I came to Martin Amis via Christopher Hitchens. There is something poignant about them both dying of the same thing (esophageal cancer). I’m sure they’re chuckling about it in the afterlife that neither of them believed in (although Amis was agnostic – “We’re about eight Einsteins away from getting any kind of handle on the universe … atheism is premature.” while Hitchens was leader supreme in the war against ancient magic beings).
One of the last books I read was Martin Amis’s collection of essays, War Against Cliché. He was a go-to writer for me. It didn’t matter the topic, his words were always a pleasure to read.
In his memory, I would like to share my favourite passage from one of his books; the “burglar” passage from London Fields –
“Little did they know that the place they were about to burgle — the shop, and the flat above it — had already been burgled the week before: yes, and the week before that. And the week before that. It was all burgled out. Indeed, burgling, when viewed in Darwinian terms, was clearly approaching a crisis. Burglars were finding that almost everywhere had been burgled. Burglars were forever bumping into one another, stepping on the toes of other burglars. There were burglar jams on rooftops and stairways, on groaning fire-escapes. Burglars were being burgled by fellow burglars, and were doing the same thing back. Burgled goods jigged from flat to flat. Returning from burgling, burglars would discover that they themselves had just been burgled, sometimes by the very burglar that they themselves had just burgled! How would this crisis in burgling be resolved? It would be resolved when enough burglars found burgling a waste of time, and stopped doing it. Then, for a while, burgling would become worth doing again. But burglars had plenty of time to waste — it was all they had plenty of, and there was nothing else to do with it — so they just went on burgling.”
In 1970 an Earthquake killed my colleagues. I have since become something of an expert in all things seismic. The story of my last day of sourcing exports in a foreign country has stuck to the wall of my heart for 40 years now. It is time for me to unburden that story. Before I […]
My dad, Steve Chapman, passed away just before Christmas. This is the eulogy I read at the funeral. My sister and Mum both wanted to read it again and suggested I share it here. So here it is. I miss him like crazy.
It’s hard to talk about Dad without talking about Mum as well. They were two parts of each other with a shared outlook. Dad always said that he didn’t need anybody, all he needed was Mum. As long as they were together, he was happy. If he ever had to be left alone, he was like a lost toddler. Occasionally, Mum would have to go away for work and when the evening came around, he would show up at my sister’s front door. She would open it to his silly smile and he’d say, “What are we having for dinner, then?”
He loved cars, and thank God. If he didn’t, me and my brother and sister probably wouldn’t exist. Let me take you back to the 1970s. My parents are teenagers. The Cardinale nightclub in Bournemouth. Mum was dancing with her friends. Somebody she knew from school waved her over and introduced her to a man named Steve. And there he was. A gangly, thin man, wearing a tan jacket with tassels and winklepickers. He asked her if she wanted to dance, and she looked him up and down, and said, “No thanks,” and walked off to re-join her friends. But my dad was persistent. He strode over and joined them. I have never seen my dad dance. I don’t think my mum let him after the first time she saw it. She tried to demonstrate his moves to me a few days ago. It went something like this (feel free to visualise me doing a little stiff jig here, which drew some laughter). She told him to stop dancing and sit down. Which he did, and luckily, and God knows why, she joined him, and they started talking. He couldn’t dance, didn’t know how to dress. So how did he impress her? But what he did have, was a Triumph Spitfire.
The second time they met, as they left the pub, Mum was bundled onto the parcel shelf of the Spitfire—because she was the smallest—and Dad pulled out and honked at somebody, not knowing there was a police car behind him. They pulled him over, saw he’d had a few, and chucked him in the police station overnight. It was the perfect start to an enduring, and never boring, life together.
My parents and their friends had a pretty good time of it for about a decade, and then tragedy befall them all. They had kids. We three were born unto this world, and all hell broke loose. It was hectic. The house was alive with kids. Roger and Pauline had Barry and Mark at the same time, and we all grew up together. They were like bonus brothers. We were one big out of control herd.
Dad had a unique way of raising us. I don’t know if he was incredibly wise, or just as bad as we were. We would do something insane and dangerous and instead of grounding us, or telling us off, he would be entertained by our antics. Often, he would be right there alongside us doing the insane thing.
I remember once we had a big party at the house. We had a barbecue set up in the garden and a bar set up in the garage. The problem was, for people to go between the bar and the barbecue, they had to leave the garden by the back gate and go into the garage via the road. Which is inconvenient. After thinking about the problem for a good three or four seconds my brother said, “Why don’t we just smash a hole through the wall?”
Now, most Dads would say, “Don’t be daft, people can just go around.” But he looked at the garage wall and considered it for a moment, and then he went and fetched the sledgehammer.
