Monday, 20 April 2015

Some Notes On Hollywood Shakedown

Author and blogger EL Lindley read my debut novel "Hollywood Shakedown" just recently and reviewed it, at the link below.  
E really enjoyed it. 

"One of my favourite themes in novels is when cultures collide and this is played out to great effect in Hollywood Shakedown. Barry takes great delight in setting Buddy, a life-long Los Angeleno, loose in a world that couldn’t be more different to his own. I laughed out loud several times as Buddy navigates pubs and has to endure a football game complete with Bovril. During his travels, Buddy encounters a myriad of characters and, one of Barry’s strengths is that there are no ‘throwaway’ characters, no matter how small or insignificant their function within the novel may be."

Some history: I wrote this in 2009/2010. It is my debut novel. I hadn't written as much as a short story since 1984, though I had  recently written a (very, very bad, truly terrible gah!) online novel in a group of which I was a big player and had been writing (silly) short sketches for same. 

But even after that group was eaten up by Facebook, I went a further three years without writing a creative word. I'm not one of those writers who are apparently compelled to write (in fact, most of the time I find writing something of a burden). 

Then, one night, one of my oldest friends, Paul Vani, from Houston, himself a decent scribbler, contacted me with a challenge - for what reason, he still won't enlighten me! 

He ordered:

Give me 1000 words which includes the following elements.

Los Angeles
Mrs Dalloway.
Goats Head Soup.

I think I still have the original e-mail somewhere. Anyway, I did this quite easily, but on the story's conclusion, something happened.

Like Forrest Gump and his epic run, I just kept on writing. And writing. And writing.  Half way through, I enlisted the help of a good friend of mine, Kelly Wainwright, to whom the novel is dedicated, who helped me to edit chapter by chapter as it began to spin out of control.

To this day, she is still the novel's biggest supporter, metaphorically speaking.

"Bazza, I don't understand why people don't buy Shakedown? It's f**king brilliant!" (KW, Private Correspondence, May 2014)

It's theoretically my third novel. I wrote one when I was twenty, a student, on a typewriter, in the bay window of a freezing Plymouth bedsit, a horror story based on the Black Sabbath Black Sabbath album cover. 

A friend of mine read it and concluded that it was shit and I should concentrate on my degree, so I didn't write for twenty years afterwards, having a glass jaw to end all glass jaws when it comes to rejection. No JK trials and tribulations for me! 

Then, in my late thirties, I was treated with such spectacularly cinematic ferocity by a sufferer of Borderline Personality Disorder that I couldn't stop myself writing it down in the aftermath of the heartbreak.  

The original Sabbath novel (which I cannot recall at all), was thrown away by my dad during an attic clearout some years ago and the heartbreak journal was lost when my old tower blew up quite out of the blue, (all sparks and crackles and molten hard drive), so these two formative influences are lost to history, but Hollywood Shakedown (theoretically my third long piece of piece of work) is still around. 

Many readers who have read me believe it is my best work. 

I am incapable of writing two books the same, a huge commercial weakness, I'm told, so I can never judge my own work. Blame the ADHD I suffered at school. 

I read it the other day and it seems perfectly competent, a lot more commercial than, say, Carla and definitely the dark and earthy Once Upon A Time In The City Of Criminals  and in parts, it really steams along, but it suffers from my main problem as a writer; that I am a "finisher" - the second parts of my books are much faster than the opening half and many modern, time-pressed readers don't make it that far (I have heard the latest trend is for thriller novels to start with a chase scene, for example, or giant explosions in order to grab the attention of the reader. I read the opening of a vaunted erotica novel the other day. It actually starts mid-coitus without any annoying characterisation acting as foreplay and getting in the way of the meat, so to speak). 

Hollywood takes a bloody eon to get going so if you do buy it - and it's, like, 99p or something - take this into account. I like endings in a book. I can seldom remember beginnings of novels but I never forget a wonderful ending.

I'll write some more about the characters another time.

Incidentally, the protagonist in Shakedown, Buddy Chinn,was originally called Buddy Chinaski - who, as sharp readers may guess, is the son of Henry Chinaski, the nihilistic alter-ego of beat poet and common man writer, Charles Bukowski, one of my all time literary heroes. I was advised to change his name for legal reasons - and followers of the Wizard will know what happened in March, so it was probably a good idea.


(Incidentally, EL Lindley writes a superb blog full of short stories and impish, mercurial views on life from the perspective of a - very - reluctant older woman and is well worth a follow, one of my three favourite blogs. Here's her latest post).

Buy here - come on now, there's no queue - you'll get straight in!! :-D



Stop Press: 

This review of Once Upon A Time In The City Of Criminals just in from popular author, new age surfer and tribal dancer Wendy "The Standing Stone" Steele. 

"Great title! Terry is an ex con, football hooligan in his youth, who has served his time and, though he doesn't want to go back, he hovers on the edge or blatantly crosses the line of lawfulness. Offered a job as a driver by Chloe, who lives in a neighbouring flat, Terry agrees to help her.

Barry describes the City in graphic prose, giving the novel dark, earthy undertones. His characters are well conceived, opening up the realities of an unpleasant world but in all the characters, readers get a glimpse of themselves, showing we are all damaged to some degree.

Terry and Chloe have choices throughout the book, tempting the reader as to which way they will go. We see inside Terry's head and feel the confusion he feels towards Chloe; part of him wants to protect her like a father while another part wants to take her like a lover.

This is a compelling read, though not a comfortable one. For me, I would have preferred a little more pace in the first half of the book and a little less detail of the effects of drugs but maybe an uncomfortable read makes one reassess and questions ones own choices.

I'm happy to forgive a few editing glitches as so much of the descriptive prose was fabulous...some was so delicious that I went back and reread, then pondered before reading on.

This is a great read but not relaxing, bedtime reading!"

:-D Thank you, Wendy x

Wendy's City Of Criminals Review


  1. Every word you write entertains me Mark, it matters not that no two books are the same :-) I am however determined to save HS for my holiday when I shall have the chance to luxuriate in it and it's no good you tempting me with delicious little teasers like this - my will power shall not be swayed (well okay is it being swayed just a little!) ;-)

    PS. And a terrific review from Wendy for OUATITCOC - great start to the week :-)

  2. Don't forget you've got a paperback coming your way, Georgia :-D If ever a book was written for paperback its this one - I didn't even know Kindle or e-books existed when I wrote this ha ha ha.
    Thx for commenting and thanks for your support as usual. Enjoy "Marinade Month" :-D xx