When I joined the city law firm I was destined to stay at for the rest of my career, in 1981, I came from a fusty dusty antediluvian practice that felt Dickensian in comparison. We had old books, a photocopier you need permission to use and a telex machine that was held out as the epitome of modern communications. The telex? Boy does that seem so last century. If there was one implement we all guarded jealously beyond our fountain pens, it was the red crayon you needed to amend a draft telex. It had to be in red for a reason I never learnt.
From this old world I leapt into the new. Conference phones and word processors. Coffee machines and a lift. A Sovex machine – a fancy document and letter delivery system, a sort of dumb waiter for correspondence. All the latest mod-cons. It seemed so exotic.
And on top of this technology we had a magazine to update us on legal changes. I’d never heard of such a thing. I’d never thought about updating my legal knowledge, well not much anyway. It was called
Metes and Bounds
Que? I worked in real estate and some partner with the language skills of the love child of Stephen Fry and Boris Johnson had come up with this. It’s an old expression used to describe how property is described legally. Here’s wiki’s take. Maybe some of you have heard of this expression. I hadn’t. In my experience, while the title remained in place, everyone who joined us had to have it explained to them. Smart-arse lawyery at its finest. It completely undermined the publication, making it, at one and the same time, aloof and an object of derision.
Titles are crucial to we authors, too. I have now published two books (yeah, you can stop clapping soon…. Nope, not yet….. Ok. Oh all right just another minute…) and I’ve agonised about both titles.
In my first – Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle – the eponymous Sherry Trifle appears once. A lot of people don’t know what it is. It has been mis-described as Cheery Trifle, Cherry Tipple and a few others. Yet, despite hints that it, maybe, doesn’t fit, I’ve stubbornly kept it. Maybe it doesn’t matter but I still have this nagging feeling I should have thought again.
For the second book, now called My Father and Other Liars, it went by the title God Bothering for ages. Pretty much from the get-go. That’s true of DFST too. A few people saw the cover and the original title and thought it was a treatise on American Evangelism. Others felt it must have something to do with those who doorstep their views, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the like. Nothing is further from the truth. For others, the expression God Botherers had no resonance, so God Bothering rather undermined itself. When I realised this, I realised the book had moved on and encompassed a lot more than I had originally thought it would. So I scratched the stubble around my ever expanding pate and came up with the above.
My next book, the one I’m editing furiously just now, started life after I read an article on Six Degrees of Separation (if you don’t know the theory, this is wiki’s take on it). The premise was based around the unexpected interlinking of people and I called it Six Degrees of Connectivity. A truly awful bloody mouthful, which failed the accuracy test as there aren’t 6 main relationships in it, but either 5 or 7 depending on your viewpoint. So I moved on to Salisbury Square which is where the two main protagonists meet and where a lot of the action takes place. But I’m getting used to conjunctive titles, sort of a little signature maybe given that nothing else links the books.
I don’t have much hair left. Scratching the bald bits merely sets up a dangerous harmonic in my ears. So what am I going to do?
For those interested this is the current (very much draft) blurb.
Jerzy Komaza is adept at turning a blind eye. He has allowed his father’s assaults on his sister, Maria, to continue rather than stop him. Yet when, one hot summer day, he finally snaps, it is Maria who sends him away, fearing the consequences if he stays. Desperate and unsure, he heads for London where his old friend Jan is working. Jan has promised him work.
When he arrives he feels completely disorientated. There’s no sign of Jan and all around him the world rushes past. At his lowest point he overhears a young woman being beaten. Memories of the assault on his sister stir him into action and he intervenes.
The victim is Suzie Thomas, a meth addict dependent on a local thug, Paul Rogers for her supplies and for whom she turns tricks. Rogers runs gangs of workmen around the city. Gradually Jerzy is dragged into Suzie’s world, a violent dog eat dog existence of the underclass living next to but apart from the affluent citizens of Central London.
Rogers is the gang master for whom Jan works. He has his own problems with Rogers and when his cousin Ola Nowak is knifed, trying to pay off a debt of Jan’s, he is bent on revenge. Jerzy is torn between stopping Jan and, because of his own growing hatred of Rogers’ casual violence towards Suzie, helping him.
Meanwhile Suzie’s family are hunting for her. Her grandparents hear she has moved back to London and seek her out. In doing so they find themselves pulled into Rogers orbit.
As the heat builds and the rain pours down, the various forces begin to pull these desperate individuals towards a violent confrontation. And into this mix comes Lech Komoza, Jerzy’s half-brother intent on revenge of his own.
This story contains elements of revenge, love, the clash of classes, the isolation of large cities and the single minded determination to survive. Set against a backdrop of one of the most affluent cities in the western world one hot summer about now, it is a modern parable of what can happen when lives overlap and desperate people lose hope of redemption.
Suzie and the Pole? The Last Epiphany of Jerzy Komoza? Falling through the Cracks? Pavements of Despair? I’ll keep thinking…
PS. If anyone thinks this is their sort of book and would like to beta read it for me, let me know. I will be reaching that stage in the nearish future.