Monday, October 31, 2005

Desert Island Discs

Music is just as important to me as literature. For a start I couldn't have written "A Half Life Of One" without music in the background.

I wouldn't find it easy to choose my eight desert island disks. I'd have to exclude classical music (I'd want to mainline the stuff that goes straight into the emotional jugular). Then there's the problem that my favourites regularly change. But here's eight that would make it most of the time (I could simply have chosen eight by Dylan but this list is a little more eclectic).

1 Mother by John Lennon. The rawest rock song ever written.

2 Going Back by Dusty Springfield. So beautiful it hurts.

3 The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Roberta Flack. Just as beautiful and nearly as painful.

4 Dancing In The Dark by Bruce Springsteen. Not quite a genius, but would have been if he'd died young.

5 Farewell Angelina by Joan Baez. She's recorded some clunkers but when she sings Dylan...

6 San Francisco by Scott McKenzie. Okay, you had to be there (the sixties, that is).

7 Hamburger To Go by the Rolling Stones. Could have been any one of dozens. These guys are geniuses.

8 Don't Stop by Brazilian Girls. Don't play this when your wife/husband/lover's around. Aural pornography. Sue Lawley would have a heart attack.

Kiwis are nuts

My son moved to New Zealand a year ago. He's a keen swimmer but in New Zealand they're all mad about sport, absolutely fanatical. He e-mailed me this morning and remarked that Kiwis are nuts.

He's wrong of course. Kiwis are fruits.

Freedom Of Speech Under Threat

The Grumpy Old Bookman has an alarming post about the threat to the amazing writing resource Everyone Who's Anyone .

As well as being an invaluable reference for writers both established and aspiring the site is well worth visiting for the irreverent, and often hilarious, correspondence conducted between Gerard Jones and the literary establishment.

Now it is under threat because one of the big boys has objected to the way Gerard has collated various contact names and e-mail addresses which are, in any case, freely available on the web.

Freedom of speech is under threat here and it's our duty to Gerard to give him all the support we can.

Mirror to the soul

There's a lot of stuff out there about how to become a successful writer. Usually it concerns plot construction, themes, dialogue, syntax, how to find an agent etc etc.

But there's more to it than that. When you write a novel you hold up a mirror to your soul and the world peers in. Readers are very perceptive, you can't pull the wool over their eyes.

What makes Scott Fitzgerald a better (on any definition) writer than Jeffrey Archer? It's obvious, isn't it. It isn't just the writing. To be a great writer you need a deep soul. You need to love humanity and all its frailties. You need an infinite capacity to forgive the world its manifest cruelty. Above all you need to love and understand your fellow man. Knowing only yourself is not enough, as Fitzgerald discovered.

Learn the tricks of the trade by all means. But if you want to be any good as a writer you better start behaving as a decent human being first.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Two observations that ruined my life

Notwithstand my previous post, not all reading is good for you.

When I was about fourteen we studied Charles Lamb at school. One sentence of his leapt out at me and maybe helps to account for my abiding sloth. Sonorously he intoned, "Man is out of his element as long as he is operative." It was, as they say, like a lightbulb going off in my brain. These sentiments were re-inforced shortly afterwards when I read Jerome K Jerome's "Three Men In A Boat" where he too expressed his extreme dislike of work.

What really fucked me up though was when I took to heart Edgar Wallace's dictum that "No one ever avoided temptation by running away from it." Maybe not, but I wish I'd given the alternative a try while I was up at uni. Might even have passed some exams if I had.

Ten books that saved my life

Because we were too poor to own a radio, when I was younger reading was the only way to escape. Here's a list of ten books that saved my life in roughly chronological order:

1 The William Books. Timeless humour pierced the deepest gloom.

2 Guys And Dolls. Grown up humour for kids.

3 Animal Farm. Hm. It's an allegory isn't it?

4 Hurry On Down. Unreadable now but it hinted at a way out.

5 The Great Gatsby. Peerless. Hopelessly romantic but written by the hand of an angel. I wanted to write like that.

6 Scoop. More grown-up humour and beautifully written.

7 A Farewell To Arms. My only reservation about this book was the fear that maybe Hemingway was better than Fitzgerald. He wasn't.

8 Goodbye To All That. How to survive a war. Which is what you're trying to do at sixteen.

9 Dubliners. Startingly good writing and accessible too.

10 An American Dream. Notable mainly because it was the last book I read before going up to University when the world changed forever.

