Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Gerry Anderson: Was he jealous of Lady Penelope's success?

I'm sorry Gerry Anderson decided to leave us over Christmas. Generally I do not approve of this sort of untimeliness. But I must not be severe. The astral tunnel functions by its own timetable and it's not for the likes of me to waggle a timepiece at its insensitive operator.

But his death reminds me of my meeting with Sylvia Anderson, by then his ex-wife, of many years ago. She had been instrumental in the development of Thunderbirds and, in particular, in the rise of Lady Penelope: indeed, Sylvia was Her Ladyship's honeyed voice.

Lady P had all the airs and graces of an English aristocrat with Parker in tow ('m'lady'), but frankly the accent was more RADA-champagne-flute than yer actual cut glass. The Downton Abbey lot are generally clipped in speech and economical in display (social occasions excepted), so I'm afraid Sylvia's version of the hoity-toity was a little vulgar to say the least. And the pink Rolls Royce! Pure Barbara Cartland crossed with Jonathan King via Liberace. 

But anyway, in conversation with Sylvia I gathered a number of impressions. Chief among them being that Lady Penelope had played a part in the disintegration of the Anderson marriage. As Lady P's fame grew, moulded by the soignee aspirations of her ventriloquist, so did Sylvia's own sense of personal accomplishment - and rightly. This unexpected outgrowth, in some strange and inexplicable way, perhaps helped destabilise the Anderson union.

Did Lady Penelope/Sylvia's towering success become the object of Gerry's jealousy, as the earnest Tracy clan (embodying Gerry's heroic fantasies) found themselves upstaged?

Certainly it's a question worth exploring by a talented TV or movie dramatist. And Joanna Lumley, with sufficient slap, would make a marvellous Sylvia and Lady P, as alternates become one. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Madame Arcati's Christmas message: The best way to dodge Stephen Fry

Santa Fry
Darlings, a merry festive time to you all - except those cunts I hate. 

Well, I'm being honest. You're like me really. Only on Facebook just now I spotted a very famous opinionist celebrating the accidental self-incineration of a terrorist-looking bearded person from the Middle East. That sums up the spirit of Christmas for me, as we merge with the TV screen and snuggle up in the warm dank 3D folds of Stephen Fry's chins (hopefully he's had a proper shave, for once). David Walliams - welcome to your future!

Let us hope that not all of us are swept away by the floods - except perhaps the dog next door that's howling because its pensioner owner is forever out. The present inundations were of course predicted over a year ago by the astrology annual Old Moore's Almanack 2012 - perhaps more than a year ago, as the editorial letter in this edition is dated October 2010.

Allow me to quote for December 2012: 'Heavy rains could cause serious flooding in the west. Storms early and late.' The seer who wrote this then rather ruins it all by adding: 'On the whole, close to the normal pattern.' And the prediction started sooooo promisingly. 
Yet as a hit-and-miss forecast, it beats the hopeless Met Office that only five minutes ago was getting the Express all excited with promises of Arctic conditions.

Will Madame Arcati prevail in 2013? Probably. The challenge now is that most of my original readers are bloggers themselves - what a fashion I started! There they are on Facebook and Twitter gracing us with their synaptic crackle and pop (and family photos) - plainly Madame's work is cut out in capturing a new generation of glancer. I promise not to find solace in right-wing politics or more PhotoShopped celebrity cock.

Should you find yourself at a loss this Christmas, marooned by the Fry deluge of his repeats, quizzes and folksy, marron glacé thespianism (adverts included), then revisit one of the most popular of my 2012 posts: my interview with Sophie Parkin about her splendid bestseller on The Colony Club. Click here. (If you are predisposed to being offended, then best not read it: Blogger was soooo appalled by the language and references to bodily secretions in the piece, that Google adverts were pulled from this site.)

The Times and Sunday Times have raved over her book; more acclaim is due. And she published the book herself. Further proof that one's literary fate need no longer be decided by some privileged twat in an office.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Molly Parkin reinvention at 80: Welcome to her blue period

Molly Parkin by Rankin
Hair by John Vial and Tracy Hayes at Fudge
Ponystep magazine
I may be her permanent fiancee but even I exclaimed (yes, I'm not usually an exclaimer; but exclaimed is the correct word): 'Who dat?'

This vision of the creative reinvention of Molly Parkin appears in the latest (4th) edition of the biannual fabulous fashion magazine Ponystep. To buy a copy or a subscription, click here. Its war against the apostrophe (by refusing to acknowledge its existence) will surely secure the affections of a generation.

 Moll's decision to ditch the turban is a bit like hearing of the split of Brad and Jen or Depp and that French singer whose name forever slips from memory's talon. I didn't think it possible. But there you go. Just proves once again that you can spot a prehistoric bug in amber, but not a living, breathing duo.

Accompanying Rankin's gorgeous portrait is an interview with Moll by the magazine's editor Richard Mortimer. I cannot commend it enough. Among other things she talks about our unique relationship. No, I'm not going to quote. Treat yourself to an orgy of celebrities beautified or beauties celebrated.

