THE WRITE STUFF
Science ﬁction novelist Michael Marshall Smith has a successful sideline adapting fantasy and horror novels for the big and small screens. As his latest novel Spares is published, he speaks to Teddy Jamieson.
lianie Michael Marshall Smith.
Age 3 1.
Previous jobs I was a semi-professional comedian for a while. l’ve worked as a graphic designer and wrote corporate videos for a living.
iioute to becoming a writer 1 did comedy sketch writing for radio and a certain amount for television while I was at college and as that started to fade out I just started to write horror short stories.
Dally routine i get up as early as I can. which is generally about half past eight. make sure my girlfriend is safely off the premises. sit down and have a couple of cups of tea and a couple of cigarettes. If l'm writing screenplays there’s generally a lot of phone calls and a certain amount of bashing my head against the screen. if I’m writing novels. there’s still an amount of bashing my head.
Influences Some of the early ones would be Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick. Kingsley Amis. and then Stephen King. Martin Amis. James Ellroy and James Lee Burke. Because I like horror and science ﬁction and crime and mainstream. i guess all of those inﬂuences are coming together and I think I’m going to see if I can get away with that really.
Ambitions What I’d like to do is have a moderately successful novel writing career and a moderately successful screen writing career.
Fears Every time a possible project comes along one tends to say yes because 90 per cent of them won't happen. Unfortunately I said that to about ﬁve and they've all happened so not getting stuff done in time is my key fear at the moment.
lncorne In the next year or so it’s going to be about half a million - a large chunk of it is the sale to Dreamworks for the movie rights to Spares. In the previous year I earned £l 1.000.
Spares by Michael Marshall Smith is published by HarperCollins at £9. 99.
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I The Same iiiver Twice: lionorlng The Ditticult Alice Walker (Women‘s Press £l6.99) This book is billed as a major autobiographical work. but one feels Walker‘s publishers are being rather economical with the truth. Instead. it is a maverick mish-mash of letters. personal thoughts. articles and a full- length script of all that pertains to the transformation of Walker's ‘baby: The.” Colour Purple into a Spielberg ﬁlm.
The rate glimpse we are given into the author's creative processes and the political misunderstandings the ﬁlm bred within the black community are worthy of interest. Yet do we care enough about the novel-to-ﬁlm translation to bear with the book‘s extensive ‘padding’ of fan letters to the author? Undoubtedly the moments when Pulitzer Prize-winning Walker imparts her lyrical and spiritual prose are memorable, but they are dwarfed by the extraneous material suffocating it. (Ann Donald)
I Cruising Paradise Sam Shepard (Seeker & Warburg £ l 5.99) After three decades of creating a storm on the stage and sending not-unpleasant shivers up the spines of movie audiences worldwide. cult playwright-tumed- actor Sam Shepard is venturing into the badlands of prose ﬁction.
At its core. this collection is a down and dirty exercise in yam-spinning. The stories and dialogues — some inter- linked. others free-floating — range in locale down the Califomia-Mexico
strip and focus on the misfortunes of assorted rnenfolk. From the legends of frontier settlers. to the cactus-candy (laymares of trailer-park white trash, Shepard grants each voice independence: the result is a sucker- punch cocktail. with enough tequila. tears and laughter to ﬂoor the most cynical of readers.
Timed to coincide with Methuen‘s re- publication of Shepard’s stage-play - hack-catalogue. Cruising Paradise should switch a new generation on to the original hombre of crazed Americana. Boss material. Invest. (Deirdre Molloy)
I X 20 Richard Beard (Flamingo £9.99) Still brooding over that debut novel? Quit stalling. empty the ashtray and get it off your chest. Put the worst ﬁrst. like Richard Beard. because in this life the worst is as good as it gets. Any ex-smoker will tell you that.
Such is the quandary faced by Gregory Simpson in his twenty-day withdrawal from nicotine, always busy with his hands — a failsafe interim tactic. apparently. Greg casts his mind
back over the sequence of events to date in a cold-turkey scribble that is cunningly structured and replete with temptresses. lips. ﬁngertips, and the manoeuvres of the tobacco research industry.
Greg himself is a bit of a cipher. and womankind gets a general kicking as the author of his downfall. The best characters are the erotchety old duffers who hold weekly meetings at Gregory’s flat. pufﬁng furiously. as is their duty as members of the Suicide Club. For this amoral conceit alone, X 20 gets my vote. (Deirdre Molloy)
I or Wee Sweetie Mice And Men Colin Bateman (Harper Collins £5.99) ‘Peace had settled over the city like the skin on a rancid custard’. So begins Bateman's farcical but surprisingly believable third novel. Having abandoned his attempts at marital reconciliation. lrish journalist Starkey hits New York to cover the Tyson v Iumpen lrish heavyweight Fat Boy McMaster ﬁght. Wheeling. double- dealing and disaster ensue.
