I hope most of its readers will view my novel Slowly Burning as a deliberate comedy of errors. It’s an exercise in seeing how much the narrator, former Fleet Street derelict Bunny Patmore, can get away with. Journalists of his sort are doing it all the time. One of the book’s epigraphs quotes the imprecatory Duke of Edinburgh, who in 1962 condemned the Daily Express as ‘a bloody awful newspaper, full of lies and scandal’. And much else, one feels, especially after the 1960s, when blats of its sort were becoming desperate to maintain their zenithal circulations. It’snot just that Bunny and his ilk are cavalier with the facts but that they get them wrong. It’s why newspapers have sub-editors to check copy and where necessary correct and clarify. OK, some of Bunny’s contradictions and inconsistencies beggar belief, but this is fiction. A good editor would have required Bunny to get his story straight, even though it would have meant deciding which was more important: telling his own personal tale, or parts of it, after a lifetime’s telling other people’s; or concentrating on the ironically unpublishable one he’s being told while he’s distracted by yet another that will demand to be splashed under an ‘exclusive’ tag and beneath his byline.
Reporters of Bunny’s sort inhabit both Wonderland and Weirdoland, sometimes on alternate days; they find themselves in situations that demand endless questions; and they seek some answers more determinedly than others, the unprofitable ones. The questions readers ask concern how much of what Bunny writes they can believe and how much of what he fails to explain clearly they have to unravel themselves. I fear, however, a reaction attributable to the reader’s too-literal imagination and the writer’s unreasonable expectation; in short, that my narrator’s solecisms will be attributable to me. Ah, well – if a seemingly simple story can only be read without its subterranean tremors being felt, its author should henceforth call it ‘a literary construct’ and gather a new unsuspecting audience which responds to them instinctively.
And, as one title moves on, another takes its place. Who Killed Emil Kreisler? is the name of a short story about a US infantryman who while on sentry duty in the second world war shoots and kills someone famous during a curfew. It’s also the provisional title of my second story collection, to be published by Cultured Llama in November. I’m going for long and short in this collection, the title story being about a page and a half in length, the longest perhaps ten or more. The latter is an epistolary tale called Rhapsodie, set in early Edwardian times about a new and eccentric musical instrument and the apparent debasement of an American girl by her English ward while living en famille in Paris.