Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Extract from "The Night Porter" by Mark Barry

The Night Porter is on Kindle Countdown this Thursday. It can be purchased here for 99p and 99c on Thursday June 19th.  

Extract from "The Night Porter"

The King of New York

It occurs to me at that very moment who Frank resembles. When I was a student, I watched a DVD called King Of New York.[1] 

I hadn’t thought about the film until this very moment for many, many years. He reminds me of the gangster in it, only much broader. I cannot remember the actor’s name, but he’s the spit moral. 

That same heavy lidded look. That same sense of me first, you nowhere. The disdain. The obtrusive, deliberate cool of it. He puts his meaty paw on Lucy’s back and ushers her upstairs.


Midnight Run

I go to see Sixsmith and ask for the bottle of Jack Daniels. He is perched on a barstool scanning the classified ads. I think he runs an online auction business on the side.
‘We’re out,’ he says, without looking up.

These are not the words I want to hear, particularly delivered by a man who is clearly not making much effort to hide his disdain, delivered in a rural Midlands accent, with a burr, the emphasis on the vowels. There is no hierarchy on paper, but I know where I stand. 
‘Can you nip up the Community Fayre and get some?’
‘No. Busy.’
I look around the bar. There are two punters enjoying a pint. A fire well on the way to ash and ember. The TV showing a football match.
I press on. ‘Cat says –’
‘– bollocks to Cat,’ Sixsmith says, emphasising everything and delivering it slowly. ‘I’m busy, you go.’
‘Listen, Martin. Frank wants a bottle of bourbon. He gets a bottle of bourbon. If you don’t go fetch a bottle of bourbon from the Community Fayre, or the OneStop, I’m calling Cat.’
He looks up from his paper with menace. 
‘You do that, mate. You do that. See what happens.’
‘Don’t be so ridiculous, Martin.’
‘I’m not going out in that rain,’ he says, aware he is pushing it as far as it will go and softening a little. He isn’t stupid: He’s behaving like it – nasty and stupid, malevolent even – but he isn’t.
‘Okay. Send Kerry.’
‘Yeh. Send Kerry. Where is she?’
‘Don’t know, Martin.’
‘You find her and send her,’ he says, returning to the paper and chewing on a peanut.

Annoyed, I see Kerry and rather than ask her to go to the supermarket, I ask her to hold the reception for fifteen minutes. She says she is due to go home, but says, yes. I put on my raincoat. It is lashing down, so I take my umbrella. 

I race up the High Street to the off licence, order a bottle of Jack Daniels. They will bill me – this is not the first time this has happened, and we have a proper arrangement. I pick up three bags of peanuts, giant bags. This means I can ask Gavin for olives and not Sixsmith. 
I’ve had enough of him for one night. 

When I return, I run to the kitchen and ask for a jar of olives. Gavin is cooking steaks, and my mouth waters. He gives me six on a glass petrie dish from an already opened jar, which is fair enough and soon, I am ready to take up the goods. Kerry is talking to a guest, and I don’t want to interrupt, so I take up the bottle, the nuts, and the olives myself. I am soon outside his door and knocking.

Lucy answers the door. ‘Hi.’
The TV is on, and I can see Frank’s chocolate and pale strawberry-coloured bare feet hanging off the edge of the bed behind Lucy, who, now I see her in a different light, has also been drinking most of the afternoon. She sways just a little, a blade of grass in a light breeze.
‘Frank’s order, madam.’
‘Is all this for us?’
‘Yes. All this for you.’
‘Awesome.’ She nods. ‘Yeh, awesome.’ Takes the tray from me and kicks the door shut gently without saying goodbye.
My pager goes, and it is Kerry. I signal I’m coming back. I check my watch. It is past eight, and I have another twelve hours to go. I feel as if I have been working since eight in the morning instead of two hours.
When I get downstairs, Jo is waiting with her shopping bags. Amy is on her mobile phone underneath the portrait of Charles I by the door. ‘Would you help me up with these?’ Jo asks sweetly.
‘My pleasure. Shall we take the lift?’
‘Totally,’ she says, relieved.

