Monday, 27 August 2018

He's Done Ever So Well For Himself by Justin David

My Manchester Pride weekend reading consisted of this new novel by Justin David, 'He's Done Ever So Well for Himself.' It comes from a very new, small press and it's exactly the kind of rollicking gay bildungsroman that I needed to read. It feels a bit like going back to my roots - to gay novels, the 1990s and a kind of freewheeling narrative hedonism.

The author and protagonist are just a bit younger than I am, and through them I got to revisit recent decades and some almost-parallel adventures. It's a novel that begins with Grandma's wool bag and the stultefying fug of a close-knit family and takes us through some really hair-raising encounters with wacked-out cults, drugs and older men. There's such a good eye for detail and ear for dialogue at work, and a voice that I just wanted to carry on reading. Highly recommended and it's incredibly, ludicrously cheap on Kindle just now. But it's probably something I want to buy again, in a proper copy, just to have on the shelf to revisit.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Lindsay Kemp

Lindsay Kemp

I was sad when the all clear sounded
I’d been giving my all as the bombs were dropping,
Doing my repertoire of famous ladies
In the air raid shelter with the street agog
And then suddenly
My audience was gone.

But when the red velvet curtains of Sunderland Empire
Flew open and there were the fairies in cheap make-up
And there were the villainous dames decked in flowers
I thought: here’s my world.

I danced on the ferry from North to South Shields
All dressed in crepe I’d cut myself
I danced on the sands under Marsden rock
In a kimono brought home too late for my sister
I danced for her memory in the grotto with my raincoat
Turned inside out, to show the flashy silk lining.

South Shields was all so beautiful to me,
Even the wrecked hulls beached at Tyne Dock,
Where I played and made up characters to be.

Now I’m in Livorno,
Dancing still in paint and feathers
A little stiff, maybe
But I believe to this day that dancing is
The quickest way to get to heaven.

I watch the ferries coming home
And it looks just like my own home
I fancy it could even be South Shields
And me a boy, which I’d quite like to be again,
Having been everything else,
And even though
I never like to do anything twice.

With Paul McGann at 'Vworp' in Manchester

On Sunday 9th September in Manchester, I'll be on a panel with Paul McGann at 'Vworp!', which is going to be a brilliant celebration of Doctor Who. I've never actually met Mr McGann, but i've written for his Doctor quite a lot over the years. That very weekend marks precisely twenty years since 'The Scarlet Empress' was published, and if we're lucky... there might well be a reading...

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Thanks, Julia Darling

Thinking about Julia Darling this week - I've written a rare poem..! First in absolutely ages. Seeing on Facebook that it would have been her birthday this week is what brought it about. She was a Tyneside-based writer I knew a little and loved to bits. In 2001 she invited me and Stella Duffy to be guests of honour at her Festival of Queer Writing, and that's what the poem's about.

Thanks, Julia Darling

I’d never stayed in a hotel so posh before,
Pouring myself a Bloody Mary soon as I was through the door
Or had my workshop gang take me out and tell me:
You have to return to the North.
You have to come home to the North.

I’d never had tapas by the Tyne before,
I’d never been a Guest of Honour before,
I’d never seen twenty-four dykes strumming acoustic guitars singing
Marlene Dietrich on a stage
And I’d never been met at the station
By my Festival organizer before…

She was jumping up and down
By the barrier in tie-dye,
Telling me where she’d bought her daft hat
And how I had to check it out.

I’d never led a workshop where the person hiring me was first in the queue
To get through the door, beaming,
Excited as anything to get cutting up
And pasting words back together
And dashing out to fetch tape
Whizzing stuff under the copier’s hood
Piecing together our surreal masterpiece
Which she made us all, every one of us,
Stand up on stage that night and read out every last
Crazy word:
All the bodices and bonnets and ray guns
On the burning sands of Mars
To an entirely dumbfounded and delighted crowd.

I’d never been to a festival like it.
Right by the hectic Gay Village,
A crossways of tawdry pubs and fried food joints,
Busy as anything, hilarious with chatty noise
And screeching, nosy parker queens
I’d never met any Geordie queers before!

I’d had to leave home to find any queers at all.
Yet here they were,
By Tyne Bridge after midnight
Like pixies in vest tops
And goblins in hotpants
Cavorting and canoodling down the Enchanted wood
And all the gorgeous
Dockside dens of vice.

That bridge I’d rode over a million times as a kid on the bus
Coming into town to buy fanzines and bootleg cassettes
And under the massive green machinery
Dashing down desire paths to the river
All the queers of Tyneside with hearts set on chips
And hot saucy fun

And the view from the boggling height of the gallery
Was airy and fresh and a great place to watch
The brave nonchalance of everyone gadding about
And going everywhere they ever wanted in a rush.

I’d never been to a festival of writing queers before.
Thanks, Julia Darling. Back in 2001.
I’ll never forget it.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Lethe Press Reprints of the Phoenix Court novels

Steven Moffat says... 

My very clever friend, Paul Magrs, has just had some of his books reissued - look, here they are. I haven't read these yet, but Paul is always witty and brilliant - and a Doctor Who fan, which is a sign of good character. As you know, books weep aloud when they're not being read so hurry and get them here:

Monday, 6 August 2018

Confabulation - Edinburgh 1997

On my Patreon page today - a memoir piece from summer 1997 in Edinburgh, where I'm writing 'Fancy Man' and 'The Scarlet Empress' at the same time -

Here's a little excerpt, followed by the link -

On Sunday it was the ‘West and Wilde’ event, celebrating this lovely gay bookshop in the New Town. Drinking wine and smoking outside before it started spitting with rain. David Benson was there, sparky and lithe, jumping up on a bench to do a turn. He sneered and smarmed and wriggled about, unleashing his unnerving Kenneth Williams impression, reading chunks of the Orton diaries: the insalubrious entries from Marrakesh.

Patricia Duncker was there, too. She came dashing out, all beaming and guns ablaze, pashmina trailing, florid and profane and brilliant: bursting with bonhomie. She marched up to Jeremy while he was smoking and he thanked her for sending him her signed book while he was in the hospital. She told him not to eat cheese or drink champagne: they’re very bad for Crohn’s.

She told us, as far as she’s concerned, they can film her novel, ‘Hallucinating Foucault’ just however they like. The more vulgar the better, she says. Just so long as they make it. Then she told me she teaches Creative Writing via ‘narratology and poetics: I’ll send you our bibliography, dear!’