Saturday 13 December 2014

Vienna in the cutting bin

I’m staring at my typewriter. One of the most difficult things about writing a story is what to put in and what to leave out. I’m currently putting the finishing touches to a new edition of Neville Changes Villages but I’m struggling with the beginning. I want to add an extra scene which has Neville Palmer standing on a street corner in fifties’ London, posing in his Teddy Boy finery and contemplating the drab
surroundings.  The scene is deliberately ambiguous. At first we’re not sure if he’s actually in the fifties, remembering or simply imagining it. Neville’s inner psychological world is an oddball mix of past and present and I want the reader to experience this.  

Trouble is that before this scene I’ve already put things in to introduce Neville and explain a little about Teddy Boys.  There is an extract from a newspaper in 1951 and a school letter in 1975. The first is a pompous, strident editorial about the dangers of Teddy Boys and the second from a headmaster explaining why Neville has been excluded again.   

So now I’m wondering whether having the two extracts plus the new scene (and there’s a frame narrative) could slow the novel down. Then last night I thumbed through Charles Drazin’s superb book on the British noir classic The Third Man. He describes how the director Carol Reed and his assistant Guy Hamilton discussed the reels of beautiful,
magical film footage they’d taken of post-war Vienna.  Reed said the story was paramount and nothing should be allowed to get in the way. If the story demanded you go from A to C then you didn’t need B. Reed agonised for days but in the end most of the footage ended up in the cutting bin. The rest, as they say, is history. A brilliant film. And no doubt partly due to Carol’s decision to slash the Vienna footage. Less proved to be more.

So here I am staring at that typewriter, still trying to decide what to do with the street scene. Keeping it in might clutter up the beginning and get in the way of telling the story. On the other hand, the reader might really enjoy an entertaining introduction to the main character. Does the story demand I go straight from A to C or should I keep the scene?

Eventually I come to a decision and get to work on the manuscript. The clackety-clack sound of typewriter keys fills my office.

The new edition of Neville Changes Villages will be out soon.

In Search of The Third Man, Charles Drazin

Friday 31 October 2014

Zen and the Art of the Teddy Boy

I've recently launched a satirical blog aimed at providing a peculiarly 'Jack Fielding' take on films, books and anything else that wanders into my sights. I hope my readers enjoy it as much I've enjoyed putting it together!

Currently working on a brand new edition of Neville Changes Villages after buying the rights back from Bangkok Books. My aim is to streamline the narrative, inject more pace and crank up the comedy dialogue to full volume. About halfway through. The story already feels as if it has stepped into a higher gear. Neville is finally beginning to shine. Really, really pleased. 
Following Matt Carrell's advice, I'm also going to start posting Zen-related content on my blogs. The idea will be to explain some of the Zen and more general Buddhist ideas that permeate the One Hand Clapping novels (Shadows and Pagodas too, thinking about it). 

I've given all my blogs a makeover, including new background art, links and more gadgets.
After Neville I'm going to make a start on putting the finishing touches to that collection of retro sci-fi stories...

Saturday 11 October 2014

They're here! They're here!

Hat in hand, Peter dashed down the Rue de Poe. He arrived outside the public convenience opposite Madam Sebbotendorf's occult bookshop and banged on the door. "Sir! Sir!" he shouted. "They're here!"
    Cursing, crashing and banging from the other side then the door opened to reveal the Baron, buttoning up his breeches.
    "They're here, sir!"
    "Yes, yes," said the Baron. "I heard you the first time. How on earth did the Inquisition find us in Paris again? Fetch Camilla, tell her we've got to get the first coach out of here. There's not a moment to lose!"
    "No, no, you don't understand." Peter put his hat back on. "I didn't mean the Inquisition, sir. I was talking about the books."
    "Books? You mean  the spanking new edition of Mister Fielding's account of our adventures in Old Siam?"
    "Yes, a whole cart load of them have turned up at our lodgings!"
    The Baron let out a sigh of relief.
    "So no appallingly angry priests wielding pistols and crucifixes then," he said.
    "No, sir. Just the books." 
    "Excellent. Now that's the best bit of news I've heard in a long time. Come on then, Peter - let's find out what Mister Fielding has written about us!"          

The brand new edition of Shadows and Pagodas is now available in nineteenth century conveniences everywhere. 

Thursday 31 July 2014

Man arriving in a Zen ambulance

Really pleased to announce that Man in a Zen Ambulance should be out within the next few days on Kindle and in paperback. I'm really pleased with it. I hope my readers will enjoy taking a ride into the crazy Nikkatsu-inspired world of the Atomic Age!

