Friday, 8 April 2016

Notes on Hollywood Shakedown (about twenty of them!)

My debut novel Hollywood Shakedown is getting some love lately, so I thought I would write some notes of interest to those who like a bit of background on the books they read. 

Here we go.

It's currently very cheap on e-book on both sites.

1) I wrote Hollywood Shakedown in 2009 amidst one of the coldest winters in living memory. One of the rainiest too, I remember. I wrote the novel wearing fingerless gloves and an Inuit hunting cap. I also wore a coat for much of the time as the flat I was living in was colder than a witch's teat. The rich, sunswept imagery of Los Angeles was simply subconscious wish fulfilment - and an imaginary central heating scheme. 

1a) Like many struggling writers unsupported by rich partners and/or sumptuous pensions, I don't live well. Can anyone donate a new hunting cap?

2) The novel emerged from two sources. One, my friend Paul Vani challenged me to write a 1000 word short story containing the following elements. a) steak b) Goats Head Soup by the Rolling Stones and c) Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway. I did so. See Chapter One. Then I kept writing. And writing. And...

2 b) At the same time, my friend Clive La Court (who secretly appears in most of my novels, with his faithful Airedale, Luccas), suggested I wrote a fiction novel. I wasn't reading fiction at the time - I hadn't read a new fiction book in a decade - and was writing non-fiction, faction and memoir (unsuccessfully). I have made up for my lack of faith since. That's down to him - as is most of my output, obviously, because after HS, I went on to write ten novels, six of which are still out there.

3) The novel was written around the time where the death of Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Los Angeles had been announced. 

Hollywood Park plays a big role in the opening chapters. In Great Britain, a racecourse with a history like that would never have been allowed to close. For a shopping Mall? With pink flamingos and an artificial lake?  

Puleez... we may be dirty and have dental issues over here but fuck, we respect history and culture.

I was livid for most of that year. Later on, when Hollywood finally closed, my novel trended on Twitter - the only time this has happened to me as an author.

3a) On the subject of sport, popular US sports radio DJ, Phil Naessens, read, reviewed and thoroughly enjoyed the book. I was delighted by that, a highlight of my career so far.

4)  Horse racing is my passion so my protagonist, Buddy Chinn, is first seen in the stands at Hollywood Park. My other passion, Notts County Football Club, appear later on in the book when the quest reaches London on Valentines Day 

5) The story takes place over two weeks in 2010. Strictly. The chapters are dated.

6) It was originally proofread and edited chapter by chapter by my close friend Kelly Wainwright who, following the arrival of her first baby, was at a loose end in the evenings. In between Dexter and Californication binges, we wrote the book sequentially, like a series. It is the only book I have ever written written from beginning to end. I had no idea where it was going until I got there.

7) There are two important parts in a novel. The opening chapter and the climax.  

HS has my favourite opening chapter (I worked and worked and worked on that and it has more drafts than anything I have ever written) but I have never been convinced by the climax. Endings are absolutely critical. More authors should concentrate on the climax, though all the 101 blogs focus on the opening, like chess. The number of books I have read recently with terrible endings can be counted with matches from a box. 

Swan Vestas, at that.

8) Buddy Chinn was originally called Buddy Chinaski. The book became a homage to one of my favourite authors, beat poet, Charles Bukowski. His alter ego, as most of you will know, is Hank (or Henry) Chinaski. So, my homage would be the story of the son of his alter-ego. 

Kelly's husband Seth, to whom I was best man at their wedding, signposted legal trouble and I bottled it. Changed the name - and all the names. A good job when considering what happened to me with the original cover of Once Upon A Time In The City Of Criminals. 

Mr Schneider of San Diego - I did what you asked!!!

9) Simon, Buddy's cheerful comic collecting sidekick, was originally known as English Marky. Kelly has never forgiven me for changing the name. I am not Simon - I wish I were, but that's not why I changed the name. 

Originally, I was going to publish this under a pseudonym. A cool one - like, say, Nelson Petrocelli or Max Cade or Nathan Bullet (true) - but my ex, Deborah, persuaded me to publish under my real name. The jury is still out as to whether that was a good idea or not. Anyway, you cannot have a protagonist with the same name as an author - that is simply narcissism, so I changed the name to Simon, a quintessentially English appellation.

10) Hollywood Shakedown is my longest book. In Indie, long books are taboo. No-one writes long books any more. 

11) Here's the original cover.

12) There is a draft of HS - the "author's cut" - which is even longer. It features an extra airline scene, more sex, crazed monologues and chatter dragged from Buddy's tortured brow, but I cut it to 104,000. The original is at least another 20k words. It is now lost somewhere in cyberspace. This is another thing Kelly will never forgive me for.

13) Monique, the "free-spirited" girlfriend and muse of the protagonist is partly based on the er, somewhat bawdy sexual alter-ego of an ex-girlfriend of mine (who I adored).  I sent her a paperback copy of the book during a potential reunion period. I never heard from her again. 

"Monique" in real life, is a church-going, upstanding, charity giving woman who wouldn't dream of doing anything like Monique. I need to make that a matter of record. 

The character is also based on Charles Bukowski's first major girlfriend - the love of his life (see above, from Factotum). 

Many men have a woman in their background from whom they have never recovered, like some form of addiction - I wonder how many became writers?

14) Monique's Tale, the centrepiece of the book, is amongst my favourite pieces of (my own) writing. I got that bang on.

15) I get asked this question a lot in interviews. "Who would play the characters in your book if it were made into a film?" My answer? I never look at it like that. If I were forced to divest myself of one media I enjoy, it would be film, rather than music or reading, so all this fantasy is not a priority. 

However, Bishop in Hollywood Shakedown would definitely be a part for Ed Harris.

16)  Like horrible villains? Scumbags who you cannot stop hating even in their quietest moments? You'll like The Nebraskan, Hollywood's major villain. A hunter and predator who's key skill is to get in the heads of women. 

The character is wryly based on the sociomythical truism shared by all men that women prefer bad boys who are guaranteed to fuck their heads up, to a nice bloke who will look after them and take them shopping.

17) He is also the closest I have ever come to writing a comic character/fantasy villain. I generally write about real people you can meet in the supermarket.

18) My friend Clive, who likes some of my books and not others, loves Hollywood Shakedown. He stopped what he was doing once and emailed me about Blossom Phelps, the Chicago fixer who manipulates Buddy half way through the book. He asked for her number, rather breathlessly! #

My friend EL Lindley, who also likes the book, paid me the ultimate compliment in her review when she said I can write strong, rounded, real female characters, flaws and all.

19) Notts County fans who read this can read about the match attended by Buddy and Simon here. It's Fulham. Yes, that one.

20) Here's the new cover. I'm off to watch Aintree races.

It's currently very cheap on e-book on both sites.

8th April 2016

PS: f you have read Hollywood Shakedown and liked/hated/was not convinced by the novel, I need TWO more reviews to reach ten. I know - sad huh. 

I want to put it on a US advertising forum and I need the magic number ten. Ta! xx


Terry Tyler Review

Cathy Ryan Review

Georgia Rose Review

E Lindley's Review

Early Interview about Hollywood Shakedown - Gladiators Pen

If  you have done something with Hollywood and I have forgotten, or didn't know, then drop me a line and I shall include it. Ta!

1 comment:

  1. Loved Mon Marky, and you're quite right about that chapter, excellent stuff. Fab shoes! And the ending. It's a bloody brilliant ending. Took me completely by surprise and it's one of those moments where you're thinking one thing and then whoaaaa it's gone somewhere else - very clever.