Friday, August 10, 2007

My Desk

This is just a short post, in advance of a long rant to come. I had a film crew in my house today, putting together shots for a documentary that may come to fruition over the coming year. They were filming in my office, which was not quite what it might have been, given that my house was up for sale - and was subsequently sold - while I was touring. (It was considerably neater, for a start.) But it did force me to view my workspace through other people's eyes, so I thought I might describe it as, when I move, the space in which I have written at least six books will cease to be . . .

1) Pine desk, with large screen Apple computer, a lamp to the left, a printer to the right.

2) A framed Kinky Friedman display, comprising an 'Elect Kinky Friedman Justice of the Peace, Pct 1, May 3, 1986' poster - signed 'For John - from a Texas Jewboy to an Irish Catholic. See you in hell.' - and a Kinky Friedman handkerchief, both souvenirs of the first author interview I ever conducted. I recall that my friends and I took him out drinking the following night, and made him run for a bus, cigar in mouth. I think it took a toll on his health . . .

3) A framed poster of Akira Kurosawa's 'Ran', his adaptation of 'King Lear'. Fantastic poster - armed riders crossing a battlefield littered with corpses - but the film, like the play, goes on a bit when it comes to Lear's death. (Clearly, I have a limited career as a Shakespeare scholar . . .); and a signed copy of Johnny Cash's album 'At Folsom Prison', because some people are just legends.

4) A signed copy of Thin Lizzy's 'Johnny The Fox', because Phil Lynott was great but blew it in the end.

5 A framed, signed image of Hunter S. Thompson's 1970 campaign poster for sheriff of Aspen, Colorado. (Its companion piece, also signed, is a Woody Creek caucus poster announcing that "There is some shit we won't eat . . .") Hunter S. Thompson made me want to be a journalist, but also made me realize that you can't be a journalist by imitating Hunter S. Thompson.

6) To the left, a bookshelf, filled with assorted paperbacks and greeting cards, as well as a fluffy green Cthulu doll (much more interesting and amusing than the Lovecraft stories that inspired it - sorry, Lovecraft fans); a teddy bear in Liverpool strip from the lovely Jayne, who runs the discussion forum; a masked flying monkey in a cape that screeches when it hits an object; two greeting cards, one of which depicts Lassie attempting to rescue a drowning man, and being told to get help, following which Lassie sees a psychiatrist; assorted notes and research notes for The Reapers, including extensive details of sportsmen who have been accused, or convicted, of crimes; and a shredder, in case the cops or the revenue raid me.

7) Another bookshelf, filled with research books, including enough books on killing and disguising the act to raise the eyebrows of even the most accommodating of cops, should that raid ever happen; a 'PARKER' Mustang license plate from Maine, a gift from the spectacularly decent Jordan clan; and an oar from Eagle Lake, a souvenir of the research for 'The Killing Kind'.

8) A disguised filing cabinet, also in pine, dominated by a TV/ VCR/ DVD that I never use; a Sherlock Holmes chess set from an ex-girlfriend, even though I'm not smart enough to play chess; books on prostitution and human trafficking (research, officer, honest!); a signed Liverpool F.C. jersey (from Gerard Houllier's final, desperately disappointing season); signed photos of Ali and Hank Williams; a signed 'Raging Bull' poster (never hung); a sad painting of a couple in the aftermath of an argument, the girl sitting on the floor with her head in her hands, the boy at his desk, a cat between them, the painting bought in Ann Arbor, Michigan, at a student exhibition.

9) More shelves, these ones containing the only indication in the house that I might be an author, as they hold a copy of each one of my books, whether in English or translation, as well as copies of all of Ross Macdonald's books, to remind me that I'm not really very good after all.

10) Signed vinyl records above the shelf, including a signed Kris Kristofferson album ('Jesus Was A Capricorn'), also signed by Rita Coolidge, and a signed copy of Japan's 'Quiet Life', because I was a teenager once. There is also a signed Willie Nelson/ Merle Haggard album ('Pancho and Lefty') because some other people are also legends.

11) A couch.

12) A rug.

13) An air conditioner, largely unused.

15) A skylight.

16) A lot of books that I haven't read, and some that I have.

Pretty soon, I'm going to have to leave this office. I'll do so with a certain amout of regret. My best work - so far - has been done here and I suppose that I worry, in the superstitious way of writers, that when I move out I will leave my best work behind me. I hope that it isn't so. This room has been good to me. It was the first room that I furnished and equipped to serve as an office, an acknowledgment that, for better or worse, I was going to be a full-time writer, and this would be the space in which I worked. Every book since/ including 'Bad Men', I think, has been written or completed here. I will be sorry to depart. I can only hope that I can make a space for myself in my new house, and that whatever talent I have will accompany me there. After all, it would be rather worrying if the purchaser took occupancy of this space, looked around and thought: "Funny, I suddenly feel like writing a book . . ."

