Thursday, June 26, 2008


Tags are marvellous for bloggers who can't think what to write today other than posting pictures of their own publicity materials... I'm grateful, therefore, to Alis Hawkins for putting up the following open-invitation tag on her own blog. Without further ado, here goes:

What was I doing ten years ago

Finishing my first novel, The Zael Inheritance. For all its flaws, I still have some affection for it, and its anti-heroine remains in my eyes the best character I've ever written. I was also a month into speed-dating one of my work colleagues--ten years later we are still speed-dating...

Professionally I was doing much the same things with spreadsheets as I do today.

The Vance Integral Edition, a hobby which was to fill much of the intervening period, was still a year away.

Five things on my to-do list for today
  1. Go running at lunchtime
  2. Find a minimally unflattering hi-res photograph, preferably of myself, to send to the Portsmouth Evening News for a story they are running on The Dog of the North
  3. Compere this morning's 'Finance Briefing' at work
  4. Continue re-reading the first draft of The Last Free City, despite my resolution not to...
  5. Watch Russia vs Spain in the Euro2008 semi-final
What would I do if I were a billionaire

Buy an island, pay people of five feet two and under to live there, and stride through the streets I had constructed, head and shoulders above everyone else. With money left over I would invest in telecommunication jamming equipment and turn it on at 7:30 when the BBC transmits its dismal 'drama' of grunting half-human beasts, EastEnders.

Oh, and end world poverty.

Three bad habits I've got

Only three?
  1. Untidiness
  2. Laziness
  3. Coveting my neighbour's ass (not as kinky in the UK as the US, but clearly not a good habit))
Snacks I enjoy

Muesli. Chocolate. Yoghurt-coated raisins. Curious crisps/chips from America shaped like UFOs.

The last five books I've read

How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them—A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman.
As recommended by David Isaak. Can be read just for laughs, but if you don't recognise a liberal sprinkling of your own faults here, you're in denial.

Sword Song by Bernard Cornwell
Sorry, Bernard, I like your books normally but this was grim. A largely unsympathetic hero gets himself into various spots of bother, all of which he gets out of by virtue of being an invincible warrior. I gave up halfway through, almost unheard of for me. If you're going to write a book with only one real character, he needs to be a bit more nuanced than this. Like Michael Moorcock's Elric novels but without the irony.

Dirty Money by Richard Stark
The latest Parker novel. Not his best, by any means, but Stark operating at 80% is still pretty damn impressive. The books have been getting longer which dilutes their sinewy power, but Stark remains one of the greats

The Sleepwalker's Introduction to Flight by Sion Scott-Wilson
At once funny, touching and anarchic, this is a "typical" Macmillan New Writing effort--defying ready classification but beautifully written and highly intelligent. The closest match I can think of is Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.

It terrifies me when MNW publish stuff this good... it raises expectations of my own work which may not be satisified!

Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie
As previously blogged. Brilliant character-driven fantasy, subversive and hard-edged.

Cop-Hater by Ed McBain
The first of McBain's 87th Precinct novels, this was credited as launching the police-procedural sub-genre. Others have subsequently done this much better, and I wasn't gripped enough to expect to read more of these any time soon.

Five jobs I've had

Deckchair attendant (best job ever...)
Identity parade stooge

Five places I've lived

Willard Price's Adventure series
Jack Vance's Gaean Reach
E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman universe
Mondia, the setting for Dragonchaser and The Dog of the North

Oh, real places...

Sandown, Isle of Wight
Grim seaside resort

Shanklin, Isle of Wight
Less grim seaside resort

Hey, this one we like!

Herne Bay
Grim seaside resort. The arsehole of the universe.

But--for those who know Bosham--not the posh bit.

If anyone else would like to be tagged, please treat this as your invitation.


Alis said...

Nice one, Tim. I know it's nosey of me but I'm always fascinated by these little slices of other writers' lives!

Unknown said...

I've just finished reading Cop-Hater! Didn't do a lot for me, either.

David Isaak said...

So what's up with these grim or ominous seaside resorts (like Allcombe)?

We don't seem to have those in the US. Tacky, yes, or airheaded, or kitschy or snobby. But noir-ish seaside resorts?

Is this a cultural thing, or a climate thing?

Tim Stretton said...

David, interesting question. These seaside resorts are part of a British tradition, and Allcombe will be familiar to all.

It's not a climate thing--I preferred (if that's the word) these towns in the winter. It's something to do with scale: in the summer is far too small for all the tourists who drop their litter and kebabs wherever they happen to be; in the winter it's like a house where all the children have left home. Add in that half the population have seasonal jobs and are unemployable for the rest of the year, and grimness is guaranteed...

Alis, what's your take on this? In Whitstable and Herne Bay you have two archetypally depressing seaside resorts - or am I missing something?

Sion Scott-Wilson said...

Hi Tim,
Many thanks for the kind words about 'Sleepwalker's'. I'm very touched and delighted that you enjoyed it.
I do wish you the best for The Dog of the North - it's kicking off on Amazon.


Alis said...

Hi Tim - though Herne Bay is generally agreed to be grim, it's almost a heresy around here not to like Whitstable with its cutesy little beach huts and High Street which looks like it escaped from the 1950s. Why, incidentally, is it considered good if your High Stree has no chain stores? People wax lyrical about little boutique shops but, in my experience, they are horrendously expensive and never have what you want. But I digress. I am a perpetrator of the don't like Whitstable heresy. People rave about the beach - I think any beach not deserted, rocky, sandy and possessed of crashing waves (like the ones I grew up with in W Wales) aren't really beaches at all, just places where the land happens to meet the sea. I dislike seaside towns almost on principle for this reason. So in short, despite the legions of trust-funded Londoners who have moved down to Whitstable in recent years (they're known as the DFLs, the down-from-Londoners) and who have pushed prices for titchy little terraced houses beyond even those in Canterbury (a far superior town, nay city) I say I'm with you Tim, not a fan. Though it's still better than Herne Bay.
By the way, when did you live in Canterbury?

Tim Stretton said...

Alis, I lived in Canterbury (well, the university halls of residence at the top of the hill) in 1986/87; and then for the two years after the Fall in the aforementioned Herne Bay.

Whitstable did nothing for me although it lacked the resolute seediness of Herne Bay. My university tutor boasted about "the lass I shagged in Tankerton" (part of Whitstable) the first time I met him, and that rather put me off the place. Unfair, really, as the liaison in question took place in 1974...