Tag Archives: The DANNY Quadrilogy

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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It was August…


Yes, DANNY 3, the final (complete) volume is coming to you at the end of August 2012 – hopefully. God willing.

What will you all (i.e. me) do without it? Sigh………

My terror of the unknown aside – HOORAY, freedommmmmmmmmmmmmm! – to quote the evil Jew-hating, misogynistic, wife-beating, drunken, really, REALLY evil – did I already say he was EVIL? – Mel Gibson.

I will pass the halfway mark of the first major edit this evening. Those of you who have been with me from the start will know this is the nasty edit, the one that is covered in more bruises than one of Mel Gibson’s wives (bear with me, I’m jumping on a bandwagon here). It is covered in virtual highlighter, sneering remarks, weary Essays to Myself and, finally, in desperation, notes that just read “NO!!!”

But the second edit is always easier, and kinder. Then you start to see it shape up, and the worst excesses, repetitions and good old-fashioned I-must-keep-writing-no-matter-how-bad-it-is passages all start to melt away and the gold starts glimmering through.

What can I tell you about Volume 3?

Well, it’s name would be good, but unfortunately, I don’t know that yet. It’s a toss-up between The Changeling and ‘Tis Pity He’s a Whore. But The Changeling is winning currently. Feel free to bombard me with comments if you have a preference. Which I will ignore.

It used to be working titled The Serpent’s Tail and/or The End of the Beginning. This is because the book is cyclical; it stops where it begins, as it were. (Volume One’s very first title was The Beginning of the End, which I’ve always liked – still do.) You could, technically – and I’ve always imagined this to be true – finish reading Volume 3 and go straight to read Volume 1 and suddenly it all would be perfectly understandable. All those people who found DANNY 1 unbearably baffling would now be filled with enlightenment.

However, I have never put this to the test. Ever. And I’m scared to. So if anyone takes on the experiment after reading 3 please do put me out my misery and tell me if it works.

Or don’t. If it doesn’t. I’d rather keep my (delusions) illusions.

The book is being externally proofread, the pedants and Grammar Queens among you will be glad to know. One of its fans, Angelika, herself a writer, is proofreading the volume for me (see her masterwork here: Angelika Ranger – Hallowmere Fantasy Series, so hopefully she’ll pick up what I miss, and there will be a drastic reduction in floating “, missing ,,,,,,, and totally absent ……..

Not to mention hilariously awful errors such as the doozy from Road Movie: “knocked the sir out of him.” (It should have been air, in case that’s still baffling you. Little helpful note – if you can’t fathom what some fuck-up is supposed to be, just look at a keyboard. S sits right next to A, for example. Yes, Spike Milligna and I owe a lot of our success as comedians to the keyboard.)

So, volume 3. Well, let’s just tell you one thing about it and we’ll leave the rest of it for you to discover yourself.

When I was writing it, I intended it to finally tell the truth. Not so much to reveal the family’s true history (which you never discover – sorry), but to let you witness all the events that are related second-hand in all the other books. However (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?) I found that although I set out with the best of intentions, the boys had other ideas, and they insisted on telling me different stories, dragging me off to scenes I hadn’t witnessed, made me voyeur to things I had no idea had occurred. This gave me terrible bother.

Terrible, terrible bother. For a start, there was a constant worry of ‘How does this mesh with the facts?’, then there was the anxiety of timelines – did they match? Hell, no. Then there was the fretting about not covering things that needed to be covered, and events that were memorable, and that people would expect to read about, simply not being there. Then I just got tired of the bitching moaning and said, “Oh, fucking shut up and let me have peace to write.” And so I just told the story. In other words, I obeyed the writer’s first law, I got out my own way.

Afterwards, I had to go through it all again, amplified by being able to see concretely in front of me the ‘shortcomings’ of it as a comparative document. It just didn’t match.

It’s taken me many years since then, and many soul-searching hours in the dead of night wondering if I needed to rewrite it, to realise it’s deliberate, and exactly what should have happened. In the first volume they tell you DANNY – as umbrella for the Jackson Moore Story – as they want themselves to be. In the second volume, they confess DANNY as they know it sometimes was, but more often as their hearts nostalgically remember, and, finally, in the shape of Ian, and through Ian’s memory, they let all of that go and let their hidden voices rise to the surface. It may still be lies, but they are heartfelt lies.

But in Volume 3 you see it as it was. No, not the same events perhaps, but the events that actually mattered, the events wherein the truth was shaped, before it was hidden by lies and deceit and manipulative shenanigans. In fact, even their manipulative shenanigans (and that’s very much ‘their’, not ‘Ian’s’) are shown for what they really are – as often as not, lonely, sad, hurt, angry and just trying to survive.

Yes, it is finally August…….

 

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The Book of Your Enemy Has Been Compacted

Oh mine enemies, here is your moment of sublime schadenfreude: this morning at exactly 10.15 a.m. I was awoken by the sound of a large truck rolling up at my house.

The Moment of Death had arrived.

I pulled the duvet over my head and tried not to listen, but it was no good. I could hear the hearty comedians of waste disposal hefting the trembling volumes. I could hear the giant engine of Armageddon munching my words. Yes, my books were fed into a compactor. Yes I could hear Danny’s screams as he was crushed in iron jaws. All 1,290 of him (we kept two boxes).

Oh the tragedy, oh the pain.

We tried everything in the months beforehand to avoid this waste, but after many disappointments (at one time Healthy Planet was going to take them and give them away in shopping malls throughout Britain; oh joyous escape, that was, sadly, dashed), we had to admit defeat and arrange for them to be pulped.

