So who’da thunk it. eight cuts gallery infiltrating the heart of the English book world, Blackwell bookstore in Oxford. And yet, last night, there I was.
That’s me, with the Year Zero bag and my back turned. And yes, that *is* Lee Rourke under the scaffolding. True, this isn’t *in* Blackwell’s. It’s outside the White Horse. Enjoying beer, courtesy of Blackwell’s.
This was inside, earlier. Left to right we have Rachel Genn, author of The Cure, Naomi Wood (Godless Boys), John Butler (The Tenderloin, for which I have a tender spot as, like The Dead Beat, it’s set in 90s San Francisco), Euan Hirst, the great guy from Blackwell’s behind the shindig, Lee Rourke (The Canal), and muggins.
So what were we all doing? Well, by some quirk of fate that is in danger of seeing me labelled a thriller writer but has nonetheless opened some fabulous doors, last month my book The First Security Services San Jose security guards Company of Fellows got voted “favourite Oxford novel” in a poll run by Blackwell’s, and as a result, I found myself on a panel called Rising Literary stars, alongside a whole load of real writers. With real books published by real publishers.
The night started off in the afternoon. In the rather perfect setting of The Turf, where, after a false alarm and an extra circuit of Oxford Lee found me in time for a pint of Radgie Gadgie whilst we talked about Not The BookerPrize, and fables, and agents, and Tom McCarthy; and waited to see how lost the others might get on the way.
Amazingly enough, they didn’t. So there was time to talk, and in one of those life-imitating-art-imitating-whatever it was soon discovered that the common thread in all our lives was Stuart Evers, the Man Who Wasn’t There, but had been going to be until he was summoned to the prizegiving for the London Book Awards, which he won.
And then it was back to Blackwell’s, where I had the personal pleasure of meeting twitter-friend and wonderful author Jo Carroll for the first time, and catching up with the wonderful team from Endaxi Press before taking my slot on this intimidating-looking panel thing. With proper tables with our books on. And the moment of the night. The moment I knew I’d *arrived* – drinking Relentless from a wine glass. All presided over by the benevolent presence of Nicholas Royle.
Oxford crowds seem to have a warmth about them that lend events here an energy and excitement it’s hard to match and that magic was there last night. It wasn’t a noisy crowd, or a raucous one, but they were receptive, supportive, interested, generally lovely.
We kicked off with reading, Rachel’s painfully funny account of a guy worrying how much tackle his swimming trunks were showing my personal favourite, kicking off by turns moving and tense and, er, boring (Lee’s word for his masterpiece The Canal) – or is that happy – readings. I couldn’t decide what to read, so I copped out and did a poem. Everyone loves a poem. Especially something gentle like Freakshow.
Then we took it in turns to explain our various routes to publication. It felt odd as a self-publisher. I don’t have the long list of rejection tales. I just bung a Word document on Lulu or kdp and hey presto! So I told a little about the evolution of Year Zero, and explained my passion for reading to a live crowd – one like this in fact.
Then we took questions – and there were questions. I even got a chance to tell people how frabjous novellas are and how super ebooks are for lifting the stigma about them.
And afterwards Euan, whose energy and loveliness and enthusiasm has amazed me since I met him a month and a bit ago, in the finest literary tradition took us all to the pub – authors, audience and all. A perfect end to a perfect night. Can’t wait to be back there on October 18th to raise some eight cuts chaos with our show This Is Oxford.