And while I'm here, there's still time to gift Molly's re-issued erotic novel Love All to anyone in your life in need of comic Viagra this Christmush. Click here to buy the e-book - it's only £1.66 for fuck's sake. Or, as Ponystep would put it, for fucks sake.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Jonathan King's whopping 'Christmas card': A review

I'd assumed that the physics-driven vogue for the atheistic faith would result in fewer festive communications. So many apparent friends have now replaced the Star of Bethlehem with Prof Brian Cox's inter-stellar Lego-like imaginings - which at least offer welcome savings in the winter fest family budget. 

But I was wrong. If anything, the Christmas greeting has become much more ambitious.

I first noticed this with writer Roger Lewis. Not content with just sending me (and dozens others) a card bearing glittery-cute Santa bears, he enclosed a round-robin, four-page account (single-spaced, A4) of his 2012 (lesbian porn sites being a feature).

Now Jonathan King has gone one better. Instead of a card, he has dispatched a fully illustrated, 227-page book. It's titled Three Months: 100 Glorious Sunny Days In the Summer of 2012: a 'snapshot' of his life largely abroad when he's not here addressing the Leveson Inquiry and dismissing it presciently as a 'waste of space'.

Three Months falls well within the Katie Price definition of biography - ie diary (with distinct serial possibilities). On p22 we learn that he's had lovers 'much prettier' than Brad Pitt (this memory arises over coffee and petits pains at the Carlton in Cannes), some time after his dear friend, the veteran newspaper interviewer Lynn Barber, has called him an 'egocentric bore' to his face. 

JK has of course weathered much greater insult and is still grinning as Britain's panto 'vile pervert'. A knighthood cannot be that far away. After all, April Ashley, who was once dismissed herself as a deviant monstrosity by our upstanding red-tops, is now an icon of transgender equality with her MBE ribboned in pink and grey. The ghost of John Profumo must surely concur.

Three Months is of course a relentless deluge of name-dropping - but King's en passant goss is worth all the ego-coddling. We learn, for instance, that he's working on a TV format for Simon Fuller (that'll please Cowell) and that he's not given up hopes of getting his hands on The Brits and Eurovision once again - the UK last won the latter under his ministration. Whenever he pops abroad he first has to tell the Marylebone cop shop whose boneheads are always 'nice and helpful'.

And his story on Peter Mandelson is so deliciously wicked that I delight in not repeating it.

JK's intellectual life is sustained by a bookishness that may surprise the tut-tutters of tabloid tat. Paul Bowles and Graham Greene share his journeys; and I was astonished to learn that he actually ploughs through the Booker finalist tomes. Frankly, I'd rather have anal sex with a traffic cone.

I could go on. But I have to remind myself. Three Months is meant only to be a Christmas card!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Nicky Haslam is a popstar again! He sings Illusions. There's a gun....

Society interior decorator and party Zelig, Nicky Haslam, has released another single with video (16mm b/w). It's called Illusions, a title not thought to be inspired by Nicky's crooning ambitions. Bryan Ferry is partly responsible.

It's the second track taken from his album Midnight Matinee, primed for release in 2013. The first single, Total Control, had the honour of my reviewing attention back in August. Click here to savour.

Illusions finds Nicky once again in a wistful, bitter-sweet mood, but this time seeming to vocalise from beneath the depths (or shallows) of the lake on which, in the video, he otherwise drifts in an occasionally oar-less rowing boat, given the gurgly (aquatic?) echo.  

The best part of the video is confined to the opening seconds in which a young woman, lakeside, slow-mo dances in a dandruffy downpour, dragging her long, luxuriant hair over a monochrome mud shore. Later, dramatically, a gun teleports into Nicky's hands which he aims not at himself. But I must stop here. I wouldn't want to spoil it. His love interest has to be nearly 60 years younger than he. But who's counting? 

Nicky's reinvention as a cock-cunting minstrel is just one more surprise in an epic life of self-sustained fantasy. We are his willing extras.

As he sings in Illusions, 'You are in love with pain...' 

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Radio 1 Christmas lunch - and Andy Kershaw's Santa'd Savile

Radio 1 Christmas lunch 1985 - held in late summer. Where's Sir Jimmy?
Given the need to stuff festive stockings or find something to get through the hideous day, I cannot recommend highly enough Andy Kershaw's bio No Off Switch from which the above pic is lifted. To buy click here.

Ch 32, A Tour of the Cages, adds context to the photo - a Christmas lunch in 1985, held in September. He writes: 'My Radio 1 colleagues could be categorised into three species: there were those who, by the measures of most people, would be considered unfit to be released into the community, never mind set loose on national radio; others had absolutely no personality whatsoever, and even less interest in music, rendering their presence in the broadcasting game, and on a music radio station at that, unfathomable; and just a handful were quite normal, engaging individuals. How the latter bunch ever got over the threshold is, in the light of evident recruitment priorities, perhaps the biggest mystery.'

He explains that Sir Jimmy Saveloy is not in the pic because he demanded extra lolly for publicity pics. But he was in the room. Prior to the snap, 'crashing through the swing doors from the kitchen into the dining room, robed and hooded in a Father Christmas costume and pushing on a trolley a mutantly-proportioned roast turkey, was none other than Sir Jimmy Savile, veteran Radio 1 DJ, tireless charity worker and another national institution, much recognised for his interest in young people.' [My emphasis].

This was written before Savile's death. I think Kershaw was hinting at something.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Roger Lewis at Christmas: Lesbian porn sites and Richard Ingrams

Roger Lewis
Such a delightful change from the usual death threats etc in the post to receive a Christmas card from premier Arcatiste (and Neptunian), Roger Lewis. Not just a card, but a letter. And not just a letter, but his monthly diary of 2012!

