Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dark Passage by David Goodis (Zebra 1946)

Fellsinger was belly down on the floor, but his face was twisted sideways. His eyes were opened wide, the pupils up high with a lot of white underneath. It was as if he was trying to look back. Either he wanted to see how badly he was hurt or he wanted to see who was banging on his skull with the trumpet. His mouth was halfway open and the tip of his tongue flapped over the side of his mouth.

Without sound, Parry said, "Hello, George."

Without sound, Fellsinger said, "Hello, Vince."

"Are you dead, George?"

"Yes, I'm dead."

"Why are you dead, George?"

"I can't tell you, Vince. I wish I could tell you but I can't."

"Who did it, George?"

"I can't tell you, Vince. Look at me. Look what happened to me. Isn't it awful?"

"George, I didn't do it. You know that."

"Of course, Vince. Of course you didn't do it."

"George, you don't really believe I did it."

"I know you didn't do it."

"I wasn't here, George. I couldn't have done it. Why would I want to kill you, George? You were my friend."

"Yes, Vince. I was your friend."

"George, you were my best friend. You were always a real friend."

"You were my only friend, Vince. My only friend."

"I know that, George. And I know I didn't kill you. I know it I know it I know it I know it I know it."

"Don't carry on like that, Vince."

"George, you're not really dead, are you?"

"Yes, Vince. I'm dead. And it's real, Vince, it's real. I'm really dead. I never thought I'd be important. But now I'm very important. They'll have me in all the papers."

"They'll say I killed you."

"Yes, Vince. That's what they'll say."

"But I didn't do it, George."

"I know, Vince. I know you didn't do it. I know who did it but I can't tell you because I'm dead."

"George, can I do anything for you?"

"No. You can't do a thing for me. I'm dead. Your friend George Fellsinger is dead."

"George, who do you think did it?"

"I tell you I know who did it. But I can't say."

"Give me a hint. Give me an idea."

"Vince, I can't give you anything. I'm dead."

"Maybe if I look around I'll find something."

"Don't do that, Vince. Don't move from where you are now. If you step in the blood you're going to make footprints."

"Footprints won't make any difference one way or another. As soon as they find you here they'll say I did it."

"Yes, Vince. That's what they'll say. You can't do anything about that. But if you give them footprints you'll be throwing everything away. What I mean is, if they have the footprints they'll have more than a conclusion. They'll have you, because they have means of tracing footprints, tracing right through to the store where the shoes were bought. When they get that they'll get her. And if they get her they'll get you, because you can't operate without her."

"George, I can't go back to her."

"What do you mean, you can't go back? You've got to go back. You can't go anyplace else. Where else could you go?"

"I don't know, George. I don't know. But I can't go back to her."

"Jesus Christ."

"I can't help it, George. I can't go back to her. I can't bring her back into it now."

"But she wants to help you, Vince."

"Why, George? How do you make it out? Why does she want to help me?"

"She feels sorry for you."

"There's more to it than that. There's much more. What is it?"

"I don't know, Vince."

"I can't go back to her."

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Black Friday by David Goodis (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard 1954)

Mattone reached into his jacket pocket and took out a revolver. He grinned at Hart and then he walked toward the vacant chair. The grin widened as he saw the bright green coat hanging over the back of the chair. Then he looked at Hart and he looked at the chocolate-brown flannel suit and he came over and rubbed a finger on the fine quality flannel. He walked back to the other chair and put a hand against the bright green Lapama fleece. He looked at Hart again and he said, “It doesn’t figure.”

“Every man has his ups and downs,” Hart said.

Mattone raised the front of the coat and had a look inside the label. He looked at Hart and he said, “You mean to tell me you went into that place and bought a coat?”

“I went into that place and stole a coat,” Hart said.

“Oh.” Mattone took the cigarette out of his mouth, held it delicately as he sat down at the table across from Hart. “You stole the coat. What else did you steal?”


“Nothing from that place. How about other places?”


“You see?” Mattone said. “We’re starting all wrong. You stole the wallet, didn’t you?”

“No,” Hart said. “I didn’t steal the wallet. He told me to take it.”

Mattone leaned forward. “Take a good look at me.”

Hart took the look. He said, “No, you don’t look like a moron. And I’m not talking to you as if you were a moron. That’s what happened. He told me to take the wallet.”

“Why would he want you to have the wallet?”

“Ask him.”

Mattone turned and crossed one leg over the other and put cigarette ashes on the floor. He grinned at the ashes. He said, “You’re going to be a pleasure. A real pleasure. I’ve been away from the ring a long time. You know how it is. I get so I want to put my fists on a face. How much do you weigh?”