Me and Dr Johnson

Dr Johnson said that no man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money. But he was wrong. Only a blockhead would choose writing as a way to make money. Even the simplest cost/benefit analysis shows that a successful published author would be better off employing his talents in the service of Mammon if money is the main objective.

Most writers earn a pittance. Too much of their time is devoted to activities other than writing. Months spent trying to get an agent or a publisher. When their book is finally published, publicising it. Better to have a decent job and publish for nothing on the web.

To be fair, he also said a man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it.

And that's the best advice anyone can give.

This is a non-nude literary blog

Any male reading this post will be familiar with the term "non-nude". It refers to the kind of quasi-porn website that doesn't actually show nudity.

In the same way this site has a literary orientation in that it is about writing - and reading too of course - but without the concomitant lit crit and rarefied thinking that the more cerebral literary sites demonstrate. It's more of a nuts and bolts thing. My list of links illustrates this point pretty well. Any of these sites will take you straight to the sharp end of reading and writing with the minimum of bullshit.

I don't know what the literary equivalent of a hard-core website is but when I find it I'll let you know.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

My blog marketing demograhics

It's a pretty poor blogger who doesn't analyse his website traffic to see how successfully he is reaching his target audience. In my case the target audience is potential readers of my novel "A Half Life Of One".

Here's what's happened since I launched this blog on 11th October 2005:

Comments (ie responses):

Number of posts since launch: 31
Number of comments: 10
Breakdown by interest of commentators: Online loans: 3
Medical (including rashes): 3
Kissing: 1
Gambling: 2
Literary: 1

Number of favourable comments on my weblog: 9
Number of views (ie clickthroughs) delivered to "A Half Life Of One": 0


Total no of visits to weblog: 64
Of which: Me: 25
Others: 39
Total duration of visits: Me: 80mins 25secs Others: 7min 03secs
Average duration of visits: Me: 3mins 20 secs Others: 11 secs*
*Median duration of external visitors: 0 secs
Number of return visitors: 0


If you exclude my visits then my average visitor is probably male, wealthy, slightly hypochondriac, adventurous, uncritical and with an extremely short attention span.

If you include my visits then my average visitor is 57 years old, runs his own businesses, lives in Aberdeenshire, enjoys reading, fishing, writing, Scott Fitzgerald and was born on April 20.


While undoubtedly encouraging it is clear that the blog is not yet attracting a sufficient share of the desired target market. It is suggested that a viral marketing campaign be implemented immediately and its success monitored.

Me and Edvard Munch

Now I know what that guy in "The Scream" feels like as he howls into emptiness. Except that if you look closely at the painting there are two people nearby watching so he (or she) is not really alone.

Maybe they're spam botters.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Writers v Writing

Scott Fitzgerald made me want to be a writer. Of course, that isn't the same thing at all as wanting to write.

When I was sixteen I wanted to write. By the time I was twenty-five I had to write.

Now I'm fifty-seven I don't give a fuck about being a writer. But I still have to write. When I lose that desire - and there are times when I can't write, sometimes for months at a time - then I know it's the end.

Me and Scott Fitzgerald

I first read The Great Gatsby in January 1965 and immediately fell in love with it. I was sixteen, just the right age to be impressed by its impossibly romantic vision.

I've read it many times since, most recently three weeks ago. It still makes me cry. Not the story but the way it's told. Fitzgerald writes like an angel and he's still my favourite writer and Gatsby is still my favourite book. It's what made me want to be a writer. I went to university determined to emulate Fitzgerald but all I succeeded in doing was drinking like him.

Fitzgerald did not believe he was one of the great writers - not up there with Tolstoy, or Dickens or even Joyce for example. But he did believe he was top of the second division. I think he was being too modest. To my mind Gatsby remains a small but almost flawless masterpiece. I would give anything to write a book a fraction as good as that.

Fitzgerald died at the age of forty-four believing he was a failure. I'm fifty-seven and if I don't get some visitors to this site soon I'm going to go the same way.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Is ROD/WOD the new meme?

Is ROD (Read On Demand) or its latest incarnation WOD (Write On Demand) the new meme that is sweeping the internet?

The spam botters that are invading my blog certainly seem to think so. I'm not so sure though.

Mainly because I don't know what a meme is.

Are spam botters all bad?

