culture really began to flower in the second half of the 1960s, and like so many who are now venerated icons he rode that wave for all it was worth. He looked like a member of a hard rock band and he brought pop star glamour and celebrity sheen to the world of drug crime like no other figure. In this he was harking back to earlier, more romantic ages, taking the form of a 20th century Robin Hood, Dick Turpin or Captain Kidd—in fact in Señor Nice he claims family connections to the Welsh buccaneer, Sir Henry Morgan. Howard also acted in several films, and had he been given the chance, he would have fitted perfectly into the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, alongside Johnny Depp and Keith Richards.

Howard’s Facebook pages are crammed with fan’s proud selfies taken alongside the man, and there and elsewhere he is continually referred to as a ‘legend’. The creation of the Legend that surrounds him was very much his own doing, and intriguingly he cultivated fame as a dope smuggler even though he knew he was playing a Faustian game—receiving publicity and avoiding law enforcement do not go hand in hand! He had a very good run and a number of close shaves with the law until his eventual downfall in 1988, leading to a sentence of 25 years at Terre Haute prison in Indiana, though he was released in 1995.

Read more on: Psychedelic Press UK

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