“One forty.”

Mattone let out a brief laugh. He looked at the revolver in his hand. He said, “I guess I won’t need this.”

He put the revolver in his jacket pocket.

“Do you use rouge?” Hart said.

“What’s the matter, are you in a hurry for it?”

“The eyebrows,” Hart said. “Do you pluck them every day?”

“Three times a.week,” Mattone said. “You’re going to get it now. You can’t take it back.”

“Oh, come on,” Hart said. “You’re not that angry. You’re not angry at all. You just want some fun. But remember what Charley said.”

“Now that’s funny,” Mattone said as he stood up. “I can’t remember. That’s my big weakness. My memory.”

“You’re a scream,” Hart said.

Mattone’s eyes were bright with joy. “This is wonderful. He’s begging for it.”

“Can’t live without it.”

“All right, stand up and get it.”

Hart stood up and sat down quickly to get away from a straight right aimed at the mouth. Mattone leaned over to try the right again and Hart brought up a shoe and kicked Mattone a few inches below the kneecap. Mattone hopped back and lowered a hand toward the knee and Hart stood up and leaned on the right side and then brought up a right hand uppercut and missed. Mattone went hopping back and started to dance. Hart started to go forward, then stepped back quickly, reached down and grabbed a chair leg. As Mattone came in to break up the chair project, Hart already had the chair in both hands and he threw it at Mattone’s face. Mattone stopped the chair with his arms, stumbled over it as he rushed at Hart, and Hart’s face was all twisted with effort, body and arms working fast, fists hitting Mattone in the nose, in the lips, on the chin. Mattone was bleeding and he wasn’t liking it. He hit Hart in the chest, hit him again in the ribs, had him against the wall, showed him a right hand and hit him with the right hand three times on the jaw. Hart started to go down and his head was hanging low and he saw Mattone dropping the right hand and getting it ready for the uppercut. Hart let his head go down still further until it was down against Mattone’s stomach. Then Hart brought his head up as fast as he could and the top of his skull caught Mattone under the chin.

“Oh,” Mattone said, and then he was unconscious. Hart grabbed him under the armpits as he started to go down. Then Hart lowered him slowly and when he was on the floor Hart bent over him and reached for the shoulder holster.

“No,” Charley said. “Don’t do that.”

Charley was in the doorway and he had his revolver with him.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Night Squad by David Goodis (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard 1961)

The custom-built Spanish automobile made a U-turn and went south to Addison gliding along while various Swamp citizens yelled hello to Grogan. Through the open car window, he waved back. Then the car headed away from the Swamp, climbing along the arc of the bridge, high above the river. Grogan turned on the radio and got a ball game. The car came off the bridge and joined the slow-moving Saturday afternoon traffic on the six-lane highway that bordered the river. They were moving past factories and coal yards and freight yards. In this area the river was scummy. There was a half-sunken barge near the riverbank and some boys in swim trunks were using it for a diving board. The traffic heading north gradually thinned out. It was a residential section the Street lined with expensive apartment houses. Then it was just the green of the municipal park and some statues of Revolutionary War generals, a few of the generals saluting, one of them brandishing a sword. At the base of that statue, under the shadow of the sword, an old colored man was sleeping peacefully on the grass. Heading further north along the highway, going through the park at the side of the river, the aquarium came into view; then the immense art museum designed like the Parthenon. It had cost the city some thirty million dollars and it was used mostly as a nesting place for pigeons and flocks of nine-year-old boys who came at night to play hide-and-seek in the labyrinth of marble columns. Past the art museum there was a traffic circle, then the highway curved in very close to the river. There were some people on the banks angling for catfish and carp, some park guards on horseback and a few men wearing sweat suits practicing for walking races. Further ahead some very old but solidly constructed and well-kept houses appeared and pennants were flying above their roofs. These were the boat clubs, the members all rowers or former rowers and the boats were racing shells. In this area, the river water was clean and there were fences preventing fishermen and swimmers and any trespassers. The city was very proud of the boat clubs, some of which boasted rowers who'd made the Olympics. Also, many of the members were from families whose names were a tradition in the city, the lineage going back to the Seventeenth Century. The fences made certain that only the properly qualified got in. A blueblood could get in. A ditch digger could get in provided he was a first rate rower, capable of winning silver cups. There was no way for a man to buy his way in. In the city there were multi-millionaires who'd been trying for years to get in and never would. On very rare occasions a man got in because he had something on one of the bluebloods. Like a photograph showing the blueblood in an off-beat situation. That was how Grogan got in, some twelve years back. The photo had been taken at night in the zoo, and it showed the blueblood involved with a full-grown zebra.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Shoot The Piano Player by David Goodis (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard 1956)

