Friday, 10 November 2017

Abandoned Books interview Richard Blandford - Erotic Nightmares and more

This week sees our publication of Erotic Nightmares, your new collection of stories. What can you tell us about it in a few sentences? You can have four or five sentences if you want.

Erotic Nightmares consists of seven stories, all of which loosely involve a character’s desires leading them down a dark alley. There is a children’s TV presenter who becomes too much of a favourite with kids’ mums, a student union lothario, and a ghost hunter with a sexual secret. Also, Paul Young manifests as a demon and terrorizes a family. The stories are generally humorous with a fair amount of quick-fire dialogue, but also with some more serious moments occurring in the shorter ones.

I don’t know how many sentences that was. I’m not going to count them. Your rules mean nothing to me.

Do you have a preference for writing short fiction now, or is that just how things have panned out?

Part of it is to do with me being a parent now, which I wasn’t when I wrote my novels, and so my writing time has become more fragmented. It’s easier to carry around a short story in your head until you get time to get it down than it is a novel.

But also, it’s a reaction to the sheer amount of information we absorb these days online and the question of how much detail there really needs to be in a story because of that. A contemporary reader has so much stored in their brain already they can probably fill in a lot themselves from the merest of hints. A good Twitter joke, for example, works by providing the barest skeleton of an absurd situation, and leaving the reader to construct a world in which something like that could occur around it.

To my mind, fast-paced short stories are the perfect literature for the time-stretched twenty-first century digital nomad. Unfortunately, the average time-stretched twenty-first century digital nomad mostly doesn’t agree and still prefers long novels full of description, if they’re reading fiction at all, perhaps precisely because they’re immersive and the antithesis of everything else going on in their lives.

I’ll probably get expansive again eventually, when the time is right.

You seem to like the idea of making readers uncomfortable, is that fair? If so, why?

The reader feeling uncomfortable is a by-product, not my main intention. It’s my belief that one of the things fiction does is point the reader towards something that is there in reality, but may be not immediately apparent. So, I write about the suppressed sexual nature of kids’ TV presenters, or the sordid underside of a picturesque place like Cambridge. And if you dig up things people haven’t seen before, or don’t want to see, that can make them feel ill-at-ease.

Also, I’m autistic, but wasn’t diagnosed for years, so I’ve spent most of my life with a sense I’m viewing things in a way that comes completely naturally to me but may be obtuse to others. Not everyone is comfortable having someone who does that hanging around, and I guess my writing is an extension of that.

I want you to cast your mind back a decade or so to publication of your debut novel, Hound Dog. It caused quite a stir, as I recall, do you have a favourite review of it or reaction to it?

There was a Mumsnet thread about a rather conservative book group in Australia who chose it as their book of the month without anyone thinking to read it first. Needless to say, they were quite upset.

A wank-addicted Elvis impersonator isn't the obvious hero for a novel. Are you an Elvis fan? Did you listen to lots of his stuff when writing the book? (Rather than asking you about wanking).

I’d say he was an anti-hero, and if I were writing it today, I’d go for something even less obvious, like a Sonny Bono impersonator who has a ventriloquist’s dummy as his Cher. I like Elvis, and he obviously achieved brilliance at various points in his career. I don’t listen to him a great deal, though. I probably think more often about Matthew Corbett from The Sooty Show than I do Elvis. This is unconnected to wanking, by the way.

Your follow-up, Flying Saucer Rock & Roll, was far less violent, less dark, and I think it really captured the essence of what it is like to be a teenage boy in a dodgy rock band. Was that book in any way autobiographical? Are there unheard demo tapes in your loft?

I’m surprised you asked me that, as I thought it was common knowledge I replaced Phil Collins in Genesis for the 1997 Calling All Stations album and resulting tour. True, critics weren’t kind, and I suppose capturing the magic of the peak-Collins or even Gabriel years was an impossible feat. Still, I enjoyed working with Tony and Mike, and people forget that the album sold very well in Europe, while the single ‘Congo’ got to no. 30 in the UK and this was when singles sales really meant something. When Mike and Tony got back with Phil for the Turn It On Again tour in 2007, I was disappointed but not surprised that none of the songs from my era featured in the set. I think the fans would have been respectful of a little nod in my direction. In truth, it felt like I was being written out of the band’s history a bit. Still, no regrets.

