Posts Tagged ‘postmodernism’

Reviews In The Machine : Literary Stalker, by Roger Keen

Nice in-depth incisive review from Chad Clark at Machine Mean.

Machine Mean

LitIt’s a pretty rare occurrence for me to be scared by a book anymore. And I’m not saying that as a way of bragging, just that after you’ve seen so many horror movies and read or written so many stories, it gets harder and harder to get to that emotional place.
That being said, it’s well within the realm of possibility that I can be disturbed by a book. And this brings us to the topic for today, Literary Stalker, by Roger Keen.
This is the story of a young, aspiring author, Nick, whose current work is a book titled, The Facebook Murders, in which his fictional protagonist goes on a small murder spree, killing people who had wronged him or tried to damage his career. I find stories relating to stalkers to be unsettling enough, especially in the social media landscape. Keen managed to take this concept and make…

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The Literary Stalker’s Take on Gun Control

Extract from Chapter 6: Clichéd Ways of Obtaining a Gun

In debates about gun crime and gun control, one old chestnut comment keeps cropping up: It’s not guns that kill people, it’s people that kill people. What an idiotic thing to say! When you have a gun in your hand, you know full well it’s the gun that’s going to do the killing and you’re just a passenger. How would ‘you’, minus the gun, go about killing someone? Grab them by the throat and try to strangle them? Pound them to death with your fists? Kick them to death? Use the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique? Or use a lesser weapon, such as a knife or baseball bat?

All are possibilities to be sure, but none are exactly easy and inevitably involve some level of physical prowess, fighting knowledge and skills. What’s more, once you embark on such an attack, your victim is going to take evasive action, retaliate and perhaps overpower you. Taking all this into account, it’s highly likely that ‘you’ wouldn’t consider it advisable to undertake the killing attempt at all. But if you possess a gun, it’s different. With one of those, you can stand a distance away from your victim, and providing you can point the thing straight and hold it as though you mean business, you have the complete upper hand. And if you’ve got the balls to pull the trigger…well. How much percentage of the kill would be down to ‘you’ and how much down to the gun?

So what does the Literary Stalker do? He steals a World War II Webley service revolver from his great uncle and uses it to murder three of his intended victims. But hey, it only happens in a novel-within-a-novel. More info: Darkness Visible Publishing.

New Review: Literary Stalker by Roger Keen @The_Mad_Artist @DV_Publishing

February 20, 2018 Leave a comment

Literary Stalker by [Keen, Roger]

“Nick Chatterton is really feeling quite sorry for himself, frustrated and disillusioned with his life and the people in it. Most days he spends day dreaming of the life that he believes he should have had, if people had just recognised his talent as a writer. He easily loses track of time which his partner Robin is not too happy about when he returns home from work. Then an idea springs to mind for his next attempt at a new novel. The Facebook Murders.”

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via Literary Stalker by Roger Keen @The_Mad_Artist @DV_Publishing #Review


Metacrime Murder Mystery: The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor by Cameron McCabe

December 21, 2017 Leave a comment

When I was thinking up ways of promoting my new book, Literary Stalker, I toyed with the word ‘metacrime’ – a compression of ‘metafictional crime’ – and I did a search to see how widely the term had been used before, and in relation to what. I discovered it was hardly in use at all, and the only work I came across that bore that particular label was the 1937 ‘Golden Age of Crime’ novel The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor by Cameron McCabe.

The search led me to an excellent review of the book by Ted Gioia, which is posted on a site Ted has dedicated exclusively to the phenomenon of Postmodern Mystery, also dissecting works by Borges, Nabakov, Flann O’Brien, Paul Auster and other writers familiar to me – I had never heard of Cameron McCabe. Further trawling revealed that at least three of my writer friends – Nicholas Royle, Andrew Hook and Christopher Fowler – had written about this mysterious man and his novel, so he was not perhaps as arcane as I’d thought, and I needed to discover more.

I expected to have to make do with a dog-eared and dubiously stained version of the tome, disingenuously described by the seller as in ‘very good condition’; but no, a new version has fairly recently been published by Picador Classics, coming with an introduction from Jonathan Coe and so many bits of front and back matter that it’s hard to know where Cameron McCabe’s own input ends and that of others begins – which is precisely what the novel is all about.