What I mean is, the way Eddie talks. Eddie spills words like "ain't" and says "them there" and "this here" and so forth. You know Edward never talked that way. Edward was educated, and an artist, and had a cultured manner of speaking. I guess it all depends where you're at and what you're doing and the people you hang around with. The Hut is a long way off from Carnegie Hall. Yes. And it's a definite fact that Eddie has no connection with Edward. You cut all them wires a long time ago. It was a clean split.

Then why are you drifting back? Why pick it up again? Well, just to look at it. Won't hurt to have a look. Won't hurt? You kidding? You can feel the hurt already, as though it's happening again. The way it happened.

It was deep in the woods of South Jersey, in the wooden house that overlooked the watermelon patch. His early childhood was mostly on the passive side. As the youngest of three brothers he was more or less a small, puzzled spectator, unable to understand Clifton's knavery or Turley's rowdyism. They were always at it, and when they weren't pulling capers in the house they were out roaming the countryside. Their special meat was chickens. They were experts at stealing chickens. Or sometimes they'd try for a shoat. They were seldom caught. They'd slide out of trouble or fight their way out of it and, on a few occasions, in their middle teens, they shot their way out of it.

The mother called them bad boys, then shrugged and let it go at that. The mother was an habitual shrugger who'd run out of gas in her early twenties, surrendering to farmhouse drudgery, to the weeds and beetles and fungus that lessened the melon crop each year. The father never worried about anything. The father was a slothful, languid, easy-smiling drinker. He had remarkable capacity for alcohol.

There was another gift the father had. The father could play the piano. He claimed he'd been a child prodigy. Of course, no one believed him. But at times, sitting at the ancient upright in the shabby, carpetless parlor, he did some startling things with the keyboard.

At other times, when he felt in the mood, he'd give music lessons to five-year-old Edward. It seemed there was nothing else to do with Edward, who was on the quiet side, who stayed away from his villainous brothers as though his very life depended on it. Actually, this was far from the case. They never bullied him. They'd tease him now and then, but they left him alone. They didn't even know he was around. The father felt a little sorry for Edward, who wandered through the house like some lost creature from the woods that had gotten in by mistake.

The music lessons increased from once a week to twice a week and finally to every day. The father became aware that something was happening here, something really unusual. When Edward was nine he performed for a gathering of teachers at the schoolhouse six miles away. When he was fourteen, some people came from Philadelphia to hear him play. They took him back to Philadelphia, to a scholarship at the Curtis Institute of Music.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Narrowing Circle by Julian Symons (Penguin Classic Crime 1954)

Gross Enterprises occupied a square, ugly office block near Holborn. On the ground floor was Reception, Dispatch and the Research Section. First floor was Crime, second Romance, third Western and fourth Science Fiction. Administration was on the fifth and top floor, and so was Sir Henry Gross's office and flat. I passed old Sir Henry as I went in, teetering uncertainly across the Reception hall to his private lift. Who's Who didn't give his age but he must have been in the seventies, although his lined face and generally papery appearance made him look older. Nobody I knew had much contact with him, not even the Section Editors. I hadn't spoken to him more than half a dozen times in the three years I'd been with the firm. I was never quite sure whether he knew who I was. He said good morning to me politely enough. At least he knew I worked there.

I watched the lift doors close behind him and thought how queer it was that Sir Henry, who was a teetotaller, vegetarian and non-smoker, should be at the top of something like Gross Enterprises. It was a fine example of circumstances taking charge of men, for he had started out with cheapSelf Help and How to Do It books. Probably the change to what you might call rational publishing had been imperceptible even to Gross himself. Now he might think that he ran the machine, but really the machine ran Sir Henry. No doubt he had paid for his knighthood like an honest man. It had been awarded for "services to publishing", which was one of the best jokes on publishing that I had ever heard.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Redemption by Tariq Ali (Picador 1990)

Ezra's letter was correctly addressed: 'Ms Emma Carpenter, General Secretary, Committee for Socialist Democracy'. Emma sipped her first coffee and smiled. And why not? She would go to Europe and hear what they all had to say. Then she would tell them a few things. She would meet a few old friends and come back. She looked at the letter again. No mention was made of fares. PISPAW had all the money in the world. They never needed aid. The Centre knew that the other groups in the States, and there were at least seven, would have to be subsidized.