'I was concentrating very hard on a lesbian porn site when Richard Ingrams phoned and asked me to go to the Cheltenham Literary festival,' he writes for October. 'I was to represent the Oldie Magazine. My fee was £150....'

I'm afraid Mr Ingrams is off my Christmas card list ever since he failed to invite my permanent fiancee Molly Parkin to an Oldie party a few months back. I'm sure she won't mind me telling you that she'd met him at an Oldie literary munch-up and - well, I'd better not say too much. Suffice to say that someone's domestic problems (not Ingrams' I hasten to add) intruded. Crash, bang, wallop, hospital! I know what I know. And mean.

But back to Roger's wonderfully amusing letter - I do hope a newspaper prints it in its festive edition. Much better than one Christmas tradition I cannot abide - the cunting festive short story: if you laid out all the unread pages of newspaper Yuletide short stories end-to-end, you'd end up with the largest litter tray ever, fit for for all the pussies in Brobdingnag. For an example click here.

Roger informs one and all that though he has yet to sell his gorgeous Grade II-Listed Georgian gentilhommiere in Herefordshire (if you wish to buy, click here), he and family have moved into a charming terraced house in Rochester. And a September entry reveals that plans are afoot to turn his hysterical Seasonal Suicide Notes into a West End extravaganza. Alas, to play Roger, producers wish to cast Richard Griffiths who is '20 years older than me and weighs half a ton.'

Well, the less than beauteous Margaret Rutherford played me once and she did me no harm. That I know of.

There's still time to buy a Roger Lewis classic read - Amazon's page dedicated to his comic work is all you need visit. Click here.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Hacked Off petition - please sign, and ignore the Lorraine Kellys

I do hope that the sensible among you will sign Hacked Off's petition.

It demands that Leveson's recommendations be implemented - that our media abide by principles enshrined in statute. For decades, newspapers have made up their self-regulation as they went along, with senior members of the press presiding over complaints: hence the hopelessness of the PCC. 

What did it ever do to unearth the scale of Hackgate?

Currently, most national newspapers are propagandising hard against Leveson. Spurious polls staged on leading questions deliver public opinion results to please media barons while compliant celebrity columnists, who should know better, parrot what their editors tell them to write and say.

Would Lorraine Kelly still be writing for the Sun if she did not say (in effect that) Leveson should be dumped? I think not.

If our supine and spineless PM has his way - ie the way of powerful media bosses, their arrogant fly-by-night editors and their bullied staff - nothing will change at all. If you think everything is just fine with how our newspapers are run right now, then ignore the petition. It's that easy.

The Leveson recommendations are crafted to preserve a free press and, if anything, to add muscle to investigative journalism. As important are the rights of individuals whose tragedies or misfortunes are turned into a commodity by powerful media organisations. 

It's incredible that we 'trust' journalists to regulate their own business.

Think Dowler. Think McCanns. These were not one-off errors but major symptoms of irregularity and arrogance.

To sign click here.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Love spesh: Is it The Spectator's Jeremy Clarke + Farah 'the bird' Damji?

Farah Damji
I may have a heart of flint yet even I, in the right circumstances, can turn into a channel for the late Dame Barbara Cartland and bat my false, matted eyelashes while posing as a fan of romantic nougat.

I turn to the Spectator's riveting Low Life column in the latest issue and learn that its author Jeremy Clarke - described as 'The Evelyn Waugh de nos jours' - is the proud owner of a 'bird' whom he takes to a pub after what sounds like an evening at an art class. He tells us that the art teacher may very well fancy his bird as booze is knocked back. The sculptor, too, has designs on her contours. Then someone identified as the mother-in-law asks whom the bird is with. To which the bird replies, 'testily': ‘No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!’

Is it a bird?
Who could this bird be? Given her vocal feistiness, Janet Street-Porter? Dame Shirley Porter? Perhaps even Clarissa Dickson Wright?

Or could it be one Farah Damji? - described by the Evening Standard as 'London's most dangerous woman?' Well, it's not beyond the realms of possibility. Both Jeremy and Farah are highly attractive persons free at the point of delivery and of proven fertility. Both exhibit a cosmopolitan tolerance of some of life's hardier annuals while nonetheless flouncing about in rarefied atmospheres - the Spectator's in Jeremy's case.
Jeremy Clarke

It is distressing then to learn that when she attempted to defend her love in the last 24 hours, by posting a comment below his Low Life column in response to my foul abuse, she was censored! I believe the comment has now been restored - but we can't have the home of free speech (ie the Speccie) nursed along by nannies or people better off running sex clinics (reception).

But whatever the truth of the matter, I extend my best wishes to lovebirds everywhere. Just remember: the fun is always in making up, you sweety-tweeties!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Julie Burchill - join Francis Wheen and help fund her book (61% there!)

Julie Burchill
A while back I (along with others) received an email from the divine goddess Julie Burchill. She was seeking my financial support for a book she wants to publish called Unchosen: The Memoirs of a Philosemite - about her adoration of the Jewish race. She had signed up to a crowd-funding publishing outfit called Unbound - if an author can find enough loot via backers (ie interested readers with cash) to sponsor their book, then they, too, will find themselves between covers.

