Tag Archives: Danny

The night I met Danny

I met Danny last night. This was unexpected because in all the years since I wrote the book I have never met him. I’ve always thought it was odd. He was in my head so much, for so many years, why had I never actually met him? I’d met John, even talked to him once or twice, but Danny was a cipher, as big a mystery as he was when I first set pen to paper.

My very first thought on meeting him was one of pleasant startlement. I even thought the words, “Oh, he’s actually real.” It was more elated than that banality would suggest: a piquant mix of surprise, sadness and delight. I did a double-take, unintentionally alerting him to my presence, the way you do when you see someone you know, or you are attracted to a stranger across a room. You don’t want to stare, or be caught gazing for more than three seconds, or whatever it is, in case you reveal too much of yourself, but your brain has to catch up, yell at you loud enough, rummage through a mental filing cabinet trying to save you from yourself and get you moving again before you blurt out something inappropriate.

Not in this case. I knew him instantly, even although he didn’t look exactly like I expected him to. But then they never do.

We were in an old disused shop in West Cumbria. That’s West, the industrial side, not the pretty side that everyone knows. DANNY is set in the forgotten side, the abandoned side, the side of old open-topped mines and abandoned industrial ports and agri-farms that aren’t big enough to cut it in the EEC. Only right we should all have been bundled into an old disused laundrette or dry-cleaners.

We’d all been in the same night club, and there had been a drugs raid and the police had simply rounded everybody up and shoved them in this shop until they could sort out who’d seen what and been where. It had soiled maroon carpeting and all the counters had been ripped up, with dangerous holes in the concrete floor and odd circles cut out the black-stained nylon where God-knows-what had passed through them.

Danny was sitting against one wall on a grey plastic stacking chair. Him and four other boys, and the first thing that struck me about him was “God, his hair really is that colour”. Let me tell you, that boy’s hair is dark. I am not at all surprised that people (annoyingly) always think it looks dyed when they meet him. To be honest, I always thought they were all suffering some kind of mass delusion brought on by lust and erotomania, but it’s a real genuine ruby red. It would be rich chestnut if there was enough brown in it, but there isn’t. The red on the book jackets isn’t right at all, but there, book covers never do live up to your idea of someone.

Secondly, his hair is softer, the ‘curls’ more like ringlets/waves. I always thought his hair would be tightly curled, if chaotic, but it’s not. If I had to pick any ‘jacket boy’, I’d say his hair looked most like the boy on the Hope House cover, although not in colour. We definitely got the colour wrong.

On the tail of that realisation, I thought, “He looks so young“. I hadn’t expected that, that he’d be so young, so not quite formed. He was more narrow-shouldered than I expected, although still as lean, slightly hollow. He was dressed in a black shirt and dark blue trousers. If I was forced to describe them, I’d call them midnight blue jeans – not denim, just cotton – kind of soft, brushed-looking and a brown leather belt.

He was sitting forward, hands dangling between his legs – with the other boys, but not of them. He looked like he’d been rounded up with strangers, like he’d been there on his own, like the proverbial lone wolf wandering about in the club, lonely or predatory. I’m not sure which.

To be honest, he didn’t look like he could, or ever would, be with anyone. He sat back and looked up, caught me entranced, like a rabbit in headlights. His eyes narrowed, focussed, as if to say “Do I know you?” As if he was reaching far into his memory, trying to dig for someone he knew years ago. Trying to catch some tenuous connection that I was unwittingly handing out to him.

But I saw a glimpse, perhaps under it, perhaps running ahead of it, perhaps there all along – just disguised because it was the politic thing to do; I saw that inch of calculation – although that isn’t fair; maybe resignation is a better word – that look of ‘What does she want of me?’ But by then I’d moved away, been shepherded into a back room where there was a perfectly round, deep, drilled hole in the floor filled with a mess of mixed coins. Drug money? Bloody strange drug money, but not for a hole in the wall town like this, I suppose. Kids buying ecstasy tablets with loose change. That was Maryport, at least at two in the morning in this surreal dream world.

I was half-interested in the weird hole in the floor, but more drawn to what was behind me. Danny, actually sitting there, like a real live person.

I turned round, saw him in profile, still sitting there on the end. He didn’t look at me until he stood up some minutes later, being herded out again: the police were done with them, or they were being taken somewhere else. Who knows?

He looked up, as his body was turning away, looked directly at me, as if he’d known I was there all along and had merely wanted an excuse to look back, as if he was grabbing at a last chance. He looked as if he was in handcuffs – why, for God’s sake?

