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LIZA CODY newsletter

August 30, 2013

Hey there.

Hope you’re having a great summer (or winter, if you’re way down south.)

Busy here: I’ve just finished the manuscript of a novel called LADY BAG. It’s about a rough-sleeping woman and her dog. I’d say that the dog, Electra, is the most reasonable character in the book. Certainly she was a lot of fun to write. The picture above is of her. Meanwhile here is most of the first chapter.

“ The silvery man looked plump and prosperous in his fine wool coat. Through the glass door he’d seemed good natured as well. My mistake. Never judge a man through glass. Always wait till you can smell him. This one smelled of tomato soup and single malt – a smug smell.
He said, ‘We’ve all got to work – except, apparently, you. Why should I give you money? No one gives me any.’
He pinned me back against a no-parking sign with contemptuous eyes, and in front of all the city workers rushing to go home he said, ‘I’m not going to feed your habit or encourage your laziness.’ He had a rich brassy voice, loud enough to be heard a mile off.
Then he walked away. I hate it when they do that. It’s like saying, ‘I don’t even want to look at you.’
What does he mean – no one gives him any money? What about all the tax breaks, business expenses and bonuses? People are giving him money all the time.
You think I don’t know about playing the system? I haven’t always looked like this, you know. I wasn’t born out here. If you make your mind up about me too quickly you’ll be as guilty of bigotry as that snotty guy.
Electra pushed her wet snout into my hand and I stroked her sleek narrow skull. ‘Never mind,’ I said.
Public rejection is hard to recover from. Bastards like him in their clean wool coats never imagine you might need a pick-me-up to help swallow their self-righteous words.
A woman in a black city suit said, ‘I heard that.’ She held out a pound coin. ‘I’m not saying I disagree, but what about the dog?’ She smelled far more womanly than she looked – of breath mints and rose-water.
I held my hand out for the coin. At the last moment she snatched it away and said, ‘This is for the greyhound; not you. You’ve got to promise you’ll spend it on him.’ Like she was offering me a fortune instead of one measly pound coin that would hardly feed Electra her supper.
‘Her,’ I said. ‘She’s called Electra. She’s a rescue dog. If I don’t look after her the animal shelter people can take her away.’
‘I should hope so,’ the woman said. ‘Why did you name her after a girl who killed her own mother?’ Maybe the breath mints covered the acid scent of cheap white wine.
I said, ‘Her racing name was RPA Radiovista’s Electra of South Slough. Nobody murdered a mother.’
‘Electra did.’ She released the coin into my hand and started to walk away.
‘Why?’ I followed. I love stories.
‘Sorry, I’ve a train to catch. Look her up. Google her.’
Of course I will, on my thousand quid laptop which I can plug into any fucking lamp-post in London. Know what? The shelter where I sometimes sleep makes you buy a key before they let you charge your mobile phone for an hour. If you’ve got a mobile phone and haven’t been robbed when you were sleeping rough because your stupid dog was too much of a pussy-cat even to bark and wake you up. Murder her mother? Hah! You got that one wrong, office lady – this Electra couldn’t kill a crippled bunny. Unless of course she just stared at it with her big tragic eyes and the bunny committed suicide out of sympathy.
Those eyes are why I got her in the first place. Electra can screw coin out of the coldest of hard hearts. Me? They don’t care if I live or die, but then I’m not Ms Pitiful like she is. Sometimes when I really need extra cash I bandage her paws. It isn’t dishonest: she actually does have arthritis in her legs and feet. A lot of ex racing dogs do, and trudging around on stone-cold pavements doesn’t help. Bandages just make her pain visible. And they make me look like the caring owner I am when normally nobody sees me at all.
People like dogs more than they like people. And they’re right. You can actually help a dog but you can never really help people.
Look at me and Electra – she’s old and arthritic. The bastards who raced her would’ve put her down. When I first got her all she knew how to do was run, but not fast enough any more to escape a lethal injection. She didn’t know how to sit on a sofa and be sociable or sleep snuggled up. She’d never seen a sofa in her life and greyhound trainers don’t snuggle worth a damn.
I took her and fed her and kept her warm. I’ll feed her and keep her till the day one of us dies. I wouldn’t do that for a broken down old human athlete with social problems, would I? And nor would you, unless you were maybe a saint or related by blood or way better at solving human problems than I am.
When I first got her she used to stand with her tail between her legs, shivering and not making eye contact. She used to flinch when anyone tried to touch her. Now she lets strangers give her a pat and she sticks her nose into my hand when she wants to be noticed and petted. She just got into the habit of trusting me and trust made her happier. You could never do anything that simple for a human being. I think people are too complicated to be content with simple happiness. That’s why I’d rather talk to Electra than anyone else on earth.
We wandered down St Martins Lane towards Trafalgar Square where there are masses of tourists to listen to and someone always makes you laugh by jumping in the fountains or falling off one of the bronze lions.
That’s when I bumped into the Devil, also known as Gram Attwood, coming out of the National Portrait Gallery. Him with his cool blue eyes and his vicious little smile. I didn’t think it was vicious in the old days – I thought it was cute. I thought he was cute. And he was – for a thief and a killer. ”

This is a subject I’m very interested in because in my distant past, before becoming a boring, respectable member of society, I too was homeless for a while – a time of my life I won’t forget in a hurry. I wish I’d had a dog for company then.

I don’t have a publication date for the novel yet but I’ll let you know when I do.

Otherwise, I recently spent a few days in Weymouth, Portland and Chesil Beach – a quintessential English seaside experience (there are a couple of pictures on my website). The only thing I didn’t do was a donkey ride. Actually I don’t think donkey rides are allowed in Weymouth – I’ve certainly never seen donkeys on the beach there. Probably just as well, considering my age…

Be well, be lucky, Liza

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.