Uncovering insanity

After being imprisoned for killing her mother. Anna Reynolds discovered a talent as a playwright. As she publishes her first novel Insanity. she speaks to Eddie Gibb.

Sandwiched between the two Richard and Judy stand-ins on daytime telcyision last week. Anna Reynolds is plugging her first noxel Insanity. about a young \\olttali\ inexorable descent into madness. ‘liycr thought of w ritiug a cheerful book," asks the presenter inaner Reynolds struggles gamer to e\plaiu that darker emotions are w hat she writes about.

‘You have to be completely in the world you’re writing about. It’s uncomfortable, but you have to do it - that’s the only way I could write something that intense.’

‘l{\er_\ lime I try to write something less black. but it Usually turns out that way.‘ she says a couple of days later. ‘l'm doing a film script at the moment.

w hich is a relief because I don‘t haye to go into that gloomy ca\crn. but l still feel the need to go down there cycry so often.'

lt's perhaps not surprising. considering the hugely

Anna Reynolds: has explored the darker recesses of her own mind

traumatic past she is burdened with at the tender age 1 ol 28. .\fler a deeply unhappy and guiltrridden ('atholic upbringing. site concealed a teenage pregnancy from her family and imtucdiately put the l new -l\ot'ti baby up for adoption (she hasn‘t seen him sincci When Reynolds did tell her mother after giy ing birth. a series of hitter row s ensued. which ended in murder. Aged iust scyenteen. Reynolds was com icted of killing her mother with a hammer and sentenced to life imprisonment in Holloway. where she whiled away the long hours cutting her llesh with l

shards of glass or any thing else w ith an edge. It's a wry common coping strategy among women in prison.

Two years later Reynolds was released. alter an appeal judge accepted cyidence that she had been suffering frotn a seycre form of premenstrual syndrome in a case which made legal history. Now

- cured t-f l’MS through a combination of diet and

hormone treatment. she is seeking lame of a different kind. as a first-time iioyelisl. ha\ ing already had three critically acclaimed plays performed on London’s fringe theatre circuit.

l-‘or anyone who has read the newspaper clippings about .-\nna Reynolds. it‘s tempting to see III.\'(IIIlI_\' as a piece of thinly-Veiled autobiography. She insists it is fiction. though there are some similarities between

her and the central character Rosa: for instance. both I gaye away a baby at birth. But it‘s probably more

accurate to say that Reynolds’s etuotional energy has been channelled into the noyel.

‘You haye to be completely in the world you're writing about.' she says. ‘lt's uncomfortable. but you haye to do it that‘s the only way I could write something that intense. .-\s Rosa started to be less like me I found it a yery scary place to be in. I had a

- nightmare with this book. but it was also a wonderful

high completing it.’

Reynolds is careful not to portray her writing for stage and page as some kind of self-help therapy. a way of coming to terms with guilt. ‘lt's a bit self- indulgent working out your problems at someone else‘s espensef she says. But she does feel compelled to w rite. and some of the energy < the anger and sadness comes from being in places mentally that ‘not eyeryone goes to‘.

The noyel bears the clear stamp of an author who has explored the darker recesses of her own mind.

and in Rosa she successfully captures the sense of a

woman filled with guilt and self-loathing. The two male characters are less subtly described. acting as polar opposites of spontaneous passion and dull dependability between which Rosa bounces. But as a study of a woman on the yerge of a neryous breakdown. Insanity has a high emotional charge that

would be difficult to fake.

Instr/lily /)_\ rill/IN /\’t'_\'/m/(/.\‘ is pit/)lls/It'r/ by Jill [is/(tie (ll [5.99.

W Apocalyptic sounds

Few books on popular music have the dramatic sweep of Barney Hoskyns’s Waiting For The Sun, a panoramic history of the Los Angeles music scene, from the jazz clubs of the late 405 through to gangsta rap. It is a story not only about music, but about the city itself, and the incredible contradictions inherent in a place which is simultaneously a fantasy paradise and a living hell.

‘It was a very difficult book to write, mainly for the sheer amount of material I had to work with, and the number of people and different music i scenes involved,’ says Hoskyns. ‘There t

Getting it off his chest: Iggy Pop in led away after assaulting himself onstage

helped bind it.’

Charles Manson.

c .


boiling point in LA now.’ with a butcher’s knife l

were so many strands to weave together, but as I worked on it, some themes started to emerge which

He describes the book as ‘a study of the peculiarly Californian interplay between light and darkness, or good and evil’. That dichotomy runs through his absorbing account of the rise of America’s most powerful music centre, disrupted by drugs, decadence, riots, and the spectre of

‘I guess I do take the apocalyptic overtones quite seriously,’ says Hoskyns, ‘if only because it’s already an apocalyptic place, in terms of its social conditions and the unspoken apartheid that exists there, as well as the geological instability of the area. A lot of the things which are most wrong about America have reached

Hoskyns will have you itching to hear

records you haven’t heard for years, or scurrying to check out new territory. He reserves his particular affection for the artists who seem to exemplify that pact between dark and light most overtly - Captain Beefheart, Brian Wilson, Phil Spector, Love’s Arthur Lee. But has that creative edge now gone from the city?

‘Grunge blew LA’s credibility as the home of these grotesque monster rock bands, and it hasn’t really recovered yet. The rap and hip hop scene has also burned itself out a bit, and the focus has switched back to the east coast again. The great LA bands are missing right now, but I can’t see it not remaining the major American music metropolis, and I suspect that something interesting will work its way through the cracks again.’ (Kenny Mathieson)

Waiting For The Sun by Barney flaskyns is published by Viking at £20.

The List 3| May- I 3 Jun 1996 85