She would give Ezra a ring from work later in the day. It would be nice, despite everything, to hear the old, familiar voice. Ezra's English, spoken in heavy Continental accents, always reminded Emma of her Jewish grandparents, who had migrated from Tsarist Russia between the revolutions of 1905 and 1917. They had both belonged to the left wing of the Mensheviks and, though they had regretted not being in Petrograd in October 1917, the feeling had not lasted more than a few years. Both had died natural deaths, at home in bed, while in their eighties. Emma had often argued with them, sometimes ferociously, but her father, apolitical and loving, always insisted on a truce. She shivered at the memory of how, during her PISPAW trial, some hack had said: 'Menshevism runs in her blood.'

Grandfather Moshe always used to tell her: 'You wait and see. In the end they'll be toppled by the people. The whole bloody lot of them. States can't float permanently on seas of blood. Sooner or later there will be a storm. One day, my little Emmushka, you will learn that the much-maligned Mensheviks were not so wrong when they warned against the Bolshevik adventure.' Emma used to provoke him, point to the rubbish can in the corner of the kitchen and say: 'Grandad, that's where the Mensheviks went. Straight into the dustbin of history.' Then old Moshe would lose his temper, curse Lenin as an 'amoral adventurer', denounce Trotsky as a 'ruthless fanatic' and insist that taken individual by individual, the Menshevik leaders were far better human beings than their Bolshevik counterparts. 'Can you even compare Martov to Zinoviev? he would shout, and before Emma could reply, her father would gently remove her from the room. That would temporarily end one skirmish in the ongoing battle between Bolshevism and Menshevism, which took place in quite a few kitchens in different cities of the United States.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Gilt Kid by James Curtis (Penguin Books 1936)

He was walking along Gerrard Street, shaking his head in solemn negation at all the prostitutes, when a man stopped him.

'Hallo, comrade.'

'Blimey, this seems to be my night for meeting people. Who the hell are you, mate?'

He looked at the other closely. He was short, pale and looked scared. Paleface! That was the key-word. Paleface. The man must have met him in prison. Good God, he thought, with a kind of mock comicality, the place is getting infested with gaol-birds.

The man was talking. The Gilt Kid listened with impatience. He hardly wanted to listen. Talking was more his line.

'Don't you remember me, comrade? I'm the man what sold you a copy of the Daily Worker on the day of the anti-war demo last week.' His voice had a kind of whine in it as though he was begging.

'That's right.' The Gilt Kid's manner was condescending. 'Come and have a drink.'

'Well,' said the communist, hopefully, 'I haven't any money.'

'I'm not asking you if you've got any money,' he said loftily. 'I'm asking you to have a drink.'

They went to Teddy Bear's at the corner of Gerrard Street.

'What are you going to have?'

'A bitter, please.'

'A bitter please, and a large Scotch and soda.'

With four fizzy bottles of beer already inside him, the Gilt Kid knew that he could not stomach any more beer. He carried the drinks across to where the communist was sitting.

'Good luck.'

'Good luck.'

They tasted their drinks. The Gilt Kid turned to his guest.

'So you're a communist, are you?'

'Yes.' The monosyllable was defiant.

'Well, I want to talk to you about joining.'

'About joining the C.P.?'

A smile of joy wreathed the Red's face. He felt that by using such initials as the E.C.C.I. and the N.U.W.M., not to mention barbarous composite words like Agitprop and Politburo, he would be certain to tie his opponent up in knots if an argument started. He drank a little more beer and cleared his husky throat.

'It's quite simple, really,' he began. 'You see, we Marxists believe first of all in the materialist conception of history, by which we mean  . . . '

This was too much. The Gilt Kid interrupted him.

'Yes I know all about that. I know all about the Materialist Conception of History, and the Class War, and the Theory of Surplus Value. And don't for God's sake try to tell me about Economic Determinism.' With a wave of his hand he dismissed all such theories as idle trifles, unworthy of the attention of two intelligent men. 'What I want to know is when are you getting on with the job.'

'We are getting on with the job.' The little communist was indignant. 'We are disseminating our propaganda among the masses.'

'Yes, Yes, Yes.' It seemed inevitable that the communist be interrupted. 'That's not what I mean. When's the revolution coming? That's your job.'

'Yes, comrade, but we got to await the revolutionary situation.'

'Why wait for the revolutionary situation? Why in the name of God don't you go out and make one.'

