There was no News From Nowhere post yesterday : blame it on my friend Chrissy. There we were on Tuesday night, the two families enjoying a convivial dinner at the rather splendid Farmers' Boy in Shepley, exchanging conversational gambits. During a momentary lull in the conversation and whilst I was spearing one of their fine hand-cooked chips onto my fork, she lobbed an anti-personnel mine across the table. "How's the book coming along?" Oh, you cruel woman, you appointed agent of the unforgiving muses, you twice-distant cousin of Shakespeare's Dark Lady. The answer, of course, was that it is not : it has not moved forward at all since I returned from my holiday last November. Creativity rapidly evaporated with every step closer I came to the comfort of home, the time-wasting pleasures of over-thick daily newspapers, and the need to catch-up with missed episodes of Coronation Street. But yesterday, with the whip-lash of her comments still raw in my mind, I turned to the manuscript yet again, and attempted to move the ancient hulk forward.
I have a significant track-record for starting books that never get finished. There was my "Lives Of The Great Brewers" : a book which was going to rival "The Lives of the Great Saints", but never progressed passed Henry Thrale of Southwark. There was a series of short stories entitled "The Deaf Detective" which would have won a prize any day for being some of the shortest short stories ever produced. Perhaps the nearest I ever got to finishing a book was a project I embarked on fifteen years ago, which never really had a proper title, but was about an investigator working for the Internal Audit Directorate of the European Commission in Brussels. His name was Theodore Koniaris and because he was from Greece, he was known as "Theo The Greek".
I approached the writing of this unfinished novel in a quite ridiculous way : I wrote it on the back of a series of picture postcards. I would acquire two identical postcards for each "episode", one I would address and send to my good friend Martin, the other I would keep in a box at home. The approach had three distinct advantages : it ensured you did a little writing every day, the picture side of the postcard provided some measure of prompt for the developing story, and it kept the postman who would deliver the cards to Martin's house amused. As an illustration of the process, here is the second card which was dated 20th February 1995. The front of the card is illustrated above, the reverse - with the daily episode but without the address - is reproduced below.
In order to kick-start my current unfinished book, perhaps I ought to adopt the same, ridiculous approach.