Thursday, 7 February 2013


Against Nature somehow turns out to be the second novel I've written involving talking dogs. It might be the third, but I'm hazy on the details of what happened in The Other Side of the World given that I ended up rewriting it to such an extent. It's not that I have any particular thing for dogs, vocal or otherwise, and if asked I would have to say I prefer cats. Clifford D. Simak also featured talking dogs in his novels, and although I've come to regard him as a considerable influence, the truth is that I only read City a couple of years ago; but I suppose if you're writing anything involving Mexican folklore, you're going to end up with a talking dog sooner or later.

The talking dog in Against Nature is the spirit of a Chihuahua named Scarface, the former pet of Todd Calavero returned to guide his owner through the afterlife. He's called Scarface because Todd, being Texan, is a fan of the similarly named Houston rap artist.

If you're not a fan of rap, or you're only a fan of rap in so much as you have a few Tribe Called Quest CDs nestled in amongst whatever else you listen to, then you might not enjoy Scarface, although I would say you're most certainly missing out. Scarface is undoubtedly one of the all-time greatest rap artists, and I listened to his albums The Diary, The Last of a Dying Breed, and The Fix almost constantly when putting Todd Calavero together. Specifically I listened to those albums on CD walkman whilst trudging around south-east London back when I worked for Royal Mail.

As a postman, my regular route centred upon the corner of East Dulwich bordering Peckham Rye, delivering mail to both Lesley Sharp - who played Sky Silvestry in the Doctor Who story Midnight - and Faction Paradox author Blair Bidmead - although neither of us realised this until a few years later by which time I'd moved to San Antonio, Texas. More significantly in respect to Against Nature, further along this same road there lived a guy called Jason with whom I spoke some mornings, pleasant conversation being a commodity you learn not to take for granted as a postman because mostly it's either people asking why a cheque is late or else telling you to stick something up your arse. Anyway, Jason had a chihuahua called Troy, and myself being automatically well-disposed towards anything even vaguely Mexican, I became a huge fan of this dog. He had personality.

So when it came to having an animal spirit to guide Todd Calavero around the underworld, Troy was the obvious choice, renamed by asking myself what Todd would have called him.

At this time, although still living in England, I'd already met Bess. We had decided to get married, and I would move to the United States because I'd pretty much had my fill of cold weather, extortionate rent, and being miserable. Bess and I communicated daily by means of email, Skype, Yahoo messenger, telephone, or whatever else we could get working long enough to facilitate conversation. Conducting a long-distance relationship was not easy, but we coped well enough knowing that it wouldn't be forever. Of course, few people can go on indefinitely without the sort of occasional crisis that is made all the more difficult by a partner being five-thousand miles away, and we suffered our share, but got through them well enough.

One of these, and a particularly tough one as it happens, inspired Bess to buy a kitten seen advertised on Craigslist. He was small and fluffy with enormous ears. Over Skype she told me that her son - now my stepson in case that wasn't obvious - had named the kitten Scarface after a Native American hero he'd learned about in school. The coincidence was ridiculous, but no more so than any other arising from my meeting Bess and writing this novel. The fact of our turning out to have the same birthday was another big one.

So we have Troy, Scarface, Blair Bidmead, a Doctor Who actress, me writing this novel, and Peckham Rye the place where William Blake historically experienced visions, this being the same William Blake from whom Daniel O'Mahony derived the title for the Faction Paradox novel Newtons Sleep, and even Ellis Pike who played Godfather Morlock in the Faction Paradox audio plays produced by BBV living at the other end of Peckham Rye as I discovered when I delivered a parcel to him during a rare flurry of overtime. Some may believe this all adds up, and that it all means something, but so far as I'm concerned it's just patterns, sufficiently wonderful in and of themselves without the need for spooky music or dry ice.

So there you go. In terms of a showbiz confidential, it may not quite be up there with Kelly Brook as you've never seen her before,  but it is what it is.

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