Coe’s introduction sets out the parameters and of course the name ‘Cameron McCabe’ is just a device – both a nom de plume and the protagonist/extremely unreliable narrator of the tale. Keeping the synopsis side of things simple, the plot involves the ‘murder’ of actress Estella Lamare, to which several characters confess, but which later, by means of hidden camera footage, is shown to be a suicide…maybe. But soon another ‘real’ murder takes place, and things resolve into a Crime and Punishment-like duel between McCabe, as witness and later suspect, and Inspector Smith, the sleuth on the case. Presently another important character, A. B. C. Müller, enters the stage, and everything is set for the most meta of meta-mysteries you could ever hope to find. Read more…


Roger Keen on Metacrime and Metahorror

November 13, 2017 Leave a comment

My colleagues at Darkness Visible have conducted this with interview with me, concentrating on the metafictional aspects of Literary Stalker and also touching on the broader aspects of ‘self-knowing’ fictionality in film and literature, citing some of my favourite examples:


Roger’s new novel Literary Stalker is a psychological crime thriller with horror overtones, but it’s also metafictional – that is, it has self-awareness about its fictionality – and Roger has used the terms ‘metacrime’ and ‘metahorror’ to describe this tendency within the genres the novel occupies. So, we thought we’d ask him explain a little bit more deeply about what he means, and give us some other examples.

Darkness Visible: Literary Stalker involves Nick, a writer who is composing a novel about revenge murders. Is it this layering of novels-within-novels that gives rise to the meta dimension you talk about? And how is this different from a novel taking place in the real world, as oppose to a fantasy, for example?

Roger: Yes, the layering is part of it, certainly, but only one aspect. And Nick indeed does inhabit the ‘real world’, but that ‘reality’ is constantly being called into question by what he does and thinks. As an ‘unreliable narrator’ Nick is in a league of his own! He’s writing his novel – The Facebook Murders – where the characters are effectively his real enemies (he even keeps the same names for the purposes of a first draft), and he gets his alter ego narrator, Jago, to murder them in stylised ways, as in the movie Theatre of Blood.

So his novel is a projection of his wishes, a realisation of the revenge he desires in real life. And as the story progresses, the lines blur, fiction and reality interchange, as Nick is progressively ‘taken over’ by his novel. Which is a very ‘horror’ idea, but because it’s ‘psychological’ rather than ‘supernatural’, it still retains ‘real world’ integrity – at least for most of the time. But throughout there are these ‘nudge-wink’ moments, and towards the end the metafictional undermining and rug-pulling gets stronger, till the twists at the climax which leave you wondering what exactly is ‘real’ and what isn’t.

Read more on Medium.


Literary Stalker, a Novel by Roger Keen

Literary Stalker CoverThree years ago, in the autumn of 2014 – and extending into 2015 – I experienced a kind of creative fugue, which resulted in my entire ‘novelistic memoir’ approach to past, present and future extended works being rebased as pure fiction – but of the metafictional kind. As a result, Literary Stalker – an old idea from the 1990s – got a new lease of life, and The Empty Chair, my next intended novelistic memoir, got recalled to the workshop.

As a psychological crime/horror novel, Literary Stalker would seem a large and radical departure from that novelistic memoir direction, and in some ways it is, but not in others. I did write psychologically-orientated crime, horror, fantasy and noir fiction back in the ’90s, having short stories published in various (now largely forgotten) small press magazines such as Psychotrope, Threads, Sierra Heaven and others with similarly freakish names. I also wrote two or three novels running along the same lines, which never saw the light of day, though one came close. This whole authorial thrust petered out in the late ’90s, and though I continued writing articles and reviews concerning weird and genre fiction and film, I lost the inspiration for actually creating such fiction myself. Instead, amongst other projects, I pressed on with more versions of the semi-autobiographical novels that would eventually be (almost!) de-fictionalised as The Mad Artist and The Empty Chair.

