So where am I with the novel today, almost a year later? Well, I’m sorry to report that I’ve only added three Chapters. Including the Prologue, I’m now some 14,000 words in, with probably five or six times that amount still to go.
And what, you may wonder, is the reason for such painfully slow progress? I could say that I’ve been busy with other things, which is partly true. Or I could say that I’ve been lacking inspiration, which is also partly true. But the overwhelming reason is neither of those; it’s because I’ve only been able to tackle the writing in fits and starts.
Let me explain. Each time I begin to write, I also begin to remember. I remember the enormous stress caused to me by the devious, cowardly actions of my business partners. I remember the pain and fear of the near-fatal stroke that felled me and was a direct consequence of the stress. I remember the six weeks I spent in hospital recovering from the stroke. I remember learning to walk again and to pee standing up and to cross the road on my own. I remember the effort it needed to sit at my laptop without shaking and sweating. And I remember the many months it took me to regain the confidence to walk into a busy supermarket or restaurant or airport without thinking that the whole world was about to crash around me. I remember all of these things and I grow angry.
To a writer, anger is a highly destructive beast. Write when you’re angry and you’ll exaggerate, you’ll skew meanings and you’ll omit key facts. I don’t want to write when I’m angry. I don’t want to exaggerate the failings of the characters, turning them into fictional monsters, who are caricatures and therefore not believable. I want my characters to be thinly disguised real people, real monsters. I want to capture every nuance of their speech and thoughts and deeds. And I want to get the details of time and place exactly right. Only when the story and the people in it reflect the truth (albeit a fictionalised truth for legal reasons) am I satisfied.
So I stop writing when I become angry, only returning to the manuscript when I’m calmer and more able to continue objectively and clinically. Since that could be days, weeks, even months later, I’m now resigned to the prospect that this book will be a long time coming. But when it’s finished, which it will be, it will have been crafted accurately and meticulously in cold blood. The Mafia know all about that kind of approach. Revenge is a dish best served cold, they say.
During the lengthy period it will take to prepare this particular dish, I’ll likely come back here from time to time to report progress and perhaps provide an excerpt or two. Here’s a wee introduction meantime. Meet Neville Brown, the money man. As the blurb explains, he’s a silver-tongued liar and an abject coward. You’ll gather that he also has an obsession.
The building was one of a sweeping terrace of Victorian townhouses built on the crest of the hill overlooking Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow’s West End. Neville’s company, Market Surveys Scotland, occupied its top floor and attic.
He watched as his partner, Izzy, trudged up the steps towards him, a pile of folders under one arm and their two-year-old Yorkshire terrier nestled in the crook of the other. She was wearing an old denim jacket today over a floral dress that reached down to her ankles.
Very fuckin’ Laura Ashley, Neville sneered to himself.
He opened the plate glass door to let her into the office.
“You go on up,” he said. “I’m enjoying the sun. It’s not often it shines in Glasgow, you know.”
“Aye, okay, Nev,” Izzy sighed, stooping down to deposit the dog on the ground.
The dog yelped and scampered up the stair. Izzy followed, her low-heeled, scuffed white shoes click-clacking as she ascended.
“Mind now, Nev,” she called from the first landing, “Jimbo says he wants to see you this morning. Something urgent. He sounded fair harassed on the phone, so he did.”
Neville grunted his acknowledgement. He watched Izzy’s progress for a few moments longer before letting go of the door. Then, shaking his head, he turned to face the park and the sun again.
He really wished that Izzy would tidy herself up before coming to the office. He had complained to her countless times about her appearance, but she always said she was too busy pandering to him to bother about herself. All he wanted was a bit of cooked breakfast in the morning. How fuckin’ hard was that? His Ma used to do it every day for his Da and him – and she never once looked as dowdy and unkempt.
Dowdy and unkempt, he repeated the words to himself. Yes, good words to describe Izzy. Jeez, you’d think she’d slept in that frock she’s wearing. The hair looks greasy as well. I’ll bet it hasn’t seen a brush today. And it’s more dirty brown than blonde these days. Yes, my dear, the fuckin’ roots need doing again!
Making a mental note to speak to Izzy that night about her roots, Neville closed his eyes and let the sun’s rays wash over his face. He tried to think about work, about the tasks he needed to accomplish that day, but, as usual, his mind was wandering. His thoughts had progressed from the specific topic of Izzy’s appearance to the subject of women in general – his favourite subject, in fact. He wondered why it was that all the women in Belfast wanted to dye their hair blonde. It had gotten so that you never knew the true colour of their hair until their knickers were off. Even the Taig women were at it.
His mind was off again. Aye, there’s me turned thirty now and I’ve yet to shag a Taig. And it’s not been for the want of trying. The Neville Brown charm doesn’t seem to impress that lot. But maybe one day. I’d love to fuck a red-haired one, so I would. The skin so pale you can see through it. Freckles everywhere. And that red bush. The fiery bush, just like in the Bible...