The Drowning People Richard Mason (Michael Joseph £10) Once upon a time, there was a certain nobility in being a struggling author. Being starved of cash and grub was good for the soul and led to creative genius, a high status in the arts realm and, maybe, potfuls of dough somewhere down the line.

Now though, it appears that all you need to do is write a few paragraphs, get yourself a hotshot agent and watch those six-figure book deals, serialisation rights, film contracts and lifelong membership of the Groucho simply flood in.

Here is a sample list of first-time novelists with substantial advance deals from the last year: Amy Jenkins with HONEYmoon for £600,000; John Connolly with Every Dead Thing for £350,000; Emlyn Rees and Josie Lloyd with Come Together for £300,000.

At a mere £100,000 two-book deal, Richard Mason may seem like a poor relation to those big- buckers. Yet, when you consider that he grabbed his share of the publishing pie, aged twenty and Sti" 3" ""dergraduate at OXfmd' work in state-of-the-art fabrics under . the" You have to wonder- M350" black light, she doesn’t wrap easy himself is taking it all in his stride. monetary level. ' tricks m Clever effects, She doesn't

'Penguin refused it (The Drowning People) the first The story of an elderly man who murders his wife compromtge her art to move thh the time, but then I was lucky enough to get both a brilliant (that's giving the beginning, not the ending, away) is ttmeg _ movthg thh the tunes t3 not agent and people who have edited me really well,’ he told in flashback to young love dashed amid the London important to her} insists. ‘In a way, it's a wonderful privilege because and Prague social networks of the pre-war era. Time ; to whom is it for? [Tm book '5 when I first wrote the book, I had a job playing piano in catches up and we discover why the relationships went V dedicated to thk’ who showed me

First writes ;

3 Putting debut authors under the

i microscope. This issue: Nell Stroud

' Who she? Nell Stroud IS 25-years—old,

was born in Wiltshire but not into the

T circus. Her eyes were opened when she

; completed her studies at Oxford and t

3 went to visit a friend in the USA who

3 was working in one. This cornCided with a riding accident which left her i

mother with permanent brain-damage l The two events led her to become a 'losser’ - someone who leads a circus

i life, having no previous experience. She

i has since featured in Harper’s 6; Queen

and the South Bank Show and was

. nominated by London’s Evening

j Standard as one of the ’Faces Of ‘99.’

: Her debut It's called Josser: Days And

' Nights In The Circus Basically... Basically, it’s a tale of an art form which has lost credibility and crowds for many reasons accusations of abuse and cruelty or simply because in the 90s, it has little hold for kids and adults who can create fantasy worlds of their own in front of a PC or

' PlayStation. First line test ’Elaina is a trapeze artist.

She is a trapeze artist in the classical

circus tradition. She is not a New Age, self-taught trapeze artist; she doesn’t

Richard Mason: good lucre

a jazz bar and temped endlessly in offices to try and get so horribly awry. how to find the way and Mum the some extra money. The great thing about being paid For one so young (he was eighteen when he wrote it), ; Lionhearted Motherg silly amounts of money is that I can do what I do now - there are clear signs of potential, but his influences

What’s next? Nell Stroud has JLlSl bought a horse and intends to take her own act round the nation’s COuntry fairs. (Brian Donaldson) l Josser: Days And Nights In The

' Circus is published on Thu 7 Apr by Little, Brown at f 74. 99.

I live and work in Paris. It gives you real freedom.’ (Waugh, Fitzgerald, Forster) perhaps shine through a And also the opportunity to have your tale told on little too clearly. It's not exactly money for old rope, but

Newsnight and be dragged onto The Big Breakfast. Of the ultimately slight The Drowning People will ensure

course, with such a financial history behind the book, Richard Mason a constant stream of cash flow. (Brian

the trouble is whether it will be judged on literary Donaldson)

merits or, whether its value will be debated solely on a I The Drowning People is published on Thu 7 Apr.

extra-terrestrial force (the blue light of Blue the title). They'develop extraordinary strength, intelligence, empathy wrth nature and, in some cases at least, sexual magnetism. Those affected Before Walter Mosley's legions of fans become drawn together and form a charge down to the nation's kind of cult. bookstores and part with their hard- It's not all meditation and orgies earned cash: a warning. This is not a however, since Death himself (aka Gray new adventure for Easy Rawlins, the Man, aka Grey Redstar) is out for their post war private dick whose escapades intoxicatingly rich blood. This makes made Mosley a regular best-seller and for some impressively staged Bill Clinton’s favourite author. Nor does ultraviolence, including one 3 it feature Socrates Fortlow, protagonist memorable encounter when a woman of the superb short story collection clubs Death about the head with the ' Always Outnumbered, Always soggy end of someone else’s severed Outgunned. Blue Light is, in fact, a arm. , horror novel. Allegorical it may be, Entertaining enough, but the book is stylistically sophisticated it undoubtedly weakened once the Cult becomes a f is, but nonetheless it belongs to the commune and heads off to the woods I Stephen King-dominated genre. in typical American pastoral fashion. The plot is relatively simple: one night The last thing you want in a horror in 605 California, a few dozen people novel is a bunch of tree hugging hippy (and some animals) are exposed to an crap. (Rob Fraser)

1"” .I’“\, .«j‘t I53;

nus Ann inches In rgx‘oi’ncusf

Walter Mosley (Serpent's Tail £9.99) * *1?

94 THEUST 1—15 Apr 1999