I'm not sure spam botters are all bad for the following reasons:

1 They make up 99.9% of my readership

2 I have never heard a spam botter say a single bad thing about my blog

3 Spam botters are human too

4 I'd be awfully lonely without them

The funniest joke I've ever heard

Bob Monkhouse was a British comedian of remarkable longevity. He wasn't universally liked because of his somewhat oily manner and the way he oozed sincerity. I'm pretty ambivalent about him, to tell the truth. However, he did tell at least one brilliant joke which went like this:

"They laughed when I said I wanted to be a comedian." Grins wryly. "They're not laughing now."

My previous post was a lie

Actually, the previous post (which is the one after this one if you're reading chronologically) was a complete fabrication. I just wanted to get Hemingway's name into the title of the post for marketing purposes.

The truth is my mum can't read. Not that she's illiterate. She's dead.

My mum thinks I'm Ernest Hemingway

After she read a few chapters of "A Half Life Of One" my mum said it reminded her of Ernest Hemingway.

Which was a bit of a bummer because I've always thought of myself as more like Scott Fitzgerald.

Me and Harry Potter

I've been checking the stats again to see how views of my novel "A Half Life of One" compare against a reasonable plain vanilla yardstick like Harry Potter.

As far as I can tell at least one person has looked at the first chapter since I started this blog. Probably half a million readers have picked up a Harry Potter in that time.

That's good. Gives me something really meaty to aim at.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Looking out of my study window I see that Robert has put his sheep back in my field. I'm pleased. Sheep keep the weeds down. They're also good company once you get to know them.

What's the backstory?

A Half Life of One is basically the story of a guy whose business goes wrong. The action he takes to save his family from the consequences of bankruptcy soon spiral out of control.

I too have owned (still do in fact) a number of businesses and like every entrepreneur I've often stared bankruptcy in the face. I wrote the first draft of A Half Life Of One whilst fighting to save what was then my main company. During the year it took to write I lost a stone and a half and my hair turned white due to the pressure I was under at the time. Fortunately, the company survived.

There's also a backstory to the backstory. I've often wondered how I would have behaved if I'd lived in Germany or occupied France during the war. Like everyone else I'd like to think I would have taken a stand against the Nazis or joined the Resistance. But the truth is I don't think I would. Especially if my family was threatened. I think I would have buckled under the pressure and committed whatever atrocities they demanded of me. After the war I expect I would have soon forgotten my misdemeanours or perhaps rationalised them away.

That's what the main guy in my book does. It doesn't make it right of course. The question is, what would you have done in these extreme circumstances? Are you sure?

Funny how you forget

Last Friday I proclaimed that I would be making a mega announcement regarding Read On Demand on Monday. This is Wednesday and still I've kept you in the dark

That's because I've forgotten what the hell it was I was going to announce. Sorry.

Technical changes

I've moved the chapters of A Half Life Of One across to my other blog. I kind of felt they were a little indigestible on this site and their mass actually inhibited the free flow of thoughts and ideas I want here.

As a result this may be a good time to clarify the aims of the Pundy House Blog, namely

1 To act as a marketing tool designed to attract readers to A Half Life Of One

2 To set out my thoughts on the writing life

3 To set out my thoughts on life

In that order

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

What the Hell IS a Pundy House?

I bet the first thing my reader(s) wonder(s) is: what the hell's a Pundy House anyway?

It's a bloody stupid title for a blog, that's what.

To tell the truth I'd give anything to have another go at it. I could have called it something clever like "Junk Food For The Brain"; or even employed a limp literary allusion like "Screen With A View" or something. Anything.

The thing is I panicked. Typed in the first thing that came into my head and pushed the button. Ask yourself, how many people do you think come here because they want to know what a Pundy House is? Don't wrack your brains. Zilch is the answer. A big fat zero. None.

As somebody once said: If he had a brain he'd be dangerous.

Great news!!

Great news - I've just had another brilliant idea!

It seems to me that it's not fair that I should appropriate the joys of authorship entirely to myself. That's not only selfish, it's no longer appropriate in the exciting new world of Read On Demand, is it. Instead, what I propose is to share the joys of authorship with my reader(s). I'll consider any informed comment you care to make as the book is rolled out in response to popular demand.

I'll debate your suggestions and if you win the argument I'll incorporate your revisions into the book.

ROD has just become WOD.

A Half Life of One - Chapter 2

Read On demand in action: You asked for it so go to my other blog here to read it:

Monday, October 24, 2005

Peering Over the Parapet

Gee, the web is a big place isn't it? I've been having a look round recently, trying to figure out how long it will take Read On Demand to reach a dominant position.