We smashed a double door-size hole in the side of that garage and pissed ourselves laughing the hole time. The party was great.
He gave us so much.
He taught us that work came second to life. Even though he worked incredibly hard his whole life, growing successful businesses in two different trades, he rarely worked weekends and never worked around Christmas.
Family was too important. We did something every weekend. If we wanted to stay home and lounge about, watching TV or playing games, no chance. We’d be dragged out of the house on some adventure. We’d go out to Mudeford Quay and sail across to Hengistbury Head for a hot chocolate at The Hut. Or we’d go crab fishing. Or pitch up a tent. It felt like we were putting tents up and taking them down every five minutes. Or Mum and Dad were, while we went off exploring and causing trouble. He’d take us bike riding through the forest, swimming at the BIC. I think we went to every National Trust and Heritage site in a hundred-mile radius. Dad had itchy feet. He needed to be up and doing something. There was no such thing as rest. He wanted to see the world and he wanted us to see it too.
He showed us the world. We spent Christmas in Africa one year, travelled all around Europe, often on a whim. “Fancy popping over to France?” he would say, and we’d pile into the car and just go.
He was always planning the next holiday. Constantly searching for the best deal. He would hear about somebody’s planned holiday to Egypt, or somewhere, that cost them five grand and would spend an hour seeing if he could do better—just for fun—and he would find the same holiday for £200 and book it.
When he got ill, he had to cancel three holidays. Three!
He gave us music. A lot of the music we listen to and love today are the albums that he played in the car on our many road trips. And we spent a lot of time on road trips. If it was physically possible to drive somewhere instead of fly, he would do it. We once drove for twelve hours to L’Estartit in Spain and we listened to music the whole time. There is more to that story that I don’t have time for; accidentally driving up a mountain, on a spiral road all the way to the top, in the dark, during a storm, with no barrier on the edge of the road. It was terrifying, but the music was turned up loud and everything was fine. Queen, Simon and Garfunkel, Johnny Cash, Dire Straits, Billy Joel. As kids we would sing along at the top of our voices, and head bang to that bit in Bohemian Rapsody just like they did in Wayne’s World.
He would go along with any hairbrained scheme and be enthusiastic about it, no matter how absurd. Like running a market stall with me in January, trying to sell 10ft paddling pools in the snow. He loved Only Fools and Horses. We used to have a sign up on our shared office door that said, “This Time Next Year, Rodney.”
Him and David started a building business at one point and one of their first jobs was fitting a kitchen on the TV show, DIY SOS. They didn’t get paid, but the breakfast buffet was free. He joked that him and David put on at least two stone during that job. I know he cherished that memory. It was one of the last things he spoke about with me and Rachel a few weeks ago.
He hated the winter in England. Him and Mum would leave the country for sometimes four or five weeks just to get away from the cold. He loved Thailand. He loved the walking streets and the live bands. While we shivered in England, he was drinking a beer in a hot bar listing to a Thai girl in dreadlocks singing AC/DC.
Even though he hated the cold, one of his favourite things to do was to have winter BBQs. He loved an excuse to light the firepit and sit around it with friends and family, drink wine and cold beer, and listen to music. We’ll be doing exactly that later today.
I’m running out of time and there is so much I wanted to talk about, but don’t have time for. He loved taking us to my auntie Terry and Uncle Derek’s on bonfire night. My sister and Kate share the 5th of November as their birthday, and they used to put on a huge fire at their place. Dad even took us there on the night my sister was born, leaving my mum, with her permission, and the new baby at the hospital to taking us, along with the leggy blond Spanish student who had been staying with us at the time
This thing was originally twice as long as this, and I had to cut it down. I could have kept writing forever. He did so much. Lived so much.
I’ll leave you with my favourite story about Dad. In 1991, him and Mum went to a caravan convention at the NEC where they saw an American RV for the first time and fell in love. Since that day both my parents dreamt of one day traveling across America in one. The man there gave Dad a business card. 23 years later, he still had that card in his wallet. My parents made a decision in 2014 that was amazing to me then and I still find amazing today. They sold everything. The house, belongings, all of it. All that was left from forty years of marriage and family was two suitcases and a handbag. They went to America, bought an RV, and travelled for a year. We were all lucky enough to fly over and visit them during their adventure and it is the happiest we’d ever seen them. I’m so proud of them for doing it and I hope I am brave enough to put everything on the line in pursuit of a dream in my own life. They did the thing they’d been dreaming about for over two decades, and it was amazing.
They loved it so much they brought the RV back to England with them and decided to stay in it. Life in the RV has been rich and peaceful and fun.
America was one of his favourite places in the world. He would have lived there if he could. Traveling around, seeing the whole country. One of his favourite places in that country was Graceland. By chance, one of his favourite albums was Graceland by Paul Simon.