Jo waves at Amy, who blows her a kiss. I pick up the bags to Kerry’s consternation. I know Kerry has to leave, but this is business. She is noticeably frustrated. I carry the bags to the lift, and Jo walks behind me, slightly pickled and giggling. She burps and swiftly apologises for it. ‘I so didn’t expect that to happen. What must you think of me?’
‘I didn’t hear anything, Jo.’
‘You’re such a gentleman. I love England. Everyone has been so nice. I love it, OMG, you are all so cool.’
‘Thank you, Jo. My country appreciates that.’
We get into the lift, and I press a button.
‘Apart from the weather, that is. So amazing the rain, Wow. Never seen anything like it,’ she says,
‘By the way, Julian asked me to ask you to give him a call in his room when you get the chance.’
‘Julian? What about?’
‘He said he wants to talk to you about Friday.’
‘Oh, cool. I am so nervous. Me at a press conference. I’ve never done that before.’
‘Me neither,’ I say, and Jo laughs, as she is meant to.
I manage to get the bags into her room. She tries to tip me. This is the first time any of the guests tries this.
‘No tipping here, Jo. My compliments.’ 
Many hotels permit tips – The Saladin doesn’t, compensating the staff with an assumed tip in the hourly rate.
‘OMG– no TIPPING? How cool is that! I kinda can’t believe how awesome this is. We tip everywhere in the States.’
‘Not in The Saladin.  Will that be all?’ I ask.
‘Sure thing. Okay. And thanks.’ She says, her phone going off, a vaguely familiar ringtone alerting her to a call. I smile and shut the door behind me.


I walk past Frank’s room and hear music I don’t recognise.
By the time I get back to the desk, Kerry is irritated and storms off without saying goodbye to me. I’m not offended: Any rage I have, though internalised and controlled (and hotter than molten steel), is aimed not at her, but at Sixsmith for humiliating me. He knows I won’t tell Cat. He knows I have a minimum contact policy with management – I made the mistake of telling him. Give a bully the right amount of information, and he will make it count. His mask slipped tonight.
Why? Why tonight? His resentment toward me has been bubbling under the surface, it always has been, but why did it blow tonight?
It just doesn’t work with Sixsmith and me. Maybe it’s some chemistry thing. Maybe it’s an unstable reaction that’s never going to work. We just don’t mix. I came here in March around Easter time. I don’t think we ever enjoyed a honeymoon period. He was off with me from the Induction stage onwards – the limp handshake and the cold stare.
In the early days, I tried to sit and talk to him when it was quiet in the hotel, but while he was garrulous and bluff with everyone else, he would turn into a Trappist monk with me. And it got worse as time has progressed.
Awkward, those awkward moments.

[1] There is a magnificent scene where the gangster walks into a fried chicken shop and orders the entire menu for him and his gang. I smile at the memory and the chutzpah. I love King Of New York. I’m going to have to buy it now.


Two Reviews from US

5.0 out of 5 stars The Night Porter!March 20, 2014
brenda (LADERA RANCH, CA, United States) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Night Porter (Kindle Edition)
"Night porters are generally excellent listeners. It should be in EVERY hotel job description.";-)

The Night Porter grabs hold and invites you in. Instantly you are welcomed into the arms of the night porter. An open an honest portrayal of a man earning a living doing something he has been raised to do. Actually, that is not entirely true. He first had to drop out of university and then the wheels were in set motion. Not without a little disappointment from family...
"However, my father, with whom I had experienced a strained relationship, was livid - apoplectic, even - and because of my decision, my father and I no longer have a strained relationship, or any relationship at all..."

This guy is an interesting fellow (if I were in the UK I would say "bloke" instead). I love his chatter and how he invites us right into his world. Sharing everything in- between.

The writing as in all Mark Barry's books is sharp, clever with a fabulous sarcastic undertone. Done in the most humorous way. Reminiscence of Monty Python bits. His use of language is beyond shrewd. I read and re-read sentences as I am in awe of this authors unique writing ability. I would like to say natural talent but that would be hard for me to fathom. The detailed descriptions are beyond gifted. At times the narrative gives you the feeling that you are chatting with a friend as the dialog flows so natural off the pages.

I went berserk over the humorous footnotes which were absolutely brilliant... You will have to read for yourself! This book delighted me and and I am certain will knock the writing world off its socks. So clever!


5.0 out of 5 stars The Night Porter Next DoorMarch 27, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Night Porter (Kindle Edition)
Another winner from author Mark Barry about a structured, discreet and very proper night porter whose hotel is chosen to host, and house, the nominees for a highly-prized authors literary award, the ALF.

No expense is spared. The only order of business is to make sure each of the honored guests is happy and comfortable, and each one comes with his or her own quirk. The porter's dry wit carries you along on a guided tour of the hotel, his activities and observations of the people he works with, and then of the guests as they start trickling in - there's the perky Young Adult author from America and the sullen male author with less than ideal grooming habits...

The footnotes feature is a mini-bar of added insight and humor. The story-telling is witty, the humor well-timed (a company named Tarzan invented the Spark e-reader). When the Night Porter shares his internal musings about meeting the upbeat Young Adult author from America there's a cuteness about it - despite the Night Porter being in his 30's, he maintains his calm and dignity in scenarios that would test the patience of a less disciplined man.

Secrets are revealed about the hotel and its guests, and by story's end, The Night Porter will have a secret (or two) of his own.
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1 comment:

  1. Brilliant extract from The Night Porter - love Jo, she is an angel. And, Sixsmith should be on permanent toilet cleaning duty! Still waiting to have a chat with Julian Green! n x