(Article for Pulp Pusher)


As a writer the question I most often get asked is, 'Why do you like to write stories about Roy Orbison being wrapped in Clingfilm?'

This I do not know how to answer. It is puzzling to me that everyone does not do so.

Now, however, a new question has arisen to trouble me:

'Why, when it came time to write an Orbison in Clingfilm novel, did you choose to give it the form of a pulse-pounding crime thriller?'

This I do know how to answer, and if you will sit comfortably but attentively a sensible distance back from the screen I will commence to do so.

The first thing to say is that I was keen to break out from the Orbison in Clingfilm fetish ghetto and reach a wider audience. The Orbison-in-Clingfilm fiction community is a wide one and a devoted one - we are hoping to hold our first world convention in a layby on the Aachen Autobahn this summer - and it has been nothing but courteous to me. Yet it struck me that, while remaining true to the canons of the Orbison/Clingfilm genre, I might contrive some way to simultaneously appeal to people for whom thoughts of wrapping a certain singer in a certain substance were quite infrequent occurrences rather than the guiding light of every waking hour.

I mused for some time and idly bounced ideas and screwed-up bits of paper off my terrapin. The answer when it came seemed obvious: I would write a thriller.

This was quite natural. After all my earliest literary exposure was in hard-boiled detective novels: I grew up reading the popular books about Matilda Hess, the German Nancy Drew. Perhaps a cross between Nancy Drew and The Punisher - she is a young girl who goes round reporting cars that are double-parked and fire-bombing people who have neglected to return their library books.

The same determination to pull no punches informs my work and I make no apologies for the sordidness of parts of the book. There is a frank description of someone paying for a coffee with a trick coin. A man is hit on the jaw and an old woman is pushed into a chair from which she finds it difficult to rise. There are instances of flagrant impoliteness and loud-mouthed swaggering too numerous to mention and a scene of people walking on the park grass instead of sticking to the designated pathways.

I have been censured by the town council for my depiction of the dark underbelly of Dusseldorf and told to hang my head in shame. I will not do so. It is not right to simply turn your back on criminals. Indeed it is dangerous, for if you do so they will sneak up behind you and tie your shoelaces together and perhaps stick a rude post-it note on your backside.

However I will say this: one should remember Nietzsche's words about the abyss gazing into those who gaze into the abyss. Worryingly I find myself becoming more 'hard-boiled' in my daily life since writing such a brutal book, and only last week when a careless woman crashed her trolley into mine in the supermarket, possibly giving my terrapin whiplash, I called her a rude name in the privacy of my mind and transferred a discounted carton of cress from her shopping to mine when she wasn't looking. Where will it end? I believe I am not the only crime writer to suffer this coarsening effect and indeed everyone in the business has heard the rumours of how Agatha Christie ended up as a football hooligan with the West Ham Inter-City Firm.

Still I do not wish to put readers off and must emphasise that my book is not all mayhem and savagery. There are tender moments too and healthy dollops of lyrical sensuality. It could hardly be otherwise: it is, after all, a book about Roy Orbison being wrapped up in Clingfilm. A lot. My aim was to write a novel featuring more tense cliff-hangers and more Orbison-clingfilm-wrappings than any comparable work in the field, and in this I would modestly venture to claim I have succeeded.


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