There's so much out there though. I'm reminded of something I read a while back. Apparently when Hitler invaded Russia the German soldiers soon became totally overwhelmed when they were confronted by the vastness of the Steppes. They became disorientated and demoralised by the bleak emptiness that swallowed them up. It didn't take them long to figure out this was a war they couldn't win.

As usual their leaders took a lot longer before they realised their fatal mistake. Hm. Makes you think, doesn't it?

Thanks Auntie Mary

I guess I have Auntie Mary to thank for making me want to be a writer. That's because she made my life a misery. I went to live with her after my father died when I was eleven. She and Uncle George were very poor and I guess she resented having an extra mouth to feed. She gave me a rough time. But, hell, every writer should be grateful for having an unhappy childhood. So, thanks Auntie Mary.

From the age of seventeen she always called me "Six feet of nothing". At the time I was six feet tall and weighed ten and a half stones. Now I'm nearer twelve. Stones that is.

Not feet.

Razor Burn


sadly a bad case of razor burn - an unintended consequence of my latest economy drive - means I can't make my big announcement today

Friday, October 21, 2005

More Good News

Yo Reader(s)

I've checked the stats and it appears the Read On Demand model is holding its own. As the man said, I started off with nothing and so far I've got most of it left.

Could be a good time for Amazon to overhaul the sustainability of their business strategy before they get swept away by the new paradigm I've created.

Since we're doing so well I'll let the momentum build over the weekend but stand by for a mega announcement on Monday.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Is this the death of traditional publishing?

I thought you'd like to know how the battle for the attention of the reading public was going. That's the battle between Read On Demand (me) and traditional publishing (Random House, Penguin etc).

This is easily measurable by counting the number of comments I have received this week compared to the number of books that have been sold worldwide in that time. Oh, okay, maybe that's an unfair comparison. A fairer measure of the decline in traditional publishing would be a comparison between the number of comments I have received since I invented the the new paradigm and the number of books sold since Guttenberg invented the printing press.

On that basis I've just re-checked the figures and so far the results are as follows:

Read On Demand: 1 Traditional Publishing: More than that (I'm still counting but I'll get back to you soon).

The conclusion has to be, I think, that we still have some way to go.

Stop Press: Somene has pointed out thatthe only comment I have received is simply spam. In the interests of fairness I'll check this and get back to you. Meanwhile, 3 gazillion and thirty-two, 3 gazillion and thirty-three....

If the book was any good...

If the book was any good someone would have published it by now.

Yes, probably. But maybe most of those agents I sent it to didn't even read it. Maybe it's too dark. Even worse it's not about celebrities. The hero is deeply flawed, maybe pathological. I don't think many women will sympathise either with his character or his predicament. Maybe it's dull, boring. Old-fashioned. Predictable. The happy ending isn't what it purports to be. It certainly isn't commercial.

And finally, yes, maybe it's crap.

At least this way you get to make up your own mind about it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Read On Demand

I've just realised that what I'm doing isn't Print On demand after all. It's Read On Demand, isn't it? Maybe that's a quantum leap forward. Or a step back to the time where we all sat round the fire and begged the storyteller to tell us more. I hope it's the latter. I only ever wanted to be a storyteller.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Monday, October 17, 2005

Print On Demand

Tomorrow's the big day when I start to publish "A Half Life Of One". I'll release the book a chapter at a time. To trigger the next chapter just ask. That really is going to be Print On Demand. A revolution in publishing. Don't be too impatient. Only a few more hours to go.

The Blurb

Novel Title: A Half Life of One

This story is set in contemporary Scotland, around Deeside, in an isolated landscape where events can unfold in a vacuum, without ever being detected.

A middle-aged man loses nearly everything when his business collapses. The bank is threatening to re-possess his home and throw his family out onto the streets. Under extreme duress from his creditors he hatches a plan to kidnap a wealthy female entrepreneur who owns a country estate near to where he lives.

Things don't work out the way he planned.

Find out what happens when an ordinary individual is subjected to intolerable pressure.

Share his terror when you realise how easy it is for any of us to go off the rails.

Pray that you're never placed in the same situation.

Weep for those who lose their lives.