No borders! No limits!
Meanwhile that intrepid female investigator, Suriwan na Ayutthaya, is working on her collection of exciting retro tales of crime, sci-fi and the uncanny...

Saturday 21 June 2014

Asylum bag lady provides inspiration

    “Who on earth is she?”
    “The hospital’s resident beggar,” explains Diogenes. “And I’m afraid she won’t leave until you’ve given her some money. A right pain. I’ll get one of the orderlies to turf her out.”
    “No don’t do that.”
    Standing in the doorway is an ancient creature staring straight at me. She’s wearing sandals and a filthy Soviet-era tracksuit with faded ‘CCCP’ across the chest. Her right hand is unnaturally long and misshapen like a claw. In it she’s holding a shiny black shopping bag. It’s bulging with footballs or basketballs or goodness knows what inside. There’s a terrible smell, enough to wake the dead.
    “How did she know I’m here?”
    “Everyone knows you’re here, Jack.”
    “Oh. And what on earth is in that bag?”
    “You really don’t want to know.”
    “Does she have a name, bless her?”
    “Bernard? That’s a man’s name, isn’t it?”
    “It’s a long story.”
    It’s a long story...
    I take in Bernard the Soviet bag lady as she stares at me, with that mysterious stinking bag of hers and horrible claw hand.
    “Diogenes, do us a favour and go over to the wardrobe? You’ll find a smallish book on the top shelf near the whiskey. Can you bring it over?”
     He does as he’s told. “This one?” he asks, holding up my unofficial guide to being a samurai.
     “Yeah, bring it here. Thanks.”
     I thumb through the pages. Mm, I was right. Those references to the ancient samurai custom of cutting off their dead opponents’ heads; then they used to clean them up and put them in neat little lacquered caskets. I turn my attention back to Bernard and her bag.
    “Diogenes,” I say carefully. “Do us another favour. You’ll find my wallet in the drawer.”
    “You’re actually going to give her some money?”
    “I certainly am. You see, she’s just given me an excellent idea for my latest book – maybe Zen City, too.”
    Diogenes shakes his head. “How much do you want to give her?”
    “Well, how much is an idea worth?”

Sunday 2 February 2014

Off the rails in Paraguay, interrupted

    “Are you alright, Jack?”
    I open my eyes. It’s my good friend Diogenes the municipal street cleaner. He’s standing over me and rubbing his beard, which is usually a sign of nervousness with him. A faint smell of lavender brilliantine.
    “Where the hell am I?”
    “In Hárshegy Sanitarium. He moves over to the window and pushes the slats of the blinds apart.
    “You mean the looney bin?”
    “It’s a beautiful hospital building, built in the nineteenth-century.”
Asylum for disturbed writers
    Hárshegy – I thought this place had been abandoned? What am I doing in an abandoned hospital? How on earth did I get here?”
    “We were sitting in the Snail Cafe in District VIII. You’d pulled an old train ticket out of that plastic toy dinosaur and were in the middle of telling me all about your adventures in Paraguay. Then you just tipped forward, knocked over the cucumber soup and sort of fell asleep on the table. Lulu called an ambulance. You’ve been here ever since.”
    “Blimey, how long?”
    “Three weeks.”
    “Three weeks!”
    Diogenes peers through the blinds then frowns at something happening outside. He’s paranoid at the best of times.
    “Yeah,” he continues, “you’ve been talking in your sleep. Holding imaginary conversations with dead serial killers, talking about film footage of the 1950s and all sorts of stuff I couldn’t even work out.”
    I bite my lip. I’m sure I’ve got a very urgent appointment; supposed to be somewhere unloved but interesting. After all, us writers are always on the move.
    Diogenes sighs, steps away from the window and returns to my bedside.
    That smell of lavender again.
    “Do you want the good news of the bad news, Jack?”
    “I need cheering up. Give me the good.”
    “Admiral Horthy says you should be out by the end of the week.”
    “Who in hell is he?”
    “Your doctor.”
    “I’m sorry but I thought you said ‘Admiral.’ You know, as in commander of fleets not a medical practitioner in a Victorian asylum.”    
    “I only call him that because in his spare time he designs computer games about speculative history.”
    I prop myself up on my elbow.
    “And what,” I say slowly, “is the bad news? Come on, out with it.”
    Diogenes rubs his beard again – now I know he’s nervous.
    Suddenly the door flies open.
    “That is,” he says.

Sunday 12 January 2014

Amazing footage!

Wow! Just discovered some remarkable, recently restored footage of Thailand from the 1950s. 8mm film of the Chao Praya River. In HD, too.

I can just imagine catching a glimpse of Palmer on the river bank engaged in some sort of nefarious activity...

Check it out.