This week John read

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (and wondered why it took him as long to read as Dickens's Our Mutual Friend , without similar rewards . . .)

and listened to

Themependium by John Barry

Fur and Gold by Bat For Lashes


thomashyland said...

If memory serves, it was 1967 and I was still in uniform and returning from my own version of hell. Given that frame of reference, I read HST’s voyeuristic version of ‘Hell on wheels’ as fascinating and weird over-the-top humor and as something that deservedly resulted in a major a**-kicking.

Thank you for sharing a description of the ‘space’ inside of which you created your world of Charlie Parker. And best wishes for the ‘space’ that continues wherever you go.

Barbarella said...

Hello John,

Good luck with your move. I also live in the area and have seen you now and then. I even feel like I know you a teensy bit as you came into a bookshop that I worked in about eight years ago(!) to sign a book whose cover depicted people hanging from a tree! eek! I remember thinking "poor guy, we'll never sell a book with a cover like that." I tried to say something encouraging to make you feel better. Well, I didn't know any better then. Anyway I was struck at the time by your graciousness and beautiful voice which I've never forgotten. You seem like a sensitive soul. I just thought I'd share that for what its worth. Best wishes to you on your journey.


Please excuse any bad grammar and punctuation.

John said...

Well, Barb, be sure to say hello next time. And I probably looked at my own books on occasion and, for slightly different reasons, thought to myself: crumbs, is anyone going to buy this . . .?

Barbarella said...

OK John, should fortune favour and I see you, I will sneak up and go BOO! (only joking, even if I were tempted, I'm way too polite.) I am enjoying reading your absorbing blog. Thank you for being there! Perhaps sometime you could recommend me one of your books that is not too grisly. I'm currently reading Ian McEwans 'Endurance' (VG) and after finishing would very much like to read one of yours. It takes me bloody ages to finish a book (lips practically move) so it could be a while!

Lots of good wishes to you,

PS. You are too modest I'm sure.

Barbarella said...

Oops! silly me. I meant 'Enduring Love'

Hopelessly Hopeful said...

Just finished reading "The book of lost things" last night and started it over right away. It's a habit of mine to reread books I love. I had never heard of you before, the book is borrowed. Am afraid I must buy an other one to return since the suspense caused me to grip the book so tight it's dog-eared now. I started out thinking this would be a wonderful book to share with my 12 year old son, since it reminded me of the love of reading my children and I share; but I think perhaps not. No offense meant, just think he should wait. I was suprise to learn that you frequent Maine, my adopted home state. The way life should be, as they say. I was also suprised that "The deathly hallows" was not as much to your liking, maybe (for adults) the series is best read through a mother's eyes. Regardless, I can't wait to read more of your books. Hope I can meet you next time you visit the state. I'll be the one with the dog-eared book to sign at the back of the line.

kris said...

I am reading Nocturne and enjoying it. I gave it to my husband for his birthday but he said, and I quote, "it creeps me out!" Thought you might feel some victory there. I would. So, after going to amazon to see what others thought I saw your posts and thought - this guy should have a blog. Googled and viola!

Barbarella said...

Hi John,
I purchased 'The White Road' when in town on Saturday in the lashings of rain. Went for that one cos the hooded figure on the front reminded me of a ghost(?) that my friend and I saw when we were exploring old convent grounds.
Well, I was immediately drawn in and managed to forget for a while that my trousers felt like wet cardboard. And had yummy latte too so it altogether was quite pleasant.
All the best,
God Bless three times and three spits for luck (an Irish blessing).

xSianx said...

Dear John [ hope that does not sound over-familiar, sorry, if that is so ].
Thankyou for sharing. I am an avid, reader, but generally in the fantasy or historical genre. However, I picked up '' Every Dead Thing '' a few years ago. I had , previously, read some '' thrillers '' and not been entertained, but quite disturbed, and some I even lost interest in before completing.
The supernatural elements in that novel enthralled me, and although I was yes, disturbed and made to think, I finished it with that truly terrific sense of having absorbed a superb '' story ''. You wont find much on my bookshelves, besides Tolkien [ everything ] and Guy kay, David Gemmell and a lot of non-fiction reference books about history, nature etc. I tend to buy things then give them to an oxfam book shop, but yours stay, and I am ashamed to say that the paperbacks have the extremely '' well read '' look to them that my most loved books invariably show. But the state of my books defines how frequently I read them and take them places as indispensible to my enjoyment.
I would just like to say thankyou so much for your novels; to me they are unique and addictive. If I gush more I will sound like some fawning fan, but I truly am '' sucked in '' by your writing, and often finish one and then pick up another , or go back and start again. I do that with so few authors. There is you, and er.. Tolkien.
I've been writing for about 24 years. never, ever to any publishable standard, of course, but that is why I so admire and respect authors. But your work is so very different , it is, to me, something extremely special.
And very best of luck with all you are doing.

lynotts said...

John, just wondering where you got the character Lynott from in The Reapers, cheers Mags Lynott