Chapter 1 will be published tomorrow.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Connie Kreski

Here's the short story I mentioned yesterday:

PMOY 1969

On the morning of his fifty-second birthday Maureen Kozar pushed her husband headlong into the twenty-first century. After he’d unwrapped the cardboard boxes Maureen glowed with pride as she showed him how to connect the monitor and keyboard and plug in the modem. “You get instant Internet access too,” she enthused. Henry kissed his wife on the cheek. She was forever thinking of new ways to make his life interesting again. Up until now he’d only used a computer to track down out-of-print gardening books in the reference library.
In the event his entry into the wired-up world wasn’t exactly instant. According to the instructions it should only have taken a few minutes to get connected but like most men Henry never read instructions. Over the ensuing days he attempted to barge his way into the computer age. Each time he was rebuffed by a bloody-minded machine that appeared to have taken an instant dislike to him. His frustration mounted but he was damned if he was going to be beaten by a contraption only a few steps higher up the evolutionary ladder than their dishwasher.
The stand-off between man and machine was only resolved when Maureen eventually came to his rescue, as she always did. Leaning over his shoulder she prodded the keyboard with the insouciant expertise of a heron spearing fish in a garden pond. “It’s easy,” she purred, relishing the power of her technological superiority, “All you have to do now is click this button on your mouse and you’re there. See.”
Henry glared at the flashing screen. “Where?” he bleated, enraged, “What mouse? Where am I?”
Maureen smiled indulgently. “It’s a portal, dear. Your entrance into the future. Think of it as the first page of an interactive encyclopaedia.”
Henry already had a dog-eared copy of encyclopaedia which had served him perfectly well for the last twenty years. Sighing resignedly he said, “Okay, okay. Just leave me to it. I’m not a complete idiot, you know.”
Maureen smiled to herself as she went downstairs. Not complete, no.
Alone in his study Henry stared blankly at the Search Engine, the half open doorway into whatever it was that lurked out there in “cyberspace”. He shook his head. Even the language was baffling. He regarded the keyboard with suspicion. Maureen had said that all the accumulated knowledge in the universe was now available to him at the press of a button. He tried but failed to think of something he didn’t already know. Determined not to appear foolish he tried to think of something he actually wanted to know. Anything. Minutes passed but his mind remained blank. For the first time he was confronted by the vastness of his own ignorance. Over the years his horizons had narrowed, his imagination had grown sclerotic. In the end he typed in the name of the local junior football team. The screen leapt into life and he was inundated with a mass of information about the team’s results and scoring averages and favourite restaurants and hobbies and attendances and even hotdog sales. An involuntary click on the mouse sent him spinning off into deepest cyberspace.
Three hours later he staggered out of his study reeling from the sensory bombardment. He felt as if he’d just spun off a high-speed merry-go-round.
“Well?” said Maureen.
He was lost for words. “It’s a bit overwhelming, isn’t it,” he muttered eventually.
“’Silent, upon a peak in Darien?’”
He smiled ruefully at the erudite allusion. The chaotic world he’d discovered wasn’t exactly what Keats had in mind. “Something like that.”
“It’s the future, dear, a world beyond imagination. You never know, it might even change your life.”
Henry looked sceptical. “Can it make me happy?”
Maureen laughed. “It probably can – if you know where to look.”
He subsided into his favourite armchair. Maureen poured him a sherry. He opened the evening paper but his thoughts were miles away in cyberspace. Perhaps Maureen was right – she invariably was. If he knew the right questions to ask perhaps there might be answers worth ferreting out amongst all the dross. Secrets previously known only to a select few. Knowledge that could transform his life, rescue him from the mediocrity into which he knew he had sunk since he had accepted early retirement. All he had to do was to find the right questions and the answers, the answers he had been looking for all his life, would be his.
The following night after he had finished pottering about in the garden he sat up in his room confronting the insolent, garish screen and hesitantly typed his own name, H. Kozar, into the search engine. To his astonishment he was rewarded with over twenty-five million hits (he was already learning the terminology). His exhilaration was short-lived. He quickly discovered that the vast majority of the web pages he subsequently clicked onto actually referred to other people, mostly called Harry. He apparently did not exist on the net, he was a non-person, not even an echo in Cyberspace. He felt slighted, somehow demeaned by his failure to leave his mark in even this ethereal world. Doggedly, he worked his way down the list of websites. To his horror he soon found himself confronted by various series of pictures of a well-endowed, totally naked woman. One of his many namesakes appeared to be a former Playboy model who seemed to be hugely popular judging by the number of sites devoted to her. Overcoming his initial embarrassment he scrutinised some of the various sites devoted to her charms. He hadn’t seen such pictures for years, certainly not in his own home and he found the experience quite shocking. It was such an unexpected intrusion into his familiar little world that it was almost like being burgled. He wondered what on earth Maureen would think if she knew what he was looking at. He hurriedly switched off the computer and crept back down to the safety of his armchair.
Maureen looked up. “Everything all right, dear?”
“What? Yes. I think so.”
“Only you look a bit pale to me. Your not going down with anything I hope.”
“I’m all right.”
“How is the Internet, dear? Are you discovering lots of brave new worlds?”
Recalling some of the less salubrious sites he had just visited he felt as guilty as a naughty schoolboy caught behind the bicycle sheds with his trousers down. “I’m still looking,” he muttered sheepishly.
“Let me know if you need any help and we can surf together.” Maureen looked pointedly at her husband. They needed to do more things together.
