I’ve decided from now on to let my blogs roll unimpeded by corrections, second thoughts; if I use ‘compact’ in two successive sentences (as I did in a recent online music review), then so be it. I won’t even be much bothered by using the word ‘recent’, which was rightly banned by my newspaper style book as a ‘non-word’, like ‘very’. To be effective, a conditional-cum-definer has to mean something, not be a vague allusion to something more definite that one cannot find a proper word for. (See that – two ‘somethings’ in the same sentence, and a preposition at the end of it?) Thank god for editors, of which I was once one. I hope there’ll soon be a computer programme which buzzes whenever you commit a solecism, especially when you are using the same word too often and in too close a proximity. Meantime, I’ll refer to White & Strunk, the famous university manual of Dos and Don’ts for writers, endorsed and updated by New Yorker staffman E H White (author of Charlotte’s Web) and originally written by his Harvard professor, William Strunk. It’s basic stuff, with rules, but well worth memorising.
In my novel. Slowly Burning, just published by the smallest of small Welsh independents, GG Books, I have a former Fleet Street hack recall his background as a not-very-exceptional crime reporter on the Daily Express. Bunny Patmore, for it is he, is a self-confessed fibber who routinely exaggerates ‘to get at the truth’. In the proper fictional tradition of showing rather than telling, I skew, to say the least, Bunny’s take on accuracy, chronology, dates. When you’ve spent a lifetime lying and exaggerating, such minutiae probably don’t bother you overmuch, though for a writer it’s a risky strategy to introduce contradictions and inconsistencies in a narrative, one or two of which stretch credulity: the reader might be justified in failing to understand, and blame the writer for not getting everything in line. But at least and at the same time the reader might believe, as I do, that the novel’s an illustration of the relationships between truth and lies, fact and fiction. In some ways, Bunny’s a bit like me, though I never worked for a national newspaper or wittingly told a lie in print or over-sold a story – that’s ‘story’ as in ‘factual newspaper report’. I don’t think I ever made top grade as a reporter or a sub-editor or any other title I assumed in a lengthy career. Bunny probably didn’t either – there are hints of that being so – but he can write when he’s inspired, and that much we have in common, though I say it myself (no-one else will). In any case, when his Fleet Street time was drawing to a drunken close at the end of the 1960s, Bunny probably wasn’t thinking too clearly, and a blurred memory probably remains a blur. For sure, you wouldn’t want to re-live your nadir in any kind of ameliorating detail. Anyway, Bunny wants to tell a truthful story for a change, and everything else (dates, detailed memories) are not essential requirments on voyage. The story’s simple and the truth– if it is the truth – incontrovertible. My only reservation, apart from the possibility that my readers won’t understand Bunny’s poor memory for exactly when events occurred, is that few will buy the book. I’ve done everything I can to publicise it. There are so many books out there, appearing at the same time. I have a hundred remaindered copies of the book that deserved to sell, so I’m not hopeful. Knowing they won’t make a profit from writing, authors should give their unsold books away, even unconventionally: a few years ago, one writer left copies of his book in bus-stops, railway carriages, libraries and saloon bars. Well, it was distribution of a sort.