But why would an award-winning author such as Burchill take this route to publication? Have commercial publishing editors entirely taken leave of their senses in their crazy pursuit of Yuletide instant bio, supermarket soft-porn and the celebrity chef TV tie-in?

In a promo video on the Unbound site, she says she wanted to write the book her 'own way'. More to the point, as she revealed in the Telegraph recently, she was put out that publishers had had the gall to demand she submit a sample chapter of 6,000 words. The very idea!

Even more to the point, and In all probability, editors were nervous of the theme. Suddenly the prospect of lucrative wall-to-wall media coverage of the title and its outspoken author paled by the fear of an upset.

How times have changed. Many years ago I couldn't find a publisher for my novel Farce Hole (an 80s-set fashion satire, due to be republished as Vicki Cochrane's Astral Chronicle) despite rave reader reports. Then one day the late Sheridan Morley drew my attention to a new publisher called Citron (now defunct). Even Martis Amis and Fay Weldon were singing its praises. For a nominal fee to cover marketing (I think around £100) this print-on-demand cooperative, with exacting editorial standards, brought out my book. It sold several hundred copies - 25 alone at a Kinky Fiction Night reading at Waterstone's in Oxford Street.

Oh, but the snobbery! I remember the idiotic Jason Cowley, now editor of the New Statesman, sniffing about Citron being a 'vanity publisher' (even though it was nothing of the sort). The Jasons of the day decreed that author talent had to be determined by flaky souls in publishing offices - from whom bookish journalists took their cue, in their anxiety to be seen not in the wrong.

And now look. Famous authors everywhere are finding and funding new ways to sideline the redundant Snipcocks - who gives a fuck about vanity? Why Julie is not self-publishing Unchosen as a Kindle e-book I do not know. And how close is she to publishing Unchosen? She has 61% of the necessary funding as of today - I'm sure she'll soon hit her target. The likes of Private Eye's Francis Wheen, Candida Lycett Green, Barbara Ellen and Paul Burston have made a contribution.

We'll see if Madame Arcati feels so generous.

To watch Julie Burchill's video for Unchosen, click here

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Rachel Johnson: Bye bye lady gardens, hello Winter Games

Amidst all the pre-Christmas book releases and assorted stocking-fillers and unwelcome additions to listerature (Britain's Top 100 Arselickers, etc) - and a great many fashionably self-published e-books, it must be said - shimmers Winter Games, a novel by Rachel Johnson, whose departure from the editorship-in-chief of The Lady has just been announced.

I can't be dispassionate about Rachel. A Virgo. It was she who as visionary editor of the venerable magazine appointed me its first-ever astrologer in 2011. I am forever in her debt, as the brief bio on my gorgeous new website makes clear. How the periodical had coped without its own stargazer for its first 125 years is anyone's guess. I mean, one of its former senior editors (among the first to flee Rachel's lash and importation of Jilly Cooper-esque 'lady gardens' and the like) laboured under the misapprehension that The Lady was born under Aquarius (sign of free love, space probes and other lunacies). I thought that can't be right. And indeed, on drawing up the magazine's chart I learnt it drew first breath under Pisces (a much more sedate and tasteful sign). 

But enough of my concerns. Rachel's novel. No, I have not read it (time, darlings, time - astrology is all about time, by the way), though I am sampling its pages on Amazon and find myself moistening. Winter Games resonates with something of the Unity Mitford-Hitler high comedy as upper class twatties permit fascist flash to tantalise their untouched rosebuds - pre-War as well as near-contemporary.

Rachel is almost a Capotean social satirist, but on the whole a keen survival instinct draws her from the brink of disgrace. It doesn't do to go over completely. Not in London, anyway.

Since I am not qualified to commend or condemn her latest book, I hand you over to one Daisy Goodwin who in her Amazon review of Winter Games concludes: 'I would have given it five stars but only sock puppets do that now.'

Very wise. Best wishes, Rachel, in your post-Lady (gardens) literary life.

Winter Games by Rachel Johnson can be bought here or here.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Iain Finlayson interview: Blood Month and his circumcision e-rumour

Iain Finlayson
Yes, I predicted the outcome of the US Election just when you thought Romney owed it all to his magic underpants. On your knees! Call me the Nate Silver of astrology. Thinking of which, I have come across a double-Gemini prose prince called Iain Finlayson. He's one half of a new author called Matthew McAllister. The other half is called Simon Burt. Very Gemini isn't it? Twins, multiple identities. Oh, please yourself. Cunts.

Anyway, Matthew McAllister has just debuted as author of brilliant 'low urban noir' crime thriller Blood Month. First in a planned trilogy. I don't know about Simon, but whatever possessed Iain - otherwise a blameless Times non-fiction reviewer and the books editor of Saga, as well as writer of several acclaimed books - to embrace pulp fiction? And to self-publish through Atrium Editions? Electronically (e-ally?)? Especially after his very famous agent, 'She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named', refused to read the novel.

With critical praise for Blood Month already ringing in Iain's ears - the right kind of tinnitus - Madame Arcati pinned him down. And kicked off about his cock, before he called himself a dick and discussed porn, among other literary matters.

Q: Iain Finlayson! Pleeeeased to meet you, as awesome Grace Jones sings in a song. I see you have a novel out shortly called Blood Month – which reminds me: I hear you’re circumcised. You poor poppet.  Was it painful? Don’t you feel robbed?