The following night he was alone again in his study and navigating his way round more uncharted regions in cyberspace. He couldn’t stop thinking about the images he’d stumbled across the day before. They were so graphic it was hard not to. He hadn’t looked at pictures of naked women since he’d last bought a Playboy magazine thirty years previously when he was still a student. Innocent stuff by comparison, almost coy. Amazingly he found he could remember the name of one of the models he used to admire so much. Connie Kreski. At least, he thought that was how her name was spelled. He hadn’t thought about her for years but now his curiosity was aroused. His ideal woman, she had personified everything that was good about his youth. He was really curious to know how she had turned out. Had she fulfilled her early promise? Had she avoided the sort of disappointments in life that had brought him so much unhappiness? Before now there had been no way of finding out but even he could see the almost magical power of the internet to research lost worlds. Of course, the chances of finding any traces of her after so long were probably remote. He was sure her brief appearance in Playboy, her fifteen minutes of fame, had long since faded from recorded history. Still, if nothing else the search would put the much-vaunted powers of the net to the test.
Sitting down in front of the screen he tingled with the kind of anticipation that had once gripped him while he hesitated outside the slightly seedy newsagents of his youth. Plucking up courage he laboriously typed out her name, one letter at a time. C-O-N-N-I-E-K-R-E-S-K-I. He pressed the enter key and the search engine sprang into life, burrowing back into a bygone era. Within seconds he was deluged with hits, thousands of them. He was astonished by the response. He had been sure that he was the only person alive who remembered her from all those years ago. His astonishment soon turned to dismay when he discovered that all of the referrals were in fact pornographic sites totally unrelated to Connie Kreski. Somehow the unseen forces from that shadowy world had hijacked the name of the beautiful flower child of distant memory and were using it as bait to lure the unwary. Angry and upset at the cynical way her memory was being desecrated in this way he switched off his computer and retreated to his armchair.
Maureen was reading the newspaper, a slightly distracted look on her face. “Happy surfing, dear?”
Henry was anything but happy. “If you ask me the bloody thing’s grossly overrated,” he said, blurting out the words much more gruffly than he had intended. Maureen looked hurt. Henry immediately felt a pang of remorse. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to snap.” His brief exposure to the twilight world upstairs had somehow blunted his sensibilities, coarsened him, made him in some way less human. He decided there and then that his journey back into the past was over.
It took two days for his curiosity to get the better of him.
Resuming his search he spent the best part of a week tracking down five different images of the real Connie Kreski. Blonde and virginal, coy and mostly partially disrobed in a variety of artistic poses, she looked truly beautiful although not exactly as he remembered her. Of course, as he reminded himself, it was over thirty years since he’d last set eyes upon her. It turned out she had been Playmate of the Year in 1969. With her slim figure, her long-blonde hair and large innocent eyes she epitomised, at the age of twenty-two, his perfect woman. The same age as himself, she recaptured the spirit and the aspirations of his own idealistic youth.
In one of the photographs she was dressed in flared jeans and a tight blue sweater. She was laughing, without a care in the world, an exciting future ahead of her, the very embodiment of youthful optimism. This particular picture was his favourite. After a few days he deleted the other images, deciding that their revealing nature only demeaned her memory. Studying the solitary remaining image it suddenly occurred to him that he must have married Maureen not long after that photo had been published. Maureen was short and dark-haired and, even in those days, ever so slightly plump. The exact opposite of Connie in fact. Of course, in real life looks weren’t what mattered. Nevertheless the belated realisation of how far he had diverged from his physical ideal came as a shock.
That night Maureen looked slightly concerned when he eventually came downstairs just before bedtime. “On the net again?” Her voice sounded strained. He was up there every night now, for hours on end.
“Yes. Takes forever to find anything, doesn’t it. Still, at least it keeps me out of trouble.”
“Watch you don’t become addicted,” she said, only half joking, “What’s so interesting anyway?”
Henry hesitated. “Oh, I’ve just been surfing around really.”
“Surfing?” She raised a quizzical eyebrow. She was surprised at how quickly he had adopted the terminology of this strange new medium.
“Mainly historical sites.”
“History? That sounds interesting. Which period?”
“Well, popular culture to be more exact. The sixties mostly. Things I had forgotten.”
Maureen looked surprised. “The sixties?” She couldn’t help laughing. “Flower power? Loon pants? Make love not war? You were never part of that scene, Henry. You were an accountant.”
Henry was annoyed by her reaction. Over the last few day he had become increasingly convinced that the sixties had been a pivotal period in his life even if he hadn’t realised it at the time. He could see now that in some ways he’d been sleepwalking ever since. He said, again a little too brusquely, “The past is important. Particularly when you see where it all went wrong.”
Maureen bit her lip. She looked hurt, as if she knew the remark was aimed at her. After Henry sloped off to bed she sat alone in the silent sitting-room wondering what he really got up to during all those hours he spent locked away in his room.
By now Henry was totally obsessed with the idea of finding out more about Connie Kreski. He was desperate to know if she had fulfilled her early promise. He really hoped she’d had a happy life, happier than his had turned out. He thought if he could track her down it might be possible to e-mail her and tell her how much she had meant to him at a key time in his life. He might even, and he could barely contain his excitement at the thought, actually get to meet her. He laughed aloud at the wonderful, preposterous ambitiousness of the idea. Energised by the prospect he returned to his quest with a determination that belied the inertia of recent years, of numberless evenings slumped in front of the telly watching rubbish.