He raised his head; that little upward tilt that men do with their chins. It’s almost peculiarly Northern, working class, something of strong, silent types. It’s a sort of “Ayup” of recognition, done without words. A thing that men generally do in salute to other men. It’s an acknowledgment.

He’d acknowledged me. He knew who I was.

We couldn’t speak, we couldn’t talk. We’d never be allowed to actually meet, have any kind of remotely meaningful connection. We were ships passing in the night. Two people who had come so close, who knew of each other, but not each other. He was saying “I see you, I know who you are. You are not my enemy.” No-one would ever be his friend. He was beyond that. Locked out forever. But I’d got close enough. I’d met Danny, in the flesh.

And the thing I felt about him most? The single strongest thing that struck me about him? It wasn’t his beauty, or his allure or his captivating perfection. Sitting in that chair, resigned, separated somehow from everyone around him, the one thing that struck me above all else, when I got past him actually being there at all, was how very sad he was. Sadder than sad. Beyond all sad.

And I realise I never did him justice. I don’t think I ever really captured him at all. And I’m more sorry than he’ll ever know.

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A Ten-page Description of Curtains by Jodie Rhodes

Hello, the robots have left and the humans are back running the asylum. And here is our first guest blogger, Ms Jodie Rhodes, talking on her specialist subject, The DANNY Quadrilogy. What she doesn’t know about DANNY hasn’t been written yet. In the following masterpiece, she manages to insult best-sellers, people who read best-sellers, people who write ‘message’ fiction, probably people who read ‘message’ fiction, and dogs. Okay, maybe not dogs, but that’s only because she hasn’t started on them yet. Anyway, her sister has a dog and she’s scared of her sister (with good reason). All told, a perfect start to the guest blogging season. Roll on her analysis of Why Gossip Girl is the New Vanity Fair…

DANNY is very different from other books; there are many reasons for this but I think they all come under the heading of fearlessness. Every aspect of DANNY is fearless. It doesn’t pander to its readers and it doesn’t follow the rules of best selling (in other words bland) fiction.

There are many works of fiction, but in my opinion they can all fall into three categories. One category is fiction that has no point whatsoever, it has no message to send, nothing to make us think, it is written for writing’s sake. This type of fiction has so many convoluted concepts in it, both in narrative style and story, that it confuses people into thinking it must be an excellent work of art. Really these are big books of nothing; it’s a slight-of-hand trick. The authors seem to say; look how many words I know, look how many story lines I can control at the same time, look how many characters’ names I can throw at you, and I can fill my book with the minutest research into a fraction of the book’s subject. They do all of this because if you look closely they haven’t a clue what their actual story is.

The books don’t have a point to them so they try to camouflage this fact with bucketfuls of literary ‘stuff’. Detailed description, exotic character names, annoying cardboard cut-out characters, convoluted story lines. In my opinion, these all add up to bad writing. Books that fall into this category are poison; there is no need for them to reach anyone’s eyes. A work of fiction that has nothing to say to its readers should be passed over at the first glance; unfortunately these books seem to be the majorities that fill the best sellers list.

They rely on the general stupidity of the masses, to confuse them enough so that they believe they have enjoyed the book without having a clue what it was about. As most people do not want to think for themselves it usually turns out that if a few people decide it is a work of genius then apparently it is. People will jump on the band wagon in a re-enactment of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

The second category is a million miles better than the first, but it has its flaws. These are the fiction books that have a point to make and choose to shove it down the readers’ throat. The good thing about this category is obviously that they have something to say, it’s not just meaningless drivel for the author to have something to publish. If the point has merits, these books are sometimes worthwhile. If they express open-minded opinions and highlight controversial issues. It’s better to suggest that people be a little more racist for the good of the country than actually have nothing to say at all.

The bad aspects of this category are that the points are made so extensively that it is repetitious. It’s as if the author, again, assumes the reader is stupid and needs to have things spelled out for them. This category also provides the reader with the correct opinion on the books’ themes. The books tell the reader which side of the fence they have to sit on in an argument; basically, it thinks for them. These books invent a question and then tell you the answer. They are more like leaflets on a subject than a way to challenge anyone’s opinion. It’s the same principle as the first category, but instead of exploiting the readers stupidity, by fooling them into thinking a book is interesting when really it’s just boring, they pander to the stupidity and overemphasise the point. I think this is because they are scared to write subtly as they may be misunderstood and readers may take offence.

