“This is weird.” — line 1, page 1, Weed
A publisher in London wrote of the novel Weed, “… it’s really witty and very strong … I would compare the writing to Robert Rankin, or a really satirically biting Tom Sharpe, and will say again that I’m really impressed by it.”
I confess I have never read Robert Rankin (but really ought to now) but I was chuffed with the reference to Tom Sharpe.
I have read and appreciated a great many of Mr Sharpe’s novels but when writing Weed I didn’t have his work in mind at all. I was not really thinking of any particular authors. I was certainly very influenced by Terry Gilliam’s film Brazil, and Lindsay Anderson’s If, Britannia Hospital and O Lucky Man! I was definitely trying to channel some kind of counter-culture thing. No, Mr Sharpe hadn’t crossed my mind.
Oddly, my father, not much of a reader or appreciator of books, and certainly not a fan of vulgarity, turned me on Tom Sharpe. I think that was Blot on the Landscape and I was a teenager, so Mr Sharpe must have been a rising star at that point in time.
I appreciated the work for its brutal satire, its polemic, its vitriol. Sharpe tracked down folly, inanity, unfairness and hypocrisy and beat it with his sense of humour until it looked as silly as it could get.
No, despite the connection that the publisher made, Mr Sharpe didn’t come into the Weed world. However, he does with my next story, currently a work in progress. Last year starting on this new project (Sir Hades) I tried to draw on some things I have learned from Tom Sharpe — and also, as unalike as he is, Terry Pratchett. What have I learned? Well, let’s get this story finished and then we’ll see. I’ll be more than chuffed if anyone makes the same comparison they did with Weed.
At this time when Mr Sharpe has come back into my thoughts, the man himself has departed this world. He died just a few days ago.
Remembering Tom Sharpe.
To the right of Heavenly Estate, dawn is piling on the horizon like spilt jam. Sergeant Testosteroni is standing on top of his APC, arms akimbo, binoculars hanging on his chest. This is just how Rommel would have looked surveying Tobruk in 1942, if Tobruk had looked like a well tossed salad and if Rommel had sported a dangly beer gut and had possessed a face like a sausage breakfast.
In the boll of the night, by Shangri-la Heights, round Olympus Towers, past Avalon Hall and veering left before Elysium House, strolls a man: a round man, a big ball of a man with a football head, red cricket ball cheeks, a golf ball nose, and ping-pong ball eyes. He walks — or rolls — nonchalantly and slowly, going where the ramps and stairs and walkways and the rucked tarmac take him, silently between upended supermarket trolleys, skirting charred and mouldering mattresses, avoiding the heaps of black bin bags, ignoring the novas of paint and the dead cat under his feet. His head is happily cradled by his ample, rugby ball shoulders, and a quiet smile is recumbent on his comfy face.
He is carefully ignored. A Community Cruiser — half bicycle cop, half main battle tank — ignores him, gliding away into the deep galaxy of Cuckooland Mall, with only the barest crunching of glass under its six wheels. Several of the smaller shadows ignore him, sidling without glances — suddenly empty hands thrust into deeply innocent pockets — into alleys and niches even the architects of the estate knew nothing of. Two dogs humping in the bones of a burned out Mini ignore him. The cateracted apartment windows overlook him.
On and around he aimlessly rolls on Dr. Bovver soles pounded by long use to the motherly consistency of old mattresses. He pauses to broaden his smile and to unwedge something from between his teeth with his right pinky. He looks up at the sour yellow sky while his big cheesy lips retain their moon. His brow divides and caterpillars over his eyes as if suddenly aware of something above or below or to one side of the usual range of human perception. In an instant he unslings an Uzi from beneath his left armpit and aims up at the still, blank facade of Nirvana Heights. There is a crash of breaking glass, normally as natural in this concrete massif as lark song in a forest, but this time too momentous to be a bottle or a car window. Some part of the estate’s stressed structure has burst, and before the cascade of glass has splashed down, the round man has bounced out of its way. A siren bays and the stroller, over the barrel of his gun, with his bright, swift eyes has picked out in the city’s foul aura, high on the wall above him, something like drying laundry or a stray tree flapping in the hot wind.
This is an extract from early in Weed, where we meet our laughing policeman Inspector Yard who will prove to be a wannabe nemesis of Bob Weed.
There will be more extracts of Weed appearing here from time to time.
But sometimes the truth is better left in your overcoat pocket in the locker room so that it can escape and cease to be your problem. p97 Weed http://tinyurl.com/7hgu5xh