After another dozen nights spent gazing blearily at the headache-inducing technicolor screen all he managed to discover about Connie was that following her Playboy appearance she had featured as a supporting player in several undistinguished films. Then she had vanished. Although he felt discouraged he refused to give up. Somehow it was important to him, somehow her fate held a key. He searched diligently for another month. By the end of January he still seemed no nearer to tracking her down. For the first time Maureen complained about the amount of time he was spending in front of the computer. They had a tremendous argument, their first for many years. Although he felt guilty about neglecting Maureen he told himself it would all change as soon as he’d completed his quest.
It was March and the garden was still blanketed in snow when he eventually made the vital breakthrough.
Belatedly he had discovered that there existed in a sort of parallel universe on the net a community composed of thousands of so-called Newsgroups on every imaginable topic. Each Newsgroup was the conduit for millions of conversations exchanging ideas, opinions, and information among people who shared a common interest, even obsession. Eventually, by trawling laboriously through thousands of messages, Henry tracked down several references to Connie Kreski. Reading these conversations at first was like eavesdropping upon somebody’s private phone calls and he felt uncomfortable. Later his discomfort changed to anger at the callous way these people - almost exclusively men he realised - discussed his beloved Connie. The crudity of some of the conversations made his head spin. People expressed themselves in e-mails in a way they would never dare in real life. It gradually dawned on him that there were thousands of men out there engaged in searches like his own, although he was sure that very few shared his idealistic motives. Many sounded distinctly odd. One or two were downright psychopathic. The one thing they all had in common was that they were sad and lonely individuals looking for something they couldn’t possibly hope to find. He pitied them.
As spring limped into summer he burrowed deeper into the hinterlands of cyberspace, stumbling through worlds that became ever more bizarre and disturbing. It became an increasingly melancholic odyssey. Connie seemed to have been lost in space. Only once in several weeks did he hear her name. Out of nowhere someone claimed that Connie was the most beautiful Playmate ever (Playmate was an epithet he about which he was increasingly ambiguous – Connie, his Connie, was a woman, a real person, not somebody’s plaything). It was a faint whisper, soon drowned in the babble of conflicting counterclaims.
It was the third week of June before he finally stumbled upon the lead he had been looking for. There had been no hint that he was getting closer and he was almost ready to admit defeat. It was very late on Saturday night and his eyes were tired and his head ached. He was about to switch off the computer when an obscure reference to a Japanese newsgroup caught his eye. He clicked on the hyperlink and the question he had been asking himself for the last six months leapt out at him.
“Anyone out there know what happened to Playmate Connie Kreski?” asked someone from, of all places, the Ukraine.
With his heart thumping Henry quickly hunted down the answer. It was posted by an American whose name had cropped up regularly in various newsgroups over the weeks, one of those guys who seemed to know everything about everyone. Before he dared read the reply he closed his eyes and took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. His heart thumped so loudly it made his ears hurt. He was about to step through the door into his lost youth, re-entering a magical landscape he thought had been lost forever. With the end of his long and exhausting odyssey at last in sight he could hardly hold the mouse steady as he clicked onto the reply.
“Sure. Connie Kreski – PMOY 1969. Cute face. Died last year of lung cancer.”
Henry stared at Connie’s brutally short epitaph on the screen. It was the last thing he had been expecting. He felt the same sense of loss as he had when he heard on the radio that John Lennon had been shot, back in 1980. With a hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach he realised that even with the power of the internet there was no possibility now of ever going back. He felt betrayed. The Internet had promised him everything but instead the real world had defeated him.
Five minutes passed before he had the strength to turn off his computer and shuffle slowly downstairs. He wiped away a tear before he entered the sitting room.
The television was off and Maureen was flicking through her library book, unable to concentrate as she fretted about her lost husband. She looked up wearily. “You’re finished early, for a change,” she said, unable to hide the resentment in her voice.
Henry was still in shock. “That’s right,” he muttered thickly, “I’m finished.”
Maureen sensed that there was something wrong and immediately relented. She hated to see her husband looking so miserable. “By the look on your face you must have reached the seventies,” she said, attempting a joke.
He put his arm around her. “To tell you the truth I never left the sixties.”
Maureen looked up and smiled. “There were worse times, dear.”
“Yes,” he said, “I expect there were.”
In the weeks that followed the computer lay neglected in his study, the modem disconnected. Henry spent his evenings curled up on his armchair recuperating from his loss. His grief was made worse by his inability to share his feelings with Maureen. His loneliness deepened.
Summer dragged bleakly on and in desperation Maureen enrolled them both in a bridge club. After his initial awkwardness Henry took to his new hobby with gusto. A few months later he crept up to his room and dusted down the computer. He hooked up the modem and with a quivering forefinger tapped out his first-ever e-mail to his glamorous new bridge partner. Her reply exceeded his wildest expectations.
It seemed that the internet had its uses after all.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Technical problems