IF: There was blood, some mess, probably a struggle, certainly some yelling. I was snatched from my mother’s arms promptly after parturition and unceremoniously cut. Tidied up. It made a man of me there and then. At least at a Bar Mitzvah you get a party, gifts, and a rite of passage. Scottish Presbyterians are less inclined to dress up and make a fuss about their butchery. There are themes in the Protestant cult of hygienic circumcision, I see now, that have profoundly influenced the novel, Blood Month.You are very acute, Madame.

Q: And I see an outfit called Atrium Editions is bringing out Blood Month as an e-book for our Kindles. Did your agent set up this deal? – you are, after all, the acclaimed author of biographies of James Boswell, Robert Browning and a grouping of sundry others in Romney Marsh; and you know a lot about Tangier and Denim, it appears… surely you discussed this book over a long lunch with your agent, She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named ….

IF: There was a lunch. It was long. It was fraught. My agent, the doyenne of agents, the ne plus ultra of agents, She-Whom-I-Would-Prefer-Not-To-Name (here, at least), was invited to attend. For several months she had been ‘resisting’ (her word) reading Blood Month, a novel of crime. She was probably, understandably but exasperatingly, resisting my capricious whim to write fiction.

At this point, let me introduce my co-author and collaborator in crime, Simon Burt, who was also with us at The Electric Cinema Café in Portobello Road. Together, Simon and I are one. We are as one, I mean, in the being of Matthew McAllister, who is the author of Blood MonthSimon can answer for himself (as of course can my agent), since this recollection of the lunch is my own version. I take some of the blame: while trying to persuade my agent to read and represent Blood Month, I used the words ‘genre’, ‘product’ and ‘collaboration’.

These, in the ears of a literary agent of great renown, sound neither pretty nor positive. Nobody should (or can, I discover: even hacks can only do their best) sit down deliberately to write pulp fiction. That was not Matthew McAllister’s intention. His aim was to write as good a crime novel as possible, with any luck have some fun in the process, and with a little further luck make a decent financial return from the effort. After a futile while, we started talking about dogs, and high-end, aristocratic dog mating, which went on for longer than any high-flown or down-‘n’-dirty talk about books; and at the finish, Matthew McAllister paid the bill for lunch.

That came as a little surprise, perhaps, but basically he had fucked himself right from the start with three words that are as bad in publishing terms as uttering expletives in front of the Queen. A long while after the derailment at the Electric, I came across my agent at a lunchtime publishing launch and said to the friend I was with, “She has at least two reasons for not reading my novel.”“Only two?” she said with a smile.  And I laughed, because by then I’d given up giving a good goddam whether she, or anybody else at the agency, could be the hell bothered to read the manuscript. Simon and I had already decided to take Matthew McAllister on his first trip down the digital highway.

Q: Sorry, but I’m still thinking of Tangier. Isn’t that where Joe Orton fucked under-age boys; and other gay exotics of yesteryear swanked in lawless debauchery?

IF: Ah, forgive me, Madame, one’s mind does tend to wander. Mine too. I perfectly understand. Tangier: City of the Dream is a lovely book, my favourite in my back list. A minor cult, I’m told. I didn’t know I was a cult. A dick now and again, yes, but not a cult. But there you are. Or rather, there was I. What can I tell you?’Tangier’ has been out of print for years, but it will be republished next year because I’m told that the city is enjoying something of a revival. I wonder who will be the new monsters living there? The old ones were shocking enough. I never went back after living there for a while, partly because I was a little more indiscreet in the hardback edition than I’d meant to be and I was ticked off by Hugo Vickers for quoting too indiscriminately from the manuscript diaries of Cecil Beaton who first visited Tangier with his great friend David Herbert. Offence, I dare say, was caused – albeit inadvertently.

In the post-war years, David was the King of the Mountain in Tangier. Well, not literally - there was a real King of Morocco - but for all visiting American and European expats, David was the social arbiter of the city. Fortunately, he and I got along, and I was invited to parties, otherwise there would have been no book. You can read all about it in the new edition. Here they come again: Bowles (Paul and Jane), Burroughs, Beaton, La Hutton, Capote, Ginsberg, Kerouac, Orton and a whole regiment of transgressive, tatterdemalion camp followers who fitted socially and sexually nowhere else. I’ve characterised Tangier as a casualty ward of desire or despair. Maybe both. It was fun for a while, but I caught it at the (forgive me) fag-end of its heyday.   

Q: But anyway. I am astonished! You mean to say, an acclaimed author such as yourself, with a confirmed literary pedigree, who is the books editor of bestselling Saga magazine and a regular non-fiction reviewer on the Saturday Times, has had to resort to self-publishing? Still you’re not alone….

IF: Sweet of you to evince such astonishment, but let’s not get too high-flown here, Madame. Reputation is a puffball. It is a hard-on. It can be blown. Publishing has very abruptly and unexpectedly been stood on its head and it is still disoriented. About time too. The blood is rushing from its head to its balls. It had forgotten it had those and it needs to start playing with them again.