I lewis Carroll Morton N. Cohen (Paperrnac £ I2) A decidedly odd character by today’s standards. Carroll was an introverted. largely joyless. Victorian academic and photographer whose most meaningful relationships were with children. Cohen's biography is a tad dry but infused with a certain charm. the research thorough and employing much original material. the text laced with Carroll's photographs and sketches.
I ILO. The Story OI Mr Wells Michael Foot (Black Swan £7.99) In his youth. Foot was a friend of Wells whose less publicised but powerful politicising shaped Fool's subsequent parliamentary career. Such circumstances give weight to a life mainly thought of in terms of literary output. most notably the enduring The War Of'l'he Worlds. Scholarly. conﬁdent writing.
I Sex, Power And Travel: Ten Years or Arena Edited by Dylan Jones (Virgin £9.99) A lesson in excellence from Britain's 'ﬁrst men's magazine‘. soundly overshadowing the young pretenders. Courting writers who have elevated themselves and their work to a certain level of debate and celebrity status (Burehill. Cosgrove. Suzanne Moore. Gordon Burn. Sean O'Hagan and the ubiquitous Parsons). stars. bars. style and. naturally. sex feature.
I Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy: Classic Rock And Pop Writing From Elvis To Oasis Edited by Dylan Jones (Hodder and Stoughton £9.99) Spanning 40 years. this collection doesn't claim to be deﬁnitive. yet the sources are still overly ohvious. the musicians a gaggle of usual suspects and the contributors. latterly. something of a clique (Burchill. Sean O'Hagan and the ubiquitous Parsons — see above). Nonetheless. a lack of muso tedium in favour of dirt-dishing gives punters what they want.
I Death By Spaghetti Paul Sussrnan (Fourth Estate £4.99) A diverting compilation of pieces from the In The News section of The Bi g Issue. to which all royalties are being donated. these ludicrous real-life tales are in the vein of Private Eye’s Funny Old World column. Only ten weeks to Christmas. folks. (Susan Mackenzie)
READING LIGHTS FESTIVAL
All heading Lights events take place at CCA, 350 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, 332 1521 unless otherwise stated.
lan Pattison in conversation with Elaine O. Smith Fri l8 Oct. 1 lam. £4 (£2). The TV writer and actress talk about football and comedy.
uavld Baddiel in conversation with Stuart Bathgate Fri 18 Oct. 2pm. £4 (£2). Baddiel talks about his debut novel Time For Bed (Little Brown £12.99). Screenwriting Fri l8 Oct. 4pm. £4 (£2). Speakers include Catherine Aitken. Chn's Dolan and Bill Douglas.
When Saturday Comes Fri 18 Oct. 7pm. £4 (£2). The panel discusses Scottish football.
iiebel Inc launch Fri 18 Oct. 9pm. £4
(£2). Rebel launch their short story collection Children Of Albion Rovers (Rebel Inc/Canongate £8.99).
Carolyn Cassady in conversation Sat 19 Oct, 1 lam. £4 (£2). The author discusses her book OjfThe Road (Penguin £9.99). Gerry Anderson Sat 19 Oct. lpm. £4 (£2). The Thunderhirds creator signs copies of Gerry Anderson: The Authorised Biography (Legend £ l4.99).
Screen Violence Sat 19 Oct. 2pm. £4 (£2). Discussion about the controversial anthology Screen Violence (Bloomsbury £9.99) by Karl French. Speakers include The List's Alan Morrison.
Alexander Trocchl Sat 19 Oct. 5pm. £4 (£2). Screening of A Life In Pieces. followed by discussion with Kevin Williamson and Edwin Morgan. See feature.
Gil Scott-Heron Sat I9 Oct. 7pm. £5 (£3). Velvet Rooms. 520 Sauchiehall Street. 332 0755. Music and prose from the jazz rap king. See feature.
ilennot iiealy in conversation with Brian Morton Sun 20 Oct. 1 lam. £4 (£2). The playwright and poet talks about his recent novel A Goat's Song (Flamingo £5.99). Weeness or llations Sun 20 Oct. 2pm. £4 (£2). Colm Toibin. Andrew O'Hagan and others talk about writing from a small nation.
Vox ’n’ iioll Sun 20 Oct. 9pm. £4 (£2). Readings from Duncan McLean and others in conjunction with 10 Day Weekend.
so The List 18-31 Oct 1996