To add further indignity to this miserable story of dashed hopes and broken dreams, we had to PAY £75 to the council for said comedians to destroy my work, figuratively, right in front of my face. Or at least within my hearing.

I am going to sit here and lick my wounds, but to all my enemies who have worked their damndest to get DANNY, and me, banned in as many places as possible, I dedicate this poem. My (books’) fate may have been worse than that of Clive James’ enemy, but the sentiments remain the same.


THE BOOK OF MY ENEMY HAS BEEN REMAINDERED

By Clive James


The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am pleased.
In vast quantities it has been remaindered.
Like a van-load of counterfeit that has been seized
And sits in piles in a police warehouse,
My enemy’s much-praised effort sits in piles
In the kind of bookshop where remaindering occurs.
Great, square stacks of rejected books and, between them, aisles
One passes down reflecting on life’s vanities,
Pausing to remember all those thoughtful reviews
Lavished to no avail upon one’s enemy’s book—
For behold, here is that book
Among these ranks and the banks of duds,
These ponderous and seemingly irreducible cairns
Of complete stiffs.


The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I rejoice.
It has gone with bowed head like a defeated legion
Beneath the yoke.
What avail him now his awards and prizes,
The praise expended upon his meticulous technique,
His individual new voice?
Knocked into the middle of next week
His brainchild now consorts with the bad buys,
The sinkers, clinkers, dogs and dregs,
The Edsels of the world of movable type,
The bummers that no amount of hype could shift,
The unbudgeable turkeys.


Yea, his slim volume with its understated wrapper
Bathes in the glare of the brightly jacketed Hitler’s War Machine,
His unmistakably individual new voice
Shares the same scrapyard with a forlorn skyscraper
Of The Kung-Fu Cookbook,
His honesty, proclaimed by himself and believed in by others,
His renowned abhorrence of all posturing and pretence,
Is there with Pertwee’s Promenades and Pierrots—
One Hundred Years of Seaside Entertainment,
And (oh, this above all) his sensibility,
His sensibility and its hair-like filaments,
His delicate, quivering sensibility is now as one
With Barbara Windsor’s Book of Boobs,
A volume graced by the descriptive rubric
‘My boobs will give everyone hours of fun’.


Soon now a book of mine could be remaindered also,
Though not to the monumental extent
In which the chastisement of remaindering has been meted out
To the book of my enemy,
Since in the case of my own book it will be due
To a miscalculated print run, a marketing error—
Nothing to do with merit.
But just supposing that such an event should hold
Some slight element of sadness, it will be offset
By the memory of this sweet moment.
Chill the champagne and polish the crystal goblets!
The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am glad.


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REJECT!


Max has been rummaging around in the archives, looking for ideas for covers for the DANNNY books being put into (smaller) parts. As he truly appreciates his own genius, and knows you will too, he has kindly made a little book for you all to see a few of the covers that were rejected for various volumes of DANNY over the years.

Now’s your chance to proclaim loudly, “That would have been a much better cover for Volume 1″ to anyone who will listen. Which is not me, of course. Oh, I’m teasing, of course I’ll listen. I am known for listening to my fans (okay, Max’s fans, in this instance). Hell, I’m famous for it.

To view it just put your mouse over the image below and it will come up “click to view full screen” or some such shit like that. Click it and it will come up full-size. You will then see a little arrow on the right hand side. Click on that and it will turn the pages for you. Isn’t science wonderful?

Enjoy.



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My Name is Legion


Well, I duly went back to the I Write Like… site and ran random scenes from DANNY through the Magic 8 Ball. And this what it told me:

I write like
Jack London

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I write like
Kurt Vonnegut

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Last night it told me I wrote like Cory Doctorow and Stephen King, but today it decided to really go to town and mix it up.

Interestingly, when I put volumes 2 & 3 in, no matter what scene it was, it told me I wrote like Stephen King. Although it is possible the poor thing was simply exhausted by then and was just saying Stephen King over and over to save itself thinking.

So, if you haven’t read DANNY Volume 1, think of it as a Stephen King novel with surreal Kurt Vonnegut profanity and a sci-fi overtone via Cory Doctorow, with wolves (thanks, Jack). What David Foster Whatsit brings to the table, I do not know. I had to Wikipedia him, since I’d never heard of him, and he seems to have been a depressive academic who wrote experimental literary novels with long footnotes, and then topped himself.

My joy knows no bounds………

Buy DANNY by Chancery Vonnegut-Foster-Doctorow-King. It’s great!!!

Mirror, mirror, on the wall – do I write like me at all?


My thanks go to the Rt. Hon. Max Scratchmann who found this charming little toy while playing working on the internet.

I write like
William Gibson

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!


Apparently what it does – aside from inflating your ego with absolutely zero effort – is analyse your writing and tell you which literary genius you write like.

He fed it part of Delaney and it told him I write like William Gibson. Isn’t that AMAZING!

Yes, I had no idea who William Gibson is either. I looked him up on Wikipedia, (because that is the go-to source for absolutely all wisdom in the world, ever) and discovered he is “an American-Canadian writer who has been called the “noir prophet” of the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction.”

It could have been a lot worse.

Tomorrow I’m going to put DANNY through its rigorous Magic 8 Ball analysis process and I expect glorious results.What’s more, I am going to put a sex scene through then a non-sex scene, just to see how wise this little gismo really is.

I’m betting I’m going to go from Leo Tolstoy to Gossip Columnist for The Sun in a nanosecond. Although I’m not putting money on which will be which…….

Buy WILLIAM GIBSON’S non-sci-fi CLASSIC – DANNY! It’s cybergroovy!