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He’s swapped the ‘freewheeling beauty’ of drug and drink addiction for the freewheeling anarchy of Shooting Stars. And at home in ‘the epicentre of gun crime’, WILL SELF says he’s fitter than ever. Words: Brian Donaldson

love a strange ear. Kirsty Wark: hasn‘t she got strange lear's'.’ She‘s the Will (‘arling of Scottish female

television presenters.’ I read recently that Will Self doesn‘t do small talk and if you‘ve scanned btrt half a sentence of his short journalism or long fiction. you can well believe it. In fact. read the introduction to feeding frenzy. his new collection of jotrrnalisrn and he met by phrases such as ‘hypertrophy of verbiage‘ and ‘[l am] a literary bivalve~ or ‘undermine the strzerainty of stodge‘.

Yet here he is talking abotrt as simple yet surreal thing as a woman‘s aural cavities. Perhaps he's been hanging otrt far too rntrch with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer. the Morecambe & Morecambe of post—comedy Britain. With the departure of Mark Lamarr (the 50s throwback. the greasy lover) from Shooting Stars leaving a void of sullen intelligence against the rabid pseudo-irony of the one they name l'lri-ka- ka-ka. the call went otrt for another battering ram for Vic ‘n‘ Bob‘s throwaway theology. So. how the devil did someone who half-jokingly calls himself ‘this notorious hellraiser’. get to be on the most non—gaming of game shows'.’

Self stares through the window of his study. ttrgs on a roll-up (just tobacco. mind) and answers with an almost refreshing banality: "fhey phoned up and asked me.‘ And their timing was right. ‘l'd got fed up doing weekly sttrff for the papers and then Luther [his new born babe] turned up at a point when I didn‘t want to do so much. So doing Shooting Stars was financially an opportunity to throttle back on work.‘

At first the combination of heavy novelist and light entertainer may appear to be mutually exclusive btrt when you peer a bit closer. the wilder imaginings of Sclf's writing and the unorthodm: visions of Reeves & Mortimer are of the same kin. ‘Vic ‘n‘ Bob‘s schtick is this atcmporal. childlike world. a self-contained surreal universe that has no reference to the outside world.‘ he says. To some. this may sound typical of

‘Sobriety is a lot easier than maintaining a crack and heroin habit; it’s a lot less fraught’

the verbose vocalising you may have heard on TV or radio. But after the initial shock of meeting him (he‘s oft bin and has a stare that could force the Taliban into surrender). you‘ll find that he laughs and smiles more than those stereotypes would have you believe.

‘li'or me.‘ he continues. ‘the best one we’ve done was where I‘d jtrst woken up after a powernap in the dressing room and so I was in that dreamlike. childlike mode and it just seemed to work for me. But if I‘d been discussing the situation in Afghanistan that morning. it's very hard to suspend disbelief in Vic ‘n‘ Bob's world.‘

Within that universe. Self plays an evil alchemist who controls Vic‘s mind through an entity called Dave which hides in a vat under his desk. 'lixistentially. it‘s sometimes good to ptrt yourself in places of absurdity.‘

The place Will Self finds himself in now appears to suit very well: in his study. whose walls are covered in hundreds upon hundreds of Post-it notes with ideas and imager relating to his ongoing projects. at the top of his handsome house in the less than pretty sotrth London borough of Stockwell. "l‘here have been 22 shootings within a mile of this house in the last year.’ he says. ‘lt all really excites my eleven-year-old son because when the police arrived they ptrt up a yellow noticeboard which said that two "snipers" were in the car so he's become obsessed with snipers. We even got Enemy A! The (fates ottt on video.’

So. despite living in what he calls ‘the epicentre of gtrn crime in south London‘ he and his second wife. the Motherwell-born journalist Deborah 011‘. are content here with four-year-old Ivan and three-month-old Luther. However. he would like to get back to the ()rkneys more often. where he has fond memories of working holidays. penning some of the 1990s most ferocious British fiction. ( 'uek And Bull. Great Apes. My Idea (if/"rm all garnered him the right sort of attention. as a writer who dazzled and bamboozled in equal measure.

He has. of course. been in some pretty dark places too. For twenty years. he was a junkie and alcoholic. the details of which have been well documented btrt never more exposed than when he was forced to confess to having consumed some heavy-duty gear in the lav ofJohn Major‘s election-fighting jet in 1997. A brief but ferocious tabloid affair was born.

His name was synonymous in literary and media circles as