Is there a book written by someone else that you really wish you had written?

Probably something like The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers because no one could seriously argue it’s not truly fine writing. Well, they could, but they’d have to be some sort of prick.

2017 has turned out, perhaps accidentally, to be a prolific year for you. Hound Dog and Flying Saucer Rock & Roll have been reissued, Erotic Nightmares debuts as an ebook, and you have a handsome big arty hardback out too. Tell us about London in the Company of Painters.

It’s a book of artworks from the sixteenth century to the present depicting various locations in London. I was commissioned to do it by the publisher Laurence King, and I’m guessing they wanted someone a bit outside the artworld mainstream who would put an unusual twist on it, which I tried to do by trawling through image libraries looking for really obscure stuff you wouldn’t normally see to mix up with the bigger names like Turner, Monet and so on. I think one of the works I selected is currently in a university cupboard or something.

Also, I sequenced the works so it’s as if you’re moving through a particular part of London, so you start off in Kensington Gardens and wander over into Hyde Park, for instance. But time isn’t linear, so a painting of skaters on the Serpentine from the sixties will be followed by another of the same subject, but from the eighteenth century. It’s the idea of viewing the past as being hidden inside the present, and you can peel back the layers to any point, rather than simply as a chronological sequence of changes.

You have written about art a great deal when it comes to non-fiction but it doesn't creep into your fiction all that much, would that be fair to say? Perhaps in a couple of short stories? Why do you think there hasn't been as much of an overlap?

Art features in a few stories in my collection The Shuffle, but I think I said everything I wanted to say about it in fiction there. There is more of an overlap though. Hound Dog was influenced by the artist Paul McCarthy, who makes videos where people with cartoon heads are excreting everywhere in a very Freudian manner. The Shuffle is very much informed by post-modern theory such as Baudrillard, which was still hanging about art schools when I was studying in the late nineties.

Besides that, contemporary artists are obviously not that bothered if most people don’t like what they do, and I get in that mindset on occasion. The difference is, an artist can potentially sell a work for several grand to the one person who gets it, whereas the one person who gets what I’m doing only needs to spend a few quid.

Are you still blogging at The Lost Book Library? It is clearly a subject close to our hearts so tell us more about it.

The Lost Book Library arose because I had a job where I came into contact with an extraordinary number of books, not long before they were carted off to be recycled. I figured I owed it to the more interesting-looking ones to give them one last chance to do their thing before being turned to mush. I don’t know if I uncovered any lost masterpieces, but there were certainly many curate’s eggs. There was one book which had the most useless main storyline, but also a subplot about a cat-based psychotherapy cult that was absolutely mind-bending. I don’t have that job anymore, so the supply of books has slowed to a trickle, but there is more on the way. I’m reading a book now by a well-regarded author that has been out of print since 1965. My copy has been partially eaten by mice.

And finally, is there a particular lost book you'd like to recommend to us?

Thumb Tripping by Don Mitchell. It’s a novel about hitchhiking hippies from the early seventies. Although very much a period piece, when you get to the end of it, it does feel as if it’s succeeded on its own terms and is a solid, coherent work. Most Lost Book Library books collapse at the end because the author rushed it so they could get the second half of their advance. This one doesn’t.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Erotic Nightmares - new story collection available as ebook now

The short story collection the 21st century truly deserves

They say it’s impossible to feel two extreme emotions at the same time. In the world of Erotic Nightmares, however, anything is possible.
In ‘Pretty Boy Tigh’, a presenter on a pre-school kids’ TV channel finds himself an unlikely sex symbol, before a blackmail plot forces him into the role of detective. With only a depressed clown and an athletic co-star to help him, he must unmask his nemesis before his sex secrets are splattered across the internet.
Two English Literature students shackled together in a house-share of the damned each have a thorny problem to overcome in ‘Rake’.
It’s not easy being ‘Big Lug’, an imaginary friend who has grown up, long unseen by the girl who dreamt him up, but has fallen in love with her.  
Max infiltrates a ghost-hunting group in ‘Aggie and the Hatman’ and stumbles into a world of odd ideas, unusual kinks, and the Hatman, who is either a demon out to steal souls or a harmless shadow.  
These four stories, and three more, are Erotic Nightmares. Funny, dark, sexy and repulsive, often at the same time, these are truly the short stories the 21st century deserves.