'Yes, comrade, but . . . '

'Don't "yes comrade but" me. Have another drink?'

The poor communist knew that he was on difficult ground. The other was paying for the drinks and, therefore, had the right to direct the conversation.

The Gilt Kid, having come back with the glasses recharged, plunged straight into the argument without any of the toasts or salutations customary among the drinking classes.

'Listen, you hold demonstrations,' he began, 'meetings, hunger-marches and all that bull. What the hell good does it do? Just a few mugs get nicked and a few more have sore heads where the slops have bashed them with their batons. You can't tell me that brings the revolution any nearer.'

'We hold those demonstrations and that for the purpose of spreading our propaganda and keeping the name of the party before the masses. And when the inevitable breakdown of capitalism occurs the workers will turn to the people who have led them in the past.'

'Not likely,' retorted the Gilt Kid, 'when that breakdown of yours happens, the blokes who're coming out on top are the strong-arm guys who can grab all they want for themselves and freeze on to it when they've got it. You can bet on that, china.'

"But you're advocating individualism. The workers are only to be saved by mass action.'

'I'm not advocating nothing. I'm just telling you what's going to happen. Look, here if you want people to follow you you got to give them something. Blokes are going to stick by someone who gets them dough, ain't they?'


'Well, instead of messing about with dopey meetings why don't you give the boys something? Start a riot. Lead a row in Bond Street and loot all the shops. Collect all the bums in London and take them into one of the flash hotels and let them demand to be fed. You hear about hunger-marchers making rows and demanding grub. Where'd they go? To the Ritz, to Lyons' Corner House, even? No! The workhouse. That's just about your mark, kicking up a shine at the spike.'

'Yes, but if we did all that the leaders of the party'd get pinched and the movement'd be all bust up. Anyhow that's not communism. It's just plain hooliganism.'

'Call it what you like, mate. It's getting something for the bloke on the floor and that's what you reckon to be out for. Communists are all against production for profit, and don't believe in creating more surplus value for the sole benefit of the bosses.'


'Well, there's only two types of blokes who don't create surplus value. Crooks and bums. Crooks nick the capitalist's dough and bums just don't graft and make any. And now, good-bye, pal, I got to get along.'

The Gilt Kid had grown fed up with arguing the toss, and besides, it had struck him as a good plan to leave the argument as it was, with himself on top.

The door swung to behind him, leaving the communist speechless and with a three-parts empty beer glass in his hand.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Too Many Crooks Spoil the Caper by Frank Norman (St. Martin's Press 1979)

'That Ed Nelson?' a rough and ready cockney voice wanted to know when I snatched up the phone.

'He's emigrated to Constantinople,' I returned, cheerfully casual.

'Don't muck me about, yuh burk,' the voice snarled savagely. 'This is Ray Williams an' I bleedin' well know that's you.'

'No it isn't,' I shrieked at him. 'I've gone away and I'm never coming back.'

'Awright, Ed.' He chuckled menacingly. 'I enjoy a giggle same as the next bloke - 'ave yuh little joke, lark about all yuh soddin' well like. Go on the telly for all I care, butcha ain't gonna get all that far up the ladder to stardom, ole son. An' I'll tell yuh for why - a stand-up comedian wiv busted kneecaps ain't no good at standin' up no more, geddit?'

I got it but decided to go on playing it dumb. 'What the hell are you on about.' I gulped a lungful of air. 'I don't know any Ray Williams. I reckon you must've dialled the wrong number, sir. There are fourteen other Ed Nelsons in the London telephone directory to my certain knowledge . . .'

'Cut the cackle,' he interrupted. 'Me'ounds are on their way over to see yuh. I've told 'em to batter yuh double-jointed an' slam yuh all over the bloody West End till there ain't nuffink left a yuh boat race 'cept a soggy pulp a crushed strawberries.'

The graphic description got my bottle going two bob, half a crown.

'Leave off, Ray,' I bleated, 'you know you don't mean that.'

'Me, meself personally,' he confided. 'I don't reckon all that punchin' flash gits like you up in the air. But me bruvva Pete's a right terror when 'e's roused, know what I mean? Ain't no reasoning wiv 'im when 'e's got the dead needle like.'

'Any way of calling the hounds off? I inquired meekly. I knew there had to be, otherwise he wouldn't have bothered to phone.

'Jest one.'


' 'And over the bird and the Jodhpur diamond,' he replied earnestly. 'Otherwise it's curtains, goddit?'