Traditional publishing is still prestigious and sought-after, of course. The hardback book will not die, but publishers and bookshops are on the critical list. There are many authors out there who find it difficult to place a book – let’s say a volume of short stories or a novel that is a departure from what is expected of them. I can think of half a dozen, just among my own friends, who are preparing, by reasoned choice (and sometimes even on the advice of agents), to bypass the traditional publishing process and go straight to digital.

These are writers with a serious track record of publication, a reputation for quality, and a living to earn. Either they go straight to Kindle (and Nook, Kobo, Sony or any other platform) or they invite subscriptions for a book on the Unbound website and deliver bound copies to the list of subscribers. Now, that is a modern version of a previous publishing practice. So, as well as new mediums for publishing, some ancient and venerable modes are being revived.

Best of all, if your book goes viral, like ‘50 Shades of Goo’, publishers come banging on your door to publish it in hard copy, whereas you might have spent years pounding on theirs and becoming more and more dispirited and demoralised. Depressed, even.

Q: Isn’t it sexy to be master of your own publication process and not have to deal with Oxbridge 20-somethings wearing Alice bands who know fuck-all about anything? – perhaps you’ll e-publish other authors in time and beat orthodox corporate publishers at their own game.

IF: Soooo sexy! Matthew McAllister is very hard-on about the adventure! He has seen the future and it is e. This is so different from vanity publishing, which was always looked upon de haut en bas, regarded as second best, and a personal indulgence. Digital publishing is a medium, merely. A book is a book is a book, no matter whether it exists electronically or as 350 grams of paper and ink clapped between hard covers. And it is democratic – anyone can put up a book, diary, essay, article on a digital platform. It may only be of interest to a few friends or colleagues, but that’s not the point. It is out there and can be instantly accessed at very little cost. You don’t have to order 500 or 5000 hard copies from a vanity publisher and stack them in your garage. No overheads.

Atrium Editions (see above) will first publish Matthew McAllister. It will also, in due course, publish the back list of Iain Finlayson and Simon Burt. It will then publish the work of friends and associates, accomplished writers, if they choose to come under the umbrella of Atrium Editions which will operate pretty much as a publishing company but without all the trappings of pusillanimous power and vaunting vainglory.

Q: Now, Blood Month. It’s a commercial fiction in the detective genre, set in London, with much red stuff redecorating precincts, and humour of noir hue for colour contrast. Its opening line intrigues: ‘So, in the end, Caroline Muirhead said, it wasn’t you who died.’ Raymond Chandler meets Martin Amis most foul?

IF: Simon Burt and I have read literary fiction with the same attention we’ve given to hard-boiled and soft-poached crime fiction, and that seemed to be the trouble with Blood MonthIt was well, even enthusiastically, received by several high-end publishers as a classy piece of work that extended the boundaries of the conventional crime novel. They then turned it down on the ground that it “crossed genres” and so, I suppose, could not easily be niche-marketed either as genre fiction or as a literary novel. I still don’t understand this. No wonder publishing is in trouble if it recognises quality fiction when it sees it, but doesn’t know how to sell it. So, obviously, I have to do it myself. Yes, Blood Month is dirty writing. But stylish. It is noir, it is bleakly funny, it is morally ambiguous, it has characters who go from bad to worse, and closure solves nothing. Indeed, it opens up the plots of the second novel and the third.  

Q: Blood Month is pacy, more-ish, terse, tense and immediate, not ‘literary’ – yet you’re thought of as a literary writer. Did you harbour closeted, faintly kinky commercial longings for decades? A need to be read for visceral, moist reasons? Or did the mood come upon you recently? In other words, are you now a money-grubbing words-tart?

IF: Langue de vipère! How cruel, how pejorative you make such words sound! When A. S. Byatt won The Booker Prize and declared that the money would come in handy to build a swimming pool, there was a gnashing of teeth in outermost literary circles where a plastic bird bath, far less a duck pond, in the back garden would be a luxury. I don’t grudge anyone prizes – I have won some small ones myself, but they went to pay bills. I take your meaning, though.

Truth to tell, Simon Burt and I were broke and bored. His career as a literary novelist (Floral Street, The Summer of the White Peacock, Just Like Eddie, published by Faber) had stalled. I didn’t want to write another literary biography. Both of us wanted to do something different, have some fun with writing and, with any luck, make some money.  Certainly, we wished to be read. Sold at airports! So, I said, “Let’s write a crime novel. How hard can it be?” All I want to say now, is that it is just as difficult as writing any other novel. We plotted the novels together, whereupon Simon wrote a fast first draft. I edited the text and the tropes rigorously. We discussed again. There were rewrites. And what emerged from the collaborative process was the voice and style of Matthew McAllister which is neither purely mine nor purely Simon’s.

The process was entered into with reason and was concluded in rapture! Not cynically, as a money machine. Whether it will pay off - chissa? The thing is done. It will take its chances out there with the punters and the competition.

Q: Did you research e-publishing before setting up Atrium? I mean, how many books get sold by e-self-publishing? Will people of the future laugh when told that once upon a time writers posted off their manuscript to a Snipcock in an office who, if inclined, got round to publishing it 18 months later?