The third category is DANNY, mostly. I can think of very few books that can challenge it in this, and it is fearless. DANNY doesn’t overstate its point. It doesn’t spell out the underlying issues and messages of the book. Mostly, it definitely does not tell you how to think on any subject. DANNY presents you with a set of characters and describes their lives, truthfully and frankly. DANNY doesn’t sugar-coat harsh aspects, and it does nothing behind closed doors.

For the other books in the former categories this would be suicide. It would be way too scary to send out a book that doesn’t give the readers a definitive answer, or an opinion to assimilate rather than decide on. DANNY tells a story and lets the readers decide what they think. We gauge our own opinions of the characters, and it makes us question our own ideas on risky subjects. DANNY asks you to think about things you may not want to think about, and then to make up your own mind, free of the barriers of acceptable society. I think it asks you to find the truth, whatever that may be for you, and then to face it.

DANNY is also thousands of pages of pure story, there is no fluffing or padding. There isn’t a single word in it that doesn’t have to be there in order to fully understand the characters. There are no ten page descriptions of a set of curtains, no minute detail of the weather each day. There’s too much of a real story for that. DANNY strips everything away. Maybe this is just my preference, that I enjoy character-driven stories. However, in my opinion, books that include pages of description, a thousand adjectives for grass, and the history of one of the pots in a kitchen, are all afraid to let their characters tell the whole of the story. Their characters are too weak for that, they would not stand up alone. I think you could set DANNY anywhere, any time and probably even change the characters’ appearances, and the messages and enjoyment of it would still remain untouched.

DANNY gets this category because it does things that other authors would be terrified to attempt. Not just its controversial subject matter, but the refusal to apply political correctness to its themes. If an author attempts to write about controversial subjects they give their opinion of them immediately. The author does not want to induce any confusion that they may be condoning the wrong behaviour. They make their message so absolutely that there is little point writing the whole book. The author may as well write ‘racism is wrong’ or ‘incest is wrong’ and not waste their time building a story around three words. DANNY makes no statements, it only presents a situation without unnecessary trimmings and says ‘so what do you make of this?’ For those reasons it is fearless, and I love it.

Skin Deep

WARNING!!! AUTHOR’S SPOILER NOTE!!! The following blog discusses the terribly important subject of Danny’s beauty. It will in no (ordinary) way spoil the plot of DANNY for you BUT it could actually change your perspective on the characters completely, which may change the way you then see them within the plot structure, which may act as a spoiler. Of course, you are completely at liberty to disregard my thoughts on Danny’s beauty and stick to your own opinions – which may very well be right. I’m just warning you, if you would rather not have an idea presented to you too early, and prefer to reach these things yourself, you may not thank me for this discussion. On your own head be it…

Well, first let me thank you all for the overwhelming response to my mini-blog asking for your thoughts on DANNY’s genre. I am eternally grateful. I now know that you don’t give a fuck about DANNY’s genre, or, if you do, you don’t give a fuck about letting me in on the secret. This confirms the opinion I have long held about you all. I’ll leave you to guess what that is.

So, here I am, facing financial ruin. Actually, I’m not. It’s all over bar the shouting. What I’m facing now is the aftermath. The ruin’s the easy part; it’s the letters, the lawyers, the endless reading of self-help and of ‘How to…’ books. I know all this rigmarole by heart by now and have done it so often it holds no fear. Unfortunately it doesn’t make it any pleasanter, or easier. But still, this too will pass, as they say.

Because I’m having to overhaul my life, compulsorily as it were, I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s important and what isn’t. Something has to be quit – probably many things – so suddenly all the things you’ve been coasting on need to be seen to, thought about. Procrastination is no longer an option, and that’s usually my chief mode of (not) doing: avoiding this, avoiding that. I can fairly say that’s how I got where I am today. Take note.

All this introspection has made me think about why I am supposedly writing this blog in the first place. It’s supposed to increase my ‘profile’ and thus create book sales. Which it doesn’t. So, if you’re a wannabe writer/business person, trust me, blogs are not the answer.

However, what this scrutiny did make me realise was I don’t talk about DANNY as much as I should, chiefly because most of my blog readers have never read it. And I think we can say fairly they’re not going to either. Thus, I don’t give a fuck if it doesn’t interest them, I’m going to talk about DANNY.

Specifically, Danny himself.

Danny is beautiful. That’s referred to over and over and over again in the book. Chiefly by other people. Well, let me say something straight away – I do not believe in Danny’s beauty. I never have.

I notice that it’s the one thing that all my readers take for granted. I assume because so many people in the book talk about it, and because, of course, Danny has such ‘power’ over people that there must be some reason for it. And beauty is so valued in our culture that no-one questions it.