I'm still trying to figure out the best way to post each chapter of my book so it's easy to read it in sequence. I'd appreciate any help.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Why I write

A few years ago I wrote a short story for the Scotsman newspaper competition called "PMOY 1969". It didn't even make the shortlist of stories they published in book form. The story feature a real-life nude model who appeared in Playboy in the 60s called Connie Kreski. She died a few years ago. For some reason I had remembered her name. Later on the story was published in an American online magazine. In the years since I have had regular e-mails thanking me for the story, on average two or three a month. In addition, I have been contacted by some of Connie's relatives, an ex-husband, people who knew her and, most impressively of all, a regular army of ex-G.I. vets who had seen her in the magazine during their Vietnam days.

Connie was a blonde, non-pneumatic lady who absolutely radiated innocence of the kind that is so beguiling to dreamy young men. Now in their middle age many of these same men wished to reconnect with their lost youth by tunneling back in time in a way that was impossible before the internet came along. I've helped some of them make the connection. Dragged their past into the present. Told them her story. And mine. And theirs too in a way. So I've made some connections with people out there I never knew. And the odd thing is, none of them were weirdos.

So I want to publish the book to make a few more connections. Not to make friendships you understand. I just want to cast a faint shadow over a few souls and move on. The merest echo in the ether. A faint whisper that says you are not alone.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Kicking Off

I'm going to kick off this blog by publishing a chapter a week of my latest unpublished novel. It's called "A Half Life of One" and has garnered numerous rave rejection slips and a lukewarm acceptance by a starving agent. Who later got cold feet.

The book is finished but if anyone actually reads it here and makes some pertinent comments that I agree with I'll change it as I roll it out.

I no longer care about getting the book published. I'm an entrepreneur, own several businesses and don't need the money. I only want to make some connections. I've published several stories on the net and continue to get steady feedback. That's reward enough.

Tomorrow I'll set the scene for the book and then, once I've figured out how, I'll start the publishing process. Funnily enough, this is an exciting process. So immediate. This is what writing should be all about. Making connections. Both ways. And somehow it feels purer than trying to sell to an intermediary. Suddenly I feel released. See you tomorrow.

Only connect.....ONLY!

On an impulse that has been building up for years I decided to create this blog. What I'm going to try and do is create a platform that will allow me to publish my latest novel, some short stories, some rants and some thoughts on the state of the world. To share myself with some like-minded people.

So this is day one. I hope you enjoy the journey with me.