IF: I researched quite intensively. I went every day to the London Book Fair earlier this year and I talked face-to-face with the big guys of Kindle and Kobo. I talked to Kerry Wilkinson, the poster boy of e-publishing, a young BBC sports journalist, who has now written three novels, all straight-to-Kindle, all mega-sellers, who is now deservedly rich, charmingly funny and sweetly modest. I learned a lot just from talking. But I’d already primed myself by reading articles about the sudden publishing panic in The Bookseller every week, browsing self-publishing websites, even reading - ironic, this - hard copy books about the e-revolution. The hardback book will survive better than the paperback - which has come as a surprise to publishers, who expected quite the opposite. E-book sales now outstrip paperback sales, and of course e-books can be more competitively priced (though publishers still like to try to match the price of an e-book to the hard copy on sale in bookshops.)

And yes, you’re right - the elderly tweedy (and even the young trendy) Snipcocks of publishing are busted. They need new business models that haven’t yet been fully developed. They sound positive, optimistic even, but they know it’s over. Conversely, this is the beginning of new opportunities for authors. What is a free-floating author to do? First find an agent, which can take as long as finding a publisher. And once he/she does, he may be lucky and find a brilliant editor. But chances are, he/she won’t. The process of publishing takes, say, nine months from final manuscript to finished copy. The shelf life of that finished copy, if it is a novel, is six months maximum. Then it goes to paperback after about a year. Even readers, far less authors, can become mad with impatience at this leisurely pace. Who can be the fuck bothered in this age of the short attention span and immediate gratification?

So – cut through all of this: Kindle or Kobo, any or all of them, whichever you choose – and you are free to be promiscuous - will immediately digitise your text at no initial cost, stick whatever artwork you provide on it as a cover, and put it up for sale on the appropriate website at whatever price you think is right. And then it is all up to you in terms of marketing strategies. It’s your book, baby. Hope it has a nice life...      

Q: I see you’re a double-Gemini Gemini – do you follow astrology? Have you had any mystical or spiritual experience? Or are you a child of the 21st Century, scoffing cashews as the BBC’s resident atheist Prof Brian Cox remakes the Cosmos as godless Lego?

IF: I know Gemini is represented by the image of twins. If I’m a double Gemini, does that mean there are four of me? Feels like it sometimes. The ontological philosophies, from Anselm to Bertrand Russell (who had an epiphany in Boots the Chemist) via Descartes, that seek to confirm the existence of God don’t do it for me. I have not made that leap of faith.  I don’t really follow astrology. I am an 18th century Scottish (and French) rationalist, an adherent of the great Frog philosopher Voltaire and the Scottish deist, David Hume. But an astrological reading was made for me many years ago, in 1977. It went on for many single-spaced pages. Of course, it was mostly exciting as an exercise in narcissism. One can never hear too much about oneself or be paid close-enough attention. One does like to be special.

The  chart seemed fair enough, accurate enough, though the word ’eccentric’ cropped up rather more than I was comfortable with, and towards the end, when the influence of the furthest planets from the sun were being invoked, I was warned to look out for symptoms of mental instability in later life. That rather worried me at the time, but either they haven’t kicked in yet or I’m happily unaware of them.

Q: Would you ever write a porn novel? I suppose the challenge would be to take the genre in a new direction, now that porn vids are freely viewable all over the internet. I always switch off at the first b-j.

IF: No. Absolutely not. Nobody ever gets sex scenes right in a novel. Best for a writer to pass over them in silence. Close the bedroom door at the first sign of sexual arousal. Quite the opposite, of course, applies to porno vids which are like novels in one respect: once you’ve read a novel, you rarely go back to it. Porno palls quite quickly too, except for turn-on moments you bookmark mentally and replay to get your rocks off. The next big thing should be the interactive novel, a story that the author constantly rewrites at the demands and desires of the readership.

Porno is doing this now. Go to the brilliant Cam4 website, where people of all ages, sizes, sexes and sexual practices from beautiful to beast, vanilla to rocky road - amateurs all - with pleasure, for pay,often just for the hell of it, take their clothes off and perform for subscribers. You can bookmark your favourites, and so you can choose to watch your preferred performers when they show up on line. But their shows will always be subtly or even drastically different. They learn what works, and they respond to the exhortations, the behest, of their admirers and critics. They give the punters what they want. If they opt to show off for tips, like go-go bar boys and girls, they go with what the audience thinks they are worth and chooses to tip. They seem to be the authors of their own acts and bodies: but counter-intuitively, they are absolutely in control of themselves.

The death of the book you’re worried about? The death of the author - the auteur - more like it. But I don’t mind that.  Art in any medium is becoming interactive. Popular novels, like blockbuster films, are now being rewritten, re-edited, after being shown at sneak previews to focus groups who give market reactions. Classic children’s stories, too, are being doctored to tone down anachronistic racist, sexist and other attitudes. And what are we to make of Madame Bovary or Anna Karenina as role models for young, modern women? The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo kicks back for them, gets revenge. What, indeed, to make of a play (and film) like ‘The Boys in the Band’ as characteristic of gay life? We make a secular saint of Armistead Maupin instead, and honour Michael Mouse as a post-modern, liberated sexual hero.

Q: You’re a leading UK books reviewer – give us a glimpse of a day in the life of. Do publishers try to bribe you for positive critiques? Has any author you’ve slagged off threatened you with circumcision?

IF: None of the above. I am sea-green incorruptible. I lead a blameless literary life. Just as William Burroughs declared “there is no such thing as a bad boy”, so there is no such thing as a bad book. I will spare you a lengthy defence of that statement. Another time, another place - or perhaps, if you run fast enough, never. Just don’t ask me to take a look at your unpublished manuscript. I am very severe.