I did want people to question it, but I didn’t expect that to happen until well down the line. Maybe I’m just too soon. Maybe 10, 15 years from now someone might have said (they won’t now, because I’ve spoilered it) “Wait a minute, there’s no actual proof of Danny’s beauty, is there?” And then they would have looked through the book in a furtive and desperate manner to see if they could find the bit where I say he’s beautiful, only to discover it ain’t there. Then they could make themselves unpopular on the book’s – by now, many-blossomed – discussion boards, stridently declaiming, “I don’t think Danny is beautiful. I just think people think he is.” And I would nod in a sagely manner and say, “Clever boy/girl.” And feel deeply rewarded.

Danny isn’t beautiful. I’m telling you, he isn’t. I wrote the book and I should know. Think about it: right at the start, when he’s introduced – about as much of me as you get – do I ever actually say he’s beautiful? (Let me put you at rest – I don’t.) All I say is he’s a redhead. All I ever tell you about Danny is he has red hair and fair skin that burns easily. I don’t tell you what exact colour his skin is, or what shade his hair is, or what colour his eyes are, or whether he’s thick or thin, tall or short.

Of course, after that, everyone else in the book starts feeding you that information.

But, you might argue, we see how other people react to him – they fall in love/lust with him too easy. They pursue him too much. They give him too much, want him too much, need him too much. He holds too much bloody power. Of course, he’s beautiful – what else could it be?

Oh, I don’t know… novelty value? Redheads are rare. Applying the ‘average of good-looks in the populace at large’ to redheads means a good-looking redhead is very rare. So he’s good-looking, you admit it, I hear you yell triumphantly.

Sure he is. But how many good-looking people did you see today? A few at least, of both sexes. Many, if it’s a good day. And only one if you only went as far as the corner shop and back. No matter, good-looking doesn’t cut it. Does it, truthfully? Would you sign your life over to someone who was merely workaday good-looking?

No, there’s something more there. How often do you hear people refer to Danny (and John for that matter) as being supernaturally good-looking, or powerful or magnetic? A lot; I can fill you in on that one too.

They have the power of the vampire, both of them. Probably because my earliest diet was fairy tales and horror novels. But just like I don’t believe Cinderella is really about magic and glass slippers, I don’t believe DANNY is about ‘Special Powers’. Truthfully, I don’t believe even ‘Special Powers’ in any comic book drivel you care to name is really about Special Powers either – it’s just about power, plain and simple. And being special of course (and there it is, right there).

The question you should really be asking is what is Danny’s special power then?

The ‘real’ definition of the word glamour – it’s original definition – is the power to deceive though magic. It was, quite literally, a spell cast over a person or an object to change its surface appearance – generally to make it more appealing than it actually was. You know, like the wicked witch in Snow White, although she arguably does that in reverse.

Danny is glamorous. You’ll see that trait referred to over an over, without it actually being called that. It’s a word that’s pretty much been commandeered by ‘femininity’ now anyway – couldn’t be used convincingly by or for a man, unless it was Queer Eye for The Straight Guy.

But Danny personifies the ancient definition of glamour. He’s a ginge, for Christ’s sake. Everything about him is wrong, just as it is in John. He’s got pale skin, not robust, brown and healthy. He’s thin and tall, i.e. gangly. He has freckles. So many of them it turns his skin a pale gold in places. He has curly hair. And we’re talking thick curls here, that form ringlets, not nice trendy waves. He’s gangly, peely-wally (literally, in Scots, ‘pale as a ceramic tile’), gingery, freckly and, as if that wasn’t enough, he has “weird eyes”. God knows, enough people comment on them.

Yet, despite all this, despite even the king-size clue that he’s the dead spit of John, who people constantly debate whether he’s “ugly” or not, no-one has, within my hearing, questioned the validity of Danny’s beauty. It just is. Because everyone says so.

So why does everyone believe in Danny’s beauty and why don’t I?

Ah, that would be telling. Got to leave you something to figure out for yourself…

P.S. The ‘proof’ copy of How to Write the Perfect Novel is on Amazon.co.uk for a mere £4.95 if you want a cheap one. It has yellow marker throughout and a couple of my scribbles, but is otherwise perfect – apart from all those highlighted errors/changes, of course. Still, even with the post it’s a couple of quid cheaper. Also, we have a lovely new ad on Skin Two, along with a little news feature. Here it is: The ‘Roses’ Valentines Day ad with a difference, plus our mini-feature. You’ll have to search through the pages for the ad though, it’s revolving. Let me know if and where you find it, I’d be curious to know where it turns up. Enjoy.