We’re going to play the title track from that album now.
One day until The Mask Collector is released! According to my own forward projections, it is going to sell roughly 2.8 billion copies and I’ll finally be able to quit my job and write full time.
Do you know the story of The Mask Collector? Let me tell you about it.
(The paperback snuck out the gates a day early so you can be one of the first people on Earth to have a copy if you get it right now. It’s only £3.99, but won’t be for long. Monday the price is going up).
A BANK HEIST GOES WRONG WHEN ONE OF THE HOSTAGES TURNS OUT TO BE A WANTED SERIAL KILLER.
Pat Caine—locally famous retired bank robber—has come out of retirement to do one last job with a gang of local rogues.
The plan is simple. No high-concept, Ocean’s Eleven, heist nonsense. Go in, wave a gun around, get the money, and leave. Quick and easy. In and out.
A cashier recognises Pat. She’s read his book. Knows he believes in a victimless crime. Calls his bluff and presses the alarm.
Pat and his gang are forced to take hostages. Unfortunately, one of the hostages is the wanted serial killer the papers have been calling The Mask Collector. He is loose in the bank and wearing the face of one of Pat Caine’s gang.
SURROUNDED BY POLICE, SAFE FULL OF MONEY, TRAPPED WITH A MANIAC.
Many of you will already know that on my birthday this year, the 12th May 2022, I attempted to write an entire novel in a single day. I succeeded. The novel is called The Mask Collector. At 7:30am on the 13th May, tired and weird, I wrote the Author’s Note that will appear at the beginning of that novel. I would like to share it with you here.
This novel is the product of a single frantic day at the keyboard. I sat down at my desk at 9am on the 12th of May 2022 and I was still there at 9am on the 13th May (I’m actually writing this with an hour and a half still to go, but I know now that I will make it to 9am and my brain needs a break from the fictional).
I had a goal that I didn’t achieve. I thought I could write fifty thousand words in a single sitting (an idea born from The Bestseller Experiment podcast.) I was wrong. I managed half of that.
I mean, I didn’t really think I would be able to do it. I just wanted to try. 50,000 words. It’s an absurd number. It’s short for a novel, which average around seventy thousand, but the average novel takes a year to write. I was trying to do it in a day.
I both failed and succeeded. I told the whole story. It was complete when I finished. It was just much shorter than I had hoped. I ran out of road.
If I were to attempt it again (very unlikely—though it wasn’t an unpleasant experience), I would probably not adapt a screenplay. I thought doing that was a clever trick to save on having to think about what happens next.
I wrote the screenplay of The Mask Collector during the first Covid lockdown. A complete feature-length film. And a good one too. In the words of Mark Stay, it had blockbuster potential.
When the idea came to me to attempt this feat, adapting it seemed like the obvious thing to do. A screenplay is basically a very detailed outline. The problem is, it’s too detailed. I was caged in. I couldn’t let go and fly. It was a machine job of mechanically re-describing scenes that already existed with little scope for improvement, as it had already been worked and reworked in its original format.
If I had come up with a completely new idea and given myself a far looser outline, I might have been able to get in the zone and lose myself in rapid fire prose.
But I’ll be honest. The goal of reaching a big word count is a shallow one. Story is king. That’s the most important thing. Authors often forget that. We get carried away with what is expected and don’t let the story tell itself at its own pace. I didn’t succeed in writing a novel, but I did succeed in writing a novella. A lot of my favourite books are novellas (The Great Gatsby, Animal Farm, The Metamorphosis, The Heart of Darkness, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Body, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, The Langoliers, The Mist, The Rats, The Hellbound Heart, War of the Worlds—should I go on?) and I’ve been writing a lot of them recently.
Under the penname, Elwood Flynn, I’ve been intentionally writing thirty-five-thousand-word pulp westerns. I love reading them and I love writing them. I like the leanness of the prose. The challenge of pairing the language back to its most raw form. It’s no wonder this ended short.
One of the great things that came from this was that I got to rediscover The Mask Collector as a reader. I had forgotten a lot of the script. I hadn’t realised how much of it I had forgotten until I started this experiment. It surprised me. What surprised me more was how entertained by it I was. I felt the suspense of the intended viewer/reader as I adapted it. I fell in love with the characters all over again.
A lot of the people reading this were there with me the day I wrote this. So many fellow authors and readers rallied around me and tweeted all day and night cheering me on and offering support (you got it to number ten in the horror charts between Stephen King and Stephen King, and it hadn’t even been written yet). It was a great day. An excellent way to spend a birthday. I was doing what I loved with the people that I love. The teenager was at her mother’s studying for her GCSEs, which start next week, but Rachel and the cat were here, cracking the whip (and making me coffee).
