My new novel Mandy, Charlie & Mary-Jane (published on 26 February 2013) was in part inspired by certain reviewers suggesting some of my earlier novels might be English equivalents of American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. The books that particularly attracted this comparison were Come Before Christ & Murder Love, 69 Things To Do With A Dead Princess and Down & Out In Shoreditch & Hoxton. The reviewers concerned were trying to place me in a mainstream context and were doing no more (and no less) than what was expected of them as journalists. However, I know I’m a far better writer than Bret Easton Ellis – who I still view as unusual for a successful writer because he can actually write reasonably well – and so I decided to make a burlesque parody of what critics were saying about me.
What Bret Easton Ellis does in his books is go for a very steady and even tone, so that his prose is never going to take off. This is exactly the opposite of what I aim to do; I like my novels to be conceptually insane and to blast off into the stratosphere. So while elements of Mandy, Charlie & Mary-Jane are very deliberately every bit as banal as American Psycho at the end it takes you somewhere Ellis wouldn’t because the narrator is dead and describing hell (which is rather like South Kensington in London). And rather than evenness of tone I’ve always aimed for a collage effect with sudden variations, and this element is particularly important in the novels which led to my being erroneously compared to Ellis.
Ellis cites ultra-boring rock celebrities like Phil Collins as the musical taste of his American Psycho, whereas my narrator Charlie Templeton (a bottom feeding cultural studies academic) prefers his records and his films to be more obscure. Obscurity is something novelists wanting to enter the mainstream try to avoid; they talk about what people already know, and in terms of pop music this means The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, or dinosaur rock acts like Led Zeppelin. Since all this mainstream music is bad (like Phil Collins) I prefer not to invoke it in my novels.
Likewise when it comes to film novelists with their eye on the mainstream like to cite Hollywood celluloid crapola made by the likes of Steven Spielberg or Francis Ford Coppola. By way of contrast my narrator invokes Eurosleaze by directors such as Jess Franco, Jean Rollin, Lucio Fulci and Ruggero Deodato. So if you can’t think outside the box office bestseller list and want to have all your prejudices confirmed by some complete nerd, go and read a bestselling author or some wannabe member of the so-called literary elite. On the other hand if you’d prefer to get your rocks off on something forward thrusting, exciting and challenging, you’d be better off with Mandy, Charlie and Mary-Jane!
And to think I only starting writing novels because these days if you want to read a good book you have to write it first yourself!