I think it’s time I admitted defeat.
Back in 2001 I started a website called Trash Fiction, which was dedicated to the contents of my bookshelves – mainly paperback originals from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. And very good it is too.
But I haven’t added anything to it for ages. Not since my own books started getting published at a regular rate. Come October, I’ll have had seven books out in the space of four years, and – what with that schedule and a day job – it’s left me very little time for writing other things.
And Trash Fiction has been the main casualty.
I’ve also – and not necessarily in an attractive way – started to get very possessive about the books I’m reading. The stuff I write tends to draw quite heavily on popular culture, and I find myself hoarding away books that aren’t very well remembered, so that I can use them in my own work. I’m not sure if this is egomania or paranoia. Or indeed if the two are separable.
But I do think it’s time to accept that Trash Fiction probably won’t get updated again for a while. I shall keep it online, with the intention of returning to it when I find that I’ve run out of publishers prepared to work with me. But it’ll effectively be in suspended animation, kept going only by the life support system of the Internet.
I’ll be sorry to (sort of) leave it behind. It’s provided me with some very fine experiences over the years. I was contacted by some of the authors featured on the site and by other enthusiasts for the byways of British literature. I got a feature in the pages of Mojo magazine. I even got myself quoted in the blurb for a US reprint of James Robert Barker’s classic rock and roll novel Fuel-Injected Dreams. It was fun.
And I received lots of odd emails. The one I treasure most came from a man in Michigan who wrote to me asking if I could pass a message on to Muhammad Ali. ‘I am wanting,’ the message ran, ‘to ask him to be our special speaker for a Christmas Party that we are giving for the Blank County Foster Children.’ Obviously a worthwhile cause (though since Mr Ali is a devout Muslim, his celebrations of Christmas may be somewhat muted), but it does leave one wondering why an American thinks that a person running a site in North London about second-hand paperbacks would have a direct line of access to the former heavyweight champion of the world.
And the answer apparently is that I have a page on Jack Olsen’s 1967 biography (titled Cassius Clay, incidentally). Even so, it seems extraordinary that a web-search on Muhammad Ali would have brought someone to my site. I just tried Google and there are over 3.4 million results. Even the name Cassius Clay produces over 300,000 references.
I was also once contacted by a young man who was booked in to get his first-ever tattoo. Who – he wanted to know – are the best artists to go to? How does someone just starting down this path know what he’s letting himself in for? Is World of Tattoos (the establishment he was planning to patronize) a reputable studio?
And his reason for asking these questions of me was that I had a review of George Burchett’s 1958 book Memoirs of a Tattooist on my site. Sadly, that doesn’t make me much of an expert on the subject. It’s on the same page, incidentally, as Sheila Cousins’ 1953 classic To Beg I Am Ashamed: The Autobiography of a Prostitute.
But I can’t help you on that front either, I’m afraid.