Q: Complete this sentence. ‘The Man Booker Prize is…’

IF:... not as much fun as Strictly Come Dancing. But there is more bitching and blood on the carpet.

Q: And finally, After Blood Month, what’s next in your literary and publishing career?

IF: Blood Month is the first novel of a projected trilogy. They will all be stand-alone novels, but they can properly be read in sequence. The second novel, The Benevolence of the Butcher, is currently in a late stage of progress. It’s being written, I mean. The third, No Gohas been plotted in outline and, as a skeleton, awaits its fleshy dressing. Matthew McAllister is pretty confident that he knows what happens next, but he can’t wait to find out what actually happens next because the characters in the novel are more surprising than he knows. That’s the fun of it. Otherwise there would be no point.

It’s good. We go on as we go on. Like Mehitabel the cat, whose raggedy arse has seen better days, our mantra is “jamais triste, archie, toujours gai!”

Q: Iain Finlayson! Thank you so much. Good luck with Blood Month, which I heartily recommend. 

The Atrium Editions website (extract - and read Matthew McAllister's inventive bio): click here

To buy a Kindle edition of Blood Month at £1.92 click here

Sunday, November 04, 2012

US Election 2012 Tarot special: cards favour Obama

Adrian Perkins' five card Tarot spread on US Election 2012
Thank you for taking such a keen interest in my last posting - my astrology forecast for the US Election 2012: to read click here. Now, Tarot reader Adrian Perkins of Hampshire, co-partner in the Tarot and healing company Holistica, has kindly shared his own forecast for the US presidential race (see his five card spread above). He writes:

'See attached pic I took this morning of my five card spread for the US election this week . Notice the 2 of Swords represents the electorate - which appears to be indecisive between two candidates - between the King Of Pentacles, a wealthy materialistic businessman , turns most business ventures into gold (Romney) and The Hermit , a more introspective person who goes within more who seeks guidance and is also afraid of letting a secret / secrets or even his true self out of the bag (Obama).

'Notice the Strength shows the power to tame the electorate through compassion and talk. It is Leo (Obama). Notice too that it is numbered 8 (August birthday) The confirmation card - 8 (again an 8) of wands is a fire element - just like Leo being a fire sign. In this card I do see the ladder of success but the spaces in between may suggest this candidate has peaks and troughs like so many others.

'In the last very days of the campaign this card reminds Obama not to let his guard down , to be opportunist and not let victory slip away. I saw no sign of Pisces or water element (Romney) in this spread.' 

Holistica offers Reiki healing, Tarot readings and other services. Click here

Friday, November 02, 2012

US Election astrology special: Obama forecast to be re-elected

(My new astrology website -

Elections, astrologically, are a nightmare challenge to call and the imminent US Election is particularly complex (actually, not just astrologically). The wise stargazers sit on the fence - the Mail's Jonathan Cainer has declared that the result will be unambiguous - but declines to say which candidate will win. Marjorie Orr (though seeming to back Romney) announces that election forecasting is too tricky. 

Both are probably right - to watch their backs. I, however, put caution to the wind.

Barack Obama is a Leo, born August 4, 1961, 7.24pm, in Honolulu. Mitt Romney is a Pisces, born March 12, 1947, 9.51am, in Detroit, Michigan.

Having examined the birth charts of Obama and Romney, and the transits for election day November 6, 2012, and for Inauguration Day January 20, 2013, I have reached the conclusion that Obama will be re-elected. Those who prefer Romney may take comfort that both charts are pretty dire and that there's little to indicate a decisive victory, astrologically. I have based my forecast decision on just a handful of aspects as clinchers.

Non-astrologers may have already read enough. Those interested in astrology may want to read on....

For election day itself, the transits of both men's charts lack an obvious winner. But on November 6, Obama's tr Moon is in Leo conjunct his ruler Sun and Mercury (in the 6th) - a good omen for group efforts and the support of women in particular. Obama's progressions look favourable on this day, with P Mercury sextile North Node, P Venus sextile Venus and P Pluto sextile Neptune, among others. 

There are plenty of negative aspects to spoil the day, however; not least Mercury stationing retrograde which at the very least could suggest a slim victory or even controversy over the result. I shouldn't be surprised if there are technical hitches or legal tussles.

Romney's transits for November 6 are especially grim in my view: his ruler tr Neptune, though at the top of his chart, squares his natal ascendant, an ego-denying aspect and not the sort of thing you expect to see in a winning chart. Nor do I like tr Moon conjunct natal Saturn in his 3rd house of communications: a sign of possible depression or isolation. 

I have also looked at the transits for Inauguration Day, January 20, 2013. This perhaps offers a clearer picture. In Obama's chart, tr Sun (conjunct tr Mercury) is conjunct natal Jupiter in the 12th: a sign of optimism, positivity and expansion. This to me is the clincher (famous last words?). But it's not all bad news for Romney on this day. His tr Jupiter is trine Midheaven, a plus indicator for career and status, but an aspect inferior to Obama's Sun-Jupiter conjunction. And Romney's ruler Neptune is still square ascendant.

So, there we have it. Republicans should take heart that a fair number of reputable astrologers think Romney's got it in the bag. You'll have to Google them.