20181003 Really, you want me to write?

"Blah, blah, blah, supposed to be a writer blah, blah fucking write blah, blah, blah, repay advance blah blah blah... brrrrr."

I knew I should not have picked up the phone. As soon as I saw the number I knew it was a mistake. Of course, he's not wrong. I've not submitted anything for three years, or more and he has paid me for something I've not submitted.

Note that I didn't say I hadn't written. I've written. A lot. And it's all been shite. Truly, unadulterated, unwiped, unwashed shite.

There's the book that should have been done before "The Mission." It's called "The Cave at the End of the World." But after I'd written the beginning and the end, I couldn't be arsed to write the middle. It was supposed to be a magnum opus, not exactly Lord of the Rings but at least 600 pages. I've just looked. There's just over 100 and I'm bored with it.

There's supposed to be a follow-up to The Mission. The theory is that, having rather carelessly killed off the leading character in that book, I'd take an action hero that featured in about twenty sentences and build a series around him. The new book would be called "Singapore" and would develop the incy-wincy bits of background (my editor keeps calling it a "back-story" and every time he says it I want to smack him for being a pretentious twat) he'd been given in that twenty lines. Oh, and I made him soft and cuddly just for the hell of it. Instead of coming home to his lovely young pregnant wife smelling of stale office air and the pong of the underground, he'd walk in smelling of cordite and she'd say how sexy she found his musk. OK, no, I didn't. But when that's the kind of thinking, you can understand that that book is well on its way to being pulped within days of release. Even American talk show hosts wouldn't get the seal-like claps from an adoring (and brainwashed) audience if they tried to give it away.

Extract from "Diary of a Super ... oh, forget it"

"And we have a copy of the new book, Singapore, for everyone."

Groans, a room full of "Oh, Reallys and the odd "Gotta go, got to catch an early .. of fuck it. I just don't want to have to carry that crap."

And then, as a final blow, there's a skip just outside the door and it's full, copies of the book tossed in by those who were too timid to just say no.

And that's not all. There was a failed attempt to follow up "Songs of Love and Loneliness" which was never published properly because all the shitty poetry I had written or could borrow ended up in "The Things That I Can't Say" and .. Oh, look, here's an example of what I came up with

The sun rose this morning
It will rise again tomorrow
But instead of hope
Each sunrise brings dread
Of another empty day
Stretching ahead like
A long, empty highway
That I have to cruise slowly
Waiting for the darkness
That will surely come

So, I'm writing a song
Another sad song
A collection of words
That you'll never hear.

And that's only a part of it. Who'd want to read that depressing pile of poo?

Then there was my idea that perhaps I was trapped in a silly situation where I can't write more than one book of a particular genre, or subset of a genre. I know, I thought, I'll write about a financier in New York. So I went to New York. I sat on benches and in bars and in restaurants to gain the local patois and see what I could glean about attitudes. Abject failure: in three weeks, I got no data but this is what I did get:

1 a cold. Lesson, don't go to New York in winter.

2. two invitations to invest in get rich quick schemes

3. food poisoning.

4. propositioned by five prostitutes, one of them in early old age with big gaps in her teeth and a brass keyring that had two tiny figures joined by a hinge at the head that moved together and apart with a disproportionately large dick penetrating far, far more between the legs than was humanly possible without choking the woman and another two by a homosexual couple who insisted they were "gay" but I'd seen one of them crying in the toilet only half-an-hour earlier so they were obviously fucking miserable. I wonder if I've got those last two words the correct way around. Maybe they weren't prostitutes but they did keep asking me to buy them drinks which, stupidly, I did for one drink hoping they'd go and leave me alone. They didn't. I changed hotels even though it was 11:30 at night.

5. In a bar, I ordered a Reuben. Do I look homosexual? What arrived was not a prostitute, obviously male (although a bit "voluptuous" which I assume was the Reubens bit) and equally obviously not a sandwich. He sat down and started to chat me up. I cancelled my order and went elsewhere.

6. Bruised knuckles and a free night's accommodation "at the precinct." I explained that I'm English, that I'd slipped on the ice because I'd had two cocktails and hadn't eaten. They said they couldn't understand me and that, because I'm not black, Hispanic or broke, a European banker accused of money laundering or a Wall Street fraudster they would let me go. Aha, I thought, if I was a dodgy hedge fund trader, I might have been kept in.

And so I had a premise for my book. All I needed was that always elusive first line or, better still, first paragraph. As I walked to my hotel, having no idea how big a "block" is or how far "twelve blocks that way" was, nor just how fucking cold a New York morning can be when the slush is three inches deep and your shoes are only two inches high, I concocted the first few lines of "Hedged."

Do you want to read it? Here it is

Arthur Nathan was a successful entrepreneur. Taking over his father's tailor's shop in Lower Manhattan, he had moved it into the 20th Century. Like the banks, he realised that the money wasn't in shopfronts, but the customers were. And like the banks, he realised that processes could be centralised and outsourced. And like the banks, he realised that a simplified name would help customers retain the name so they would already think they knew it when they saw it in a directory, in Yellow Pages or above a retail outlet.

Are you intrigued? Are you champing at the bit for the chance to buy the book? Well, tough. After five pages, I got bored with the book, with New York, with the cold and set off to somewhere warm. When I got to the airport, the security guard tossed a bottle of water taken from the person ahead of me in the queue into a bin behind him. To me he said "take out your laptop." I did, handed it to him and said in my best (which was awful) generic American accent "Tell you what. You keep it, buddy. Thank you for your service" and walked through security. I didn't hear him toss it in the bin but he didn't give it back to me. So now he's got copies of all my terrible writing. I hope it keeps him warm at night.

But, I've just read the first two and a half pages and you know what? It's not total rubbish. It might just be the bones of a book. And if I strip out some of the more novelly bits from Singapore, there's a story there, too. Perhaps if I scale back the ambitious project that was The Cave at the End of the World, and put in a far more modest middle there might be something worth salvaging. The beginning is OK and the end is actually good.

Not that that's going to please my editor. He wants something.. I was going to say "concrete" but actually he wants something that will float to the top of the lists not sink like a stone.

Well, it's October. I suppose I should head back to England, go to the cottage in the Pennines, like I used to do in the old days, and see if I can knock something into shape before Christmas. A book in six weeks? How hard can it be?

It's that or raid my piggy bank and give him his money back.