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Thursday, 31 August 2017

Flying Saucer Rock & Roll reissued as ebook

My second novel, Flying Saucer Rock & Roll, has been reissued as an ebook by Abandoned Books.

A bittersweet novel about friendship, being a teenager, and the redemption to be found in rock music.
Chris is learning guitar at school in an attempt to emulate his rock god hero, Joe Satriani, if only he can get the hang of ‘Streets of London’ first. But there’s another boy in his guitar class who’s miles ahead of everybody. His name is Ben.
It’s only a matter of time before Chris and Ben form a band. With easy-going Jase on drums and the ginger, bespectacled and bad-tempered Thomas on bass, Animal Magnets are only lacking a frontman. And although they hate to admit it, there is only one boy for the job.
Flying Saucer Rock & Roll follows the boys through their teenage years and out the other side into the disappointment of adult life. It is a beautifully observed novel about guitar riffs, friendship and faded dreams.

Praise for Flying Saucer Rock & Roll

‘A wry, sometimes painful, tale of adolescence… well evoked.’ Sunday Herald
‘Blandford captures the awkwardness of youth with a deft realism… a witty and sometimes poignant coming-of-age tale.’ The List

Sunday, 20 August 2017

London in the Company of Painters - Out Now

This sumptuous visual history explores London as depicted by artists over the last few hundred years. Although the first city of London was established in the Roman period, the story of London in art really begins in the 17th century, with the rise of the panoramic city view as a painting genre, and continues to this day. Organized around nine areas or districts, the chapters move roughly from west to east across London, as does the River Thames, which acts as the city's spine. Within each area, works of art are grouped around specific locations or monuments, providing a glimpse of the city's changing and unchanging topography through the ages. Despite London's tumultuous history – the rise and fall of Empire, attacks from above in two world wars, relentless expansion into the surrounding villages and suburbs – it nevertheless becomes clear that many of the city's landmarks remain surprisingly constant.


Monday, 22 May 2017

Hound Dog reissued as ebook by Abandoned Books

Richard Blandford's first novel, Hound Dog is available now as an ebook from Abandoned Books, at just £3.99.

Call him Elvis. The premier Elvis impersonator in the whole of the Cambridgeshire region. He’s overweight and bald and old. He is partial to cocaine, sells skunk to local teenagers and masturbates six or seven times a day.
And he hates Elvis Presley.
Things start to go wrong for Elvis when his backing singers, Gay Elvis and Fat Elvis, jump ship and have to replaced by Buddy Holly, a postman with bladder problems. Then Eddie, a dubious businessman, calls offering the biggest gig of Elvis’s career – performing at the birthday party of a vicious gangster who just happens to be married to Elvis’s third ex-wife.

Praise for Hound Dog

Phoenix Nights meets American Psycho. In Cambridge.’ Kevin Sampson
‘Hound Dog is distressingly, worryingly funny. With skill and sensitivity, Blandford keeps the reader laughing, even through the depravity; even through the despair; even, indeed, through the moments of startling ferocity.’ Niall Griffiths
‘Slick, efficient and faintly nasty.’ Observer

Monday, 15 September 2014

Pretty Boy Tigh

'Smile for Mumsnet!'

People think the programme links aren’t that important, but they are. They’re more important than the shows. They’re what make the kids know that this is for them. It’s their special place among the nine hundred channels out there. The programmes will reel them in but it’s up to us to keep them watching. And to be able to do that, you have to know them. Know how they think. Know what makes them laugh. Know what makes them feel safe.
Tigh is the latest Pretty Boy on a popular children's TV show. The kids love him. The mums love him even more. So much that Tigh soon finds himself getting into a very sticky mess…
This ebook novella from Richard Blandford is going to change the way you look at Children's TV forever.

From Galley Beggars Press, £1.

Download contains epub, mobi (Kindle) and PDF files.