'I'll do it. I'll do it,' I squealed. 'Give me twenty-four hours, that's all I ask.'

Monday, July 15, 2013

Monday Toonage #1

Back in the day when I used to still buy cassingles:

Only got to number 52 in 1992, despite the fact that it's one of Aztec Camera's best ever songs and it was produced by Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Thirtyfirst of February by Julian Symons (Pan Books 1950)

There is a part of London near the Buckingham Palace Road, behind Eccleston Bridge, where the large stucco seediness of once-fashionable squares, Eccleston and Warwick and St George's, fades into a smaller shabbiness. There are streets here of small-identical red-brick houses, fronted by ugly iron railings; these streets branch off the main stem of Warwick Way, that backbone of Pimlico where large houses converted into a dozen one-room flats offer typists and secretaries the chance of developing an individuality untrammelled by the presence of parents or the inhibiting eyes of childhood neighbours. Such self-contained lives typify the decay that is spreading slowly over the fabric of our great cities; to be part of this decay, to visit the ballet frequently and to fornicate freely, to attain a complete irresponsibility of action - that is, in a sense, the ideal life of our civilization. And if such a life can be lived comfortably enough in the four-storeyed houses of Warwick Way, it can be lived more easily still in the little red-brick houses of Joseph Street. You might find similar houses in any London suburb, where they would be the homes of clerks, schoolmasters and small businessmen; but the people who lived in Joseph Street were male and female prostitutes, unknown actors and film extras, artists and journalists who had given up worship of the bitch-goddess Success and were content to earn a few pounds here and there which they drank away at the Demon round the corner in Radigoyle Street while their teeth fell out and their tongues grew furry and their eyesight failed. Among these characteristic occupants of the small red-brick, however, were a few eccentrically successful figures, people whose presence in this raffish area could not have been easily explained, even by themselves. Joseph Street numbered among its inhabitants two company directors, a dress designer, an important gynaecologist and a retired trade union official. Anderson, who might also be regarded as eccentrically respectable, lived in Number 10 Joseph Street, in a house distinguished from its fellows only by the window boxes carefully  cultivated by the Fletchleys, who lived in a self-contained flat on the first floor. Anderson had bought a ninety-year lease of the house at the time of his marriage. 

Saturday, July 06, 2013

That's Me in the Corner: Adventures of an ordinary boy in a celebrity world by Andrew Collins (Ebury Press 2007)

It’s 1988 and heady being back at work after such a long interval. Seven years have passed since packing in Sainsbury’s, during which time I got myself further-educated: two A-levels out of three, and one Bachelor of Arts — not that anybody here asked to see my certificates. This is rock’n’roll.

The interview was held in what I presumed to be a storeroom, with back issues of my beloved music weekly stacked all around us. James Brown, features editor, asked the questions; I felt like a band being interviewed for the paper.

‘What was the last LP you bought?’

I found myself perched upon the knife’s edge of credibility with this innocuous enquiry, selecting Surfer Rosa by the Pixies over the more truthful Raintown by Deacon Blue. It was risky — James would have known that the Pixies came out three months ago. Perhaps he’d think I hadn't bought an LP since March.

Quickly, I threw in the Full Metal Jacket soundtrack. Vietnam scores points at the NME.

‘Who are your favourite bands?’

The Fall — obviously! — The Jesus and Mary Chain, Cocteau Twins ... I also boldly confessed to a liking for the great toons of George Gershwin. (It’s a Woody Allen thing.)

James raised his eyebrows ambiguously. Good? Bad? Had I blown it?

‘How often do you go to gigs?'

I swallowed hard and considered massaging the figures, but instead recklessly gave him the truth: about once a month.

‘Good. We want someone who’s mature.’

James Brown is twenty-two. A year younger than me.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The House On The Embankment by Yuri Trifonov (Abacus 1976)

Not one of those boys is alive today. Some were killed in the war, some died from sickness, some disappeared without a trace, while others, though still alive, have turned into different people; and if by some magic means those different people were to meet their past selves - in their cotton twill shirts and canvas shoes - they would no longer know what to say to them. I fear, in fact, that they would not even guess they were meeting themselves. Well, to hell, with them, if they're so imperceptive. They have no time to spare, anyway; they have to hurry on, to swim with the current, paddling with their hands, farther and farther, faster and faster, day after day, year after year; the shores change, the hills recede, the forests thin out and vanish, the sky darkens, the cold sets in, they have to hurry, hurry - and they no longer have the strength to look back at what is behind them and fading away like a cloud on the edge of the horizon.