When things got desperate, at about 3am when the story was done and I didn’t know what to do to make the book fatter, I had a radical idea. The main character in the book is Pat Caine. He is a famous retired bank robber who wrote a very successful book about his life of crime. That was it! I could write chapters from his book, from his point of view, and place them randomly throughout the book! Problem solved.
I wrote two chapters. Told two stories from his early life. In one, Caine is fourteen and getting up to some thieving hijinks involving a milk float. In the other, he is twenty-four and planning his first bank robbery.
When it came to placing them in the story, all it did was slow down the pace. They were jarring. I have included them at the end of the main story for your amusement. They were written by an exhausted mind at an ungodly hour.
So, without further ado, I present to you, The Mask Collector. It was written with passion and sleep deprivation. I think it shows. I hope you enjoy it. Be kind with your reviews.
I think you will like DCI Conrad. I’m sorry there’s not more of her. Another book maybe. Another time.
Andrew Chapman – 7:45am, 13th May 2022, Bournemouth
I was listening to the Tim Sullivan episode of the Bestseller Experiment podcast (really good episode, very inspiring) and it got me thinking. The idea of writing a whole novel in a day came up… and I’ve decided to give it a bash.
It has been done before. When I published my first book back in 2011, there was another indie author skulking around the forums who did it. Nick Spalding wrote Life… With No Breaks in a single sitting. It was impressive and it did very well, launching an incredibly successful career.
I’ve been doing a bit of research and it’s proving difficult to find other examples. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne was written in two and a half days. That’s the shortest time period I’ve been able to find (in an admittedly brief Google search).
I’m going to aim for 50k. That means I’ll have to write just over 2k every hour for 24 hours. No sleep. Short breaks for food. A lot of coffee. And a pillow for my arse which will no doubt be aching by the 12th hour.
I have an advantage. In order to do it I’m going to be adapting a screenplay that I’ve already written: The Mask Collector.
There is a very good reason for not starting a story from scratch. The thing that slows me down most is trying to work out what happens next. All that thinking has already been done. If I were to start from scratch and force my way through a first draft of something new I would end up with a very bad incoherent first draft that would need a complete rewrite and so be pointless.
Prosatizing a screenplay (that’s a new word I just invented. I could have used “adapting” but prosatize is way more sexy) still requires creative juices and enough mental capacity to write something worth reading and not just a stale transferring of words with the tenses changed. Novels are a very different beast to a no-nonsense script so it will be a serious challenge.
I don’t know if I’ll succeed but I’ll be bashing out words to the final second of that 24th hour and hopefully I will start my 38th year on this planet with a new novel under my belt.
12th May 2022 (my birthday). 9am to 9am the following day (which is Friday the 13th 😳). The Mask Collector will be reborn as a novel.
I’ll be sharing my progress on Twitter and Instagram. I am @AndyChapWriter on both.
We just watched The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent in the cinema, the new Nicholas Cage movie.
Holy crap it was amazing. The audience was young and noisy and at first I thought that was going to be annoying but I’m so glad there was a lot of energy in the room. It reminded of what cinemas are for and why watching a film in that setting can be so great. The whole room was laughing and audibly responding to references and surprising twists and whatnot. Perfect way to watch a brilliant and weird and unique film.
I’m talking about the audience because I don’t want to talk about the film. Not a bit.
The best way to experience it is to avoid all knowledge of it. Don’t watch the trailer, don’t Google it, don’t read the comments on this post in case somebody gives something away. Just book a ticket and go. You will thank me and you will have experienced a future cult movie in the best possible way.
We booked three films to watch at the cinema this week. The first was The Batman, the second was this Nick Cage film, and the last one is Unchartered, which we are watching tomorrow morning. Out of all of them I had no expectations for the Cage film. I didn’t even watch the trailer. We just went in blind thinking it was going to be another one of his random trash thrillers he’s been putting out recently.
I was so wrong. It might be one of my new favourite films.
It’s out on the 22nd April (we booked an early screening).
Watching Sonic Highways on YouTube. They have full episodes on there.
I was lucky enough to see Foo Fighters a few times. The band had two front men. They were brothers. Comrades. Soul mates. I can’t imagine the heartbreak Dave Grohl must be going through right now.
When you imagine Taylor Hawkins you always see him with that big childish grin. The guy loved being alive. You could tell. He didn’t take it for granted.
Today will be a day of nostalgia, rocking out, and fondly remembering a band that shaped my teens and the man I became.
When I watched Sonic Highways back when it first aired I really loved the New Orleans episode and knew I had to go there and see the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in person. The following year I was in New Orleans, on New Year’s eve, stood in that cramped room listening to the best live Jazz in the world. It was great. The Foo Fighters gave me that.