May 24, 2018

How Philip Roth Nearly Killed Me.

Well, I'm sorry Philip Roth has died. But thinking about him and his idiosyncratic take on the world he lived in reminded me of an incident from long, long ago in my must-spent youth when he was very nearly responsible for my early death.

It was summertime and I'd driven down to beautiful Lyme Regis. I was, I hoped at the time, a rebel, a risk-taker and experimental in my attitude to experience. In other words, I was an art student who'd read Jack Keroac, de Quincey and many others. And I'd probably understood very little. But on this day I had a little mescaline in one pocket, Keat's Endymion in another, and a copy of Portnoy's Complaint in my bag.

I settled on a cliff top overlooking a truly spectacular view and took the mescaline. I sat crossed legged with a notebook in front of me ready to draw my visions, or the seascape in front of me , or to write poetry.

Nothing happened. There were no imaginings of transcendental beauty, no incredible creativity, and no words of wit or wisdom occurred to me.

I began to get bored so I took Portnoy's Complaint out of my bag, propped myself on my elbows and began to read. Previously I hadn't been particularly entranced by a story about a young guy's wanking history but after about twenty minutes I began to laugh. Every word Philip Roth wrote struck me as so hysterically funny that I was rolling on the ground convulsed with unstoppable laughter.

A couple of ramblers very fortuitously interrupted me just me as I was about to roll off the edge of the cliff. I'd like to take this late opportunity to thank them for saving my life, and for the bottled water they made me drink; less for the lecture, but hey, life-savers don't have to be perfect.

And writers don't have to be killers. But. Philip Roth nearly was.

Selected Works

Don't judge a book by its cover, or a bag lady by her appearance. "I didn't always look like this," she says. "Being barmy doesn't mean I'm stupid." Lady Bag does have her problems - her close relationship with cheap red wine, for example. When she gets hammered she talks to her dog. When she's extra-hammered her dog talks to her. Guess who makes better sense. She and her greyhound, Electra, wander through the streets of London, seeing a Dickensian side of the capital city that's only visible to the homeless. Together they accept the kindness or unkindness of strangers with the same wry patience. Until, on one dreadful day, they meet the Devil outside the National Portrait Gallery.
All Birdie Walker wants is some justice for her husband, Jack. But since Jack was a rock star and the justice has to come from the music business, Birdie absolutely has to take some extreme measures.Click on the title for more information.
Short stories
All my short stories up to 2003 are in this collection. It includes two written specially. Click on the title for a bit about how I came to write short stories and more information.
The Anna Lee series
I wrote six novels about Anna Lee. Click on the titles for more information.
The Bucket Nut Trilogy
Professional wrestler Eva Wylie appeared in three novels in the '90s. Click on the titles for more information.
Other stand-alone novels
RIFT is set in the Ethiopia of the 1970s. BALLAD is the story of a girl with a miraculous musical talent. MISS TERRY is the story of what happens to someone who looks different from her neighbours when a grisly discovery is made. Click on the titles for more information.
The story collections I co-edited for Britain's Crime Writers' Association.
In the early '90s I helped edit these three books - aiming them to be more annuals than anthologies. They include many things we're proud to have published. Click on the titles for more information.