Mandy, Charlie & Mary-Jane – Why 2005?

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Some of those who’ve seen the proofs for my new novel Mandy, Charlie & Mary-Jane (published 26 February 2013) have asked me why I used a 2005 setting for the book. The answer is quite simple, it was contemporary as I wrote, I started the book when I was writer-in-residence at York University in May and June of that year, then completed it over the summer of 2005. Therefore the exhibitions and news events I mention were what was going on around me.

The biggest news event of 2005 in the UK was the 7/7 bombings in London. I was back home from York when these took place and experienced at first hand the chaos the attacks caused around London. The 7 July 2005 London bombings (often referred to as 7/7) were a series of co-ordinated suicide attacks in London which targeted civilians using the public transport system during the morning rush hour.

On the morning of Thursday, 7 July 2005, four Islamist home-grown terrorists detonated four bombs, three in quick succession aboard London Underground trains across the city and, later, a fourth on a double-decker bus in Tavistock Square. Fifty-two civilians and the four bombers were killed in the attacks, and over 700 more were injured. Homemade organic peroxide–based devices packed into rucksacks caused the explosions. The bombings were followed exactly two weeks later by a further series of attempted attacks.

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The 7/7 bombings were incorporated into the narrative of Mandy, Charlie & Mary-Jane and sensitivity about the subject in its immediate aftermath was such that when I’d completed the book my treatment of the subject didn’t go down well with UK publishers. They didn’t seem to understand that the narrator is deluded when he wrongly concludes the 7/7 bombings were carried out by pagans and decides to emulate them.  Among my many intentions was a desire to parody the ridiculous 7/7 conspiracy theories that emerged very quickly after the bombings, and to try to get people to see that all terrorists are reactionary scumbags regardless of the ideology they spout (and this applies to Leninist or anarchist terrorists as much as pagans or those who claim they are ‘making the world safe for democracy’).

Since among other things editors were wary of taking on a novel that was narrated by a suicide bomber, Mandy, Charlie & Mary-Jane didn’t find a publisher in the mid-noughties despite being sent to the usual UK based suspects. My last book Blood Rites of the Bourgeoisie was completed 5 years after Mandy, Charlie & Mary-Jane and there was no delay in its publication. Blood Rites was also started but not finished when I had a writer-in-residence post, but at Strathclyde University rather than York. Aside from these two anti-novels, none of my other books were written (or rather partly written) as a writer-in-residence.

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