Though nominally a memoir, my previous book, The Mad Artist, is based as much on my attempts to turn its material into novels as it is on the events – the psychonautic adventures – themselves. That’s what gave me the incentive to write it in the form that I eventually chose – a self-begetting narrative with nested versions of itself and strong metafictional overtones. The Empty Chair also follows in that direction, but is taken much, much further. My creative journey of September 2014 onwards involved applying these same techniques to a piece of actual made-up fiction rather than assemblages of autobiography. And the ‘Literary Stalker’ project, which came from my horror-writing days of the ’90s, proved an ideal vehicle.

What made the idea work, content-wise, was my rediscovery and multiple re-watching of a favourite hoary old horror movie of the 1970s: Theatre of Blood, staring Vincent Price as the deranged Shakespearian actor Edward Lionheart, who compiles a hit list of the critics who’ve given him bad reviews and then murders each one in a different theatrical setting taken from a Shakespeare play. My idea was to make Literary Stalker a pastiche of Theatre of Blood, where the narrator, Nick Chatterton, uses the plots of classic crime and horror films as the templates for the revenge murders of his enemies. But he’s not actually committing these murders, he is writing them up in his novel The Facebook Murders, and the story of Literary Stalker is the story of the composition of that novel-within-a-novel.

The Facebook murders are actually being committed by Jago Farrar, Nick’s alter ego and narrator, and Jago himself is writing a novel – Social Media Avenger – based on his murders, which is narrated by Miles Hunniford…Etcetera! This might remind you of the wonderful model village in Bourton on the Water in the Cotswolds, which contains a model of itself, and a model of the model, and a model of the model of the model. And indeed it’s also like that sublime movie Synedoche New York, about an autobiographical playwright who gets to workshop his own life story, eventually needing to dramatise the workshopping itself, and then to dramatise the dramatisation of the workshopping, and so on infinitely, with actors playing actors playing actors…

So, in a sense Literary Stalker marks the completion of a circle or loop or Möbius strip between my old ’90s horror/crime work and the later meta-memoir tendency. The narrator, Nick Chatterton, is gay – for reasons which become clear as the novel progresses – and his creation was something of a challenge for a straight author…but that’s another story. I will be penning more pieces – and perhaps making some films – about the gay, homicidal and metafictional aspects of the work, so stay tuned.

More details about Literary Stalker can be found on the publisher site here: Darkness Visible.

An excellent review by Noel Megahey appears here on The Digital Fix: Geek Life.

It is available as a paperback and on Kindle in the UK here:

And in the United States here: Also on other Amazons worldwide.


The Soundless Hum: Psychonautic Underpinnings of William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch

October 28, 2014 2 comments
Fragments By Doug Brown

Picture by Doug Brown

This article was originally published in the Psychedelic Press UK print journal 2013 Vol.2 and is now up on the Psypress site.

Mostly everyone has heard of William Burroughs’ drug-inspired masterpiece Naked Lunch, but far fewer have actually read it from cover to cover and fewer still have properly understood what Burroughs is doing in its pages.

Often dismissed as incomprehensible, pornographic and, due to its lack of formal narrative structure, unfilmable, Naked Lunch was nevertheless tackled on celluloid by David Cronenberg in 1991, resulting in a movie that is only minimally representative of the book and tends to deepen its mystery rather than clarify it. Reinventing from scratch and substituting his own authorship, Cronenberg ‘sampled’ Burroughs’ life and work in order to produce a body-horror pastiche that owes as much to the Ted Morgan biography and the novels Exterminator and Junkie as Naked Lunch itself. But for many people that film stands for what Naked Lunch is about.

Another common misconception is that Naked Lunch is about ‘the horrors of addiction,’ a description more suited to Burroughs’ autobiographical first novel Junkie. By the time of Naked Lunch, he’d moved on considerably from depicting anything so mundane or literal as that. What Naked Lunch represents is the fruit of a pharmo-picaresque creative journey that was partly inspired by opiate addiction but that rapidly expanded to encompass the visions of majoun, peyote and most particularly ayahuasca or yagé, whose psychonautic propensity underscores much of the grotesque, lurid phantasmagoria for which the novel is famous… Read more on Psypress UK

My in-depth review of Barry Miles’ biography of William Burroughs is included in the new issue of the Psypress magazine. More information at the Psypress Shop.

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