Hell on earth
Founder member of punk’s ‘blank generation’, Richard Hell is a New York original who has just written a book about a heroin-addled musician. Eddie Gibb rolls up his sleeves and talks to the author.
Richard Hell — punk survivor. former (maybe) heroin addict and famous wearer of ripped T-shirts — has written a novel that ﬁctionalises much of the above. it isn’t autobiography but the central character. Billy Mud. can reasonably be regarded as Hell’s alter ego. Throughout the slim volume Go Now. Mud tries desperately to produce some prose to accompany his girlfriend's ph0tographs of their road trip across America. It‘s a story of an artist trying to referee an internal struggle between drugs and creativity. which is a pretty fair summation of Hell‘s adult life.
He may have taken a while to publish his ﬁrst book. but Hell always intended to become a writer. When he ﬁrst arrived in New York in the late 60s he was plain Richard Meyers. a young man with a yen to write poetry and perhaps even hang out with Andy Warhol. instead he was sucked into the music scene which was spinning on the axis of the Velvet Underground’s art/noise collision. and started playing in bands.
By the early 70s he was one of a now legendary group of musicians including Patti Smith and Iggy P0p who were intent on causing a rumpus. ‘It was just this noisy rage and anger that didn’t have anything to do with ﬁnesse.’ Hell has said of the time.
Then. in 1975, he invented punk. Seeing Hell bouncing around in slashed stage gear with his band the Voidoids so impressed Malcolm McLaren that he
headed back to London and formed the Sex Pistols — or so legend has it. What‘s certain is that the Voidoids’ album Blank Generation remains a deﬁning moment of the late 70s New York scene. and a pretty good argument for saying that perhaps punk wasn't as British as McLaren and Johnny Rotten tried to make out.
So while the Pistols look out their bondage strides for a nostalgia tour. the grandpappy of punk is doing sedate readings at bookshops around America and the UK. How does wn'tiiig compare to rock ‘n’ roll?
‘l‘ve always been into writing but I wanted to do something that would really try me. and this was pretty trying. I can tell you.‘ he drawls. ‘But it‘s as satisfying a thing as I’ve ever done. I love making records and intend to do another someday but l seem to have spent half my life on the road and i don‘t much like that.‘
Go Now covers ground already well documented in modern American ﬁction; drugs. sex and the urge to
be someplace else. preferably a scummy motel room.
Although the themes are familiar from the beat
liichard llell: the funky rock star myth lives on writing to dirty realism. Hell‘s prose is polished with flashes of real descriptive power. But it seems reasonable to ask whether we really need another
‘All i have to work with is what I know.‘ says Hell. ‘I write about a world where drugs are taken for granted. A lot of the stuff I’ve read before didn’t really capture the way it felt to me. but I guess it differs for everyone. The one thing i wanted was to be thorough and lay out the psychology of it. l’m trying to comprehensively put across the experience of one guy.‘
Hell makes no bones that he‘s lived the life ofthe strung-out addict. but what he won‘t talk about is whether he is now clean. ‘lt‘s too muddy an area.‘ he says simply. He wants the book to speak for itself. which. like so many other heroin-inspired works manages to appal and fascinate at the same time. The junky rock star myth is still alive and we just can’t seem to kick the habit.
Go Now by Richard Hell is published on Mon I July by F ()ill'l/i Estate at £5.99.
‘it’s a philosophical story about the great enigma of existence.’ llo, that’s not the final line in Eranta’s review of Budgie the Helicopter but the conclusion of .Iostein liaarder to his new work, the Solitalre Mystery. Born in Oslo, Gaarder came to the literary
world’s attention with the publication about who they are and when that
of Sophie’s World in which a young girl come "0m. “00le JORBI- We ate _.
trawls through the history of all born outsiders but many at us turn theoretical teachings to come up with Mo 898508. “OWNS 8|“ clubs - in it- i. the answer to the grand questions or all of us is the living joker. Too many - ' .. civilisation. people keep this inside. It’s important JosteIn cast
ills new book, however, should not be seen as a sequel, written as it was a year before Sophie’s World. The novels bear the similar motifs of journeys both physical and spiritual as seen through the eyes of a questioning adolescent. Gaarder clearly has sympathies with the field of inquiry which can only be truly found in the mind of a child.
‘I think we are born curious, baffled by existence,’ states 6aarder. ‘In the central part of the book where the deck of cards turns into living beings, none of them are asking questions
der: what a card
to stay in contact with this card.’
As the boy ilans themes and his . chain-smoking father cross Europe in pursuit of his mother who has fled to Athens in search of herself and a fashion career, he is handed a pocket book whose fairy story closely resembles his own life.
‘I wanted to tell a story about the strong relationship between a father and a son, about Europe and about a sailor arriving on an island with a deck of cards.’ explains Boarder. ‘I tried to choose whether it home this story orthatortheotherbutlt became one story all melting together.’ The result is far from a beer deal. (Brien Donaldson)
The Solitaire Mystery by Josteln Boarder ls published by Phoenix Ilouse at £15.99.