Sorry to mention politics when I'd promised not to, but after a week or so of 'horse-trading' (copyright: every single media outlet) the UK has a new government involving the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, coming together in the 'national interest' (copyright: every Tory and Lib Dem politician) to provide the country with the 'strong and stable government it deserves' (copyright...actually, why do we deserve strong and stable government? I yearn for the politician that says the UK has got the mish-mash bunch of duplicitous crooks it deserves. Even better, rather than doing its best for 'hard working families', how about a Government that does its best for the idle and feckless? Don't they deserve representation?)
The new Prime Minister is David Cameron. Of 54 British PMs he is the 19th to have gone to Eton. Eton is the most famous public school (we Brits refer to to private education as public for some bizarre reason) in the country, if not the world, though for me it's most famous for being the punchline of one of Laurel and Hardy's best verbal gags, in A Chump at Oxford
Toffee-nosed toff: This is Harrow. You're dressed for Eton.
Stan: That's swell. I haven't eaten since breakfast.
As part of the coalition deal, various Lib Dems have been given seats in the cabinet. Their leader Nick Clegg is Deputy Prime Minister. Clegg and Cameron (or Nick n' Dave as they will become known) gave a joint press conference the other day. Both are early forties, well-groomed and handsome (even if Cameron's face has no edges, like runny cheese), and had put aside the animosity of the campaign to pronounce this a brave new dawn for British politics, and laughed heartily at each other's jokes. In the rose garden at Downing Street, the ranks of the press laid out in rows, it looked like a gay wedding. As one wag commented, a press conference like that would be illegal in 45 US states.
Both men warned against cynicism. Yeah, best of luck with that with the British media. I'm not particularly cynical but I couldn't help but look on with a jaundiced eye. Not because I think the 'new politics' is doomed to fail, though it probably is. Mainly because, after giving it some thought, I realised my antipathy towards Messrs Cameron and Clegg was based entirely on prejudice. With their clear skin, social assurance, noblesse oblige, impeccable manners, and slightly false attempts to appear not as posh as they actually are, they reminded of the boys from university that I hated. The ones with boundless self-confidence, plenty of cash in their pocket, a car, a good-looking, well-scrubbed girl on their arms, lots of social engagements to go to, while my friends and I skulked in the corner of the bar, nursing a pint and several grievances, with very few dinner parties to go to. I wasn't even sure what dinner was - we called it tea where I came from. I got enough sustenance from the chip on my shoulder anyway.
My dislike of what were commonly known as 'Sloanes', as in Sloane Ranger, originally a term to describe someone, usually female, who lived and shopped near Sloane Square and said 'Yah' instead of 'Yes', but became a pejorative for a certain type of privately educated, cornfed, nice-but-dim young man or woman, never really went away. When I was writing my first novel, The Blood Detective, and I needed some victims, I knew straight away one of them would be a Sloane. As the victims are introduced dead, I didn't have to give them voices or rounded characters, or anything that would make me like them. Instead, as long as it fit the story, I could pick them at random.
It was a pretty dark time for me. My wife had just died, I was grieving, and dark thoughts were swirling around my head. Writing the book, closing the door on all the sadness, and escaping into a fictional world was therapy. Much of the darkness was dispelled by killing people in a variety of graphic ways, which meant that when I opened the door I was able to return to the 'real' world having dumped some of the terrible thoughts. I have to admit that I would meet friends in the pub and my mood would sometimes darken. I would see people laughing and joking and it would irritate me. One time it was group of braying bankers. So, I went back to my room and hey presto, one dead fictional city boy. Other victims were people I had encountered and I found ripe for fictional slaughter. One ex-girlfriend's in there. She contacted me when the book was released. She thought it was hilarious. A few other victims didn't make the final cut.
Am I alone in doing this? I'm interested in how others pick their victims and the method of their departure. Obviously, it depends on the story and the characters. My second novel, written in a far happier place and state, with less need to vent, and a much different plot, features no 'score-settling', and is far less gruesome, and, in my opinion, is no worse for it. There is still the matter of how to kill someone. Sometimes, for me, this comes from something I've read, but more often it comes from tapping into the dark recesses of one's mind - the inner psychopath. We all have one. You'd be surprised what you find in there. It's actually pretty therapeutic to give him it an airing every now and then. In print, obviously. There you go - write crime and make the world a safer place!
I'm not sure whether I'll be killing anyone I know again in future books. I still reserve the right to do it in the future - a perk of the job, so to speak. Expect two well-groomed but smug politicians to die in a horrible circumstances in a novel near you soon.