Archive for the ‘offbeat’ Category


In offbeat on December 9, 2009 at 2:48 pm

By Gawd the cards will fall
if I damned want them to:
Ask anyone.
Bourbon violins spool
Corrupted bitched thoughts.
How much is there to ask,
When the eyes of the masters peer dead from
When jimmy dean’s dick is on my shelf.
The cards will fall if my mind allows them to,
If it gets drunk enough,
Know that.
Lonely orchestras scream,
As I gamble away my last thoughts,
the only ones I got,
The only ones that mean,
a thing,
while inside me
the acid tears my guts apart,
with a
whimsical fuck, a wayward penis.
Know that I know, and it all with a
Ruptured heart that begs for pussy,
Elegant, intelligent:
Without a hope.



Ethnic rioting inside a frozen turkey covered with shadow theater.
Submerge in hot water and make me drink.
You know how these things usually end;
Test my darkness, poke the fork.

Unless you oil me, tools won’t necessarily comply.
Raw meat appreciates a large meal much larger, beware
The blindfold labeled “calming spray.”
Baby milks pleasure secrets from my fangs.

Animals wearing collars are better socialized and adapt faster.
Tonight, their air unhinders well-endowed pollution.
Candied treats give you measure, deluded terrorism gets you recovered.
And androids clinking just before sunrise ill-devise

Vacuum sealed packs of semiautomatic killing sprees
Where the ventriloquist has confirmed
Clones of us loving a gas chamber, offenders for fright.
Something, creating something, or

Fixing something, they
Want us to tell them meaningful shit.
And maybe we should go on about pain and loss, but
Say instead I fuck your tits.



In offbeat on November 6, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Edmonton. The three of them sat parked up by a small estate. Two six-storey blocks.

-Are you sure this is where da fucker lives? Grilla asked.

-I’m sure man, believe me, D nodded. How can you forget a shithole like this…

They stepped out of the car. Up and down, not a soul.

-Look at this place, D said. Shanktown my fuckin arse. Niggas are frightened of their own streets man – He took out his nine, slamming the clip home – But they’re gonna be frightened of something else soon bwai.

-I know they are, Grilla grinned, showing the machete beneath his jacket – Rocks the only one not laughing…

-Yo, Rocks, D said, opening the boot and pulling out a nail-embedded cricket bat. Take this. Now be careful with dat ting, y’hear – sniggering…

They headed across the car park and up the stairwell towards the top floor, D hyping himself up all the way, -I’m gonna do this nigga man… he’s gonna fuckin cry… At the top floor they headed along the balcony to the last flat… Right… D rapping hard on the door, then sure enough the sound of footsteps… -Okay, ssh, someone’s coming…

The door opened a crack, a light-skinned black girl saying, -Yeah, what do you want?

They stormed past her into the flat, D kicking open doors, aiming his nine left and right… But nobody. Only empty rooms… Grilla had the girl in a bear-hug, the girl screaming and cussing. D put the gun in his belt, headed towards her. He grabbed her by the hair. -Listen here, WHERE DA FUCK IS HE! – Ahh, get off my hair, you piece of shit!!! – FUCK YOU, MAN, I’LL PULL YOUR HAIR RIGHT OFF!! – the girl screaming HELP!!! HELP!!! – D fuming, pure vexed now…

-Right, you bitch, I’ll show you… D dragged her into the bedroom, slapped her so she flew onto the bed. Shocked, she clutched her bruise, eyes seething… -When my man gets back you’re gonna die for this, boy, fucking die…

-OH AM I NOW, YOU FUCKIN HO? – he grabbed her by the neck and pressed the gun against her face – Now I’m arxin you one last time, WHERE’S YOUR MAN AT?

-Okay, okay, he’s not here. I don’t know where, but he’s coming back later, midnight maybe, that’s all I know.

He pushed her away and she landed back on her elbows. He was looking down on her, the both of them breathing hard… Suddenly he started unzipping his pants… -You’re gonna suck my dick, bitch…

-No, please… the girl backing away…

-Take it easy man, Grill urged, we’ll come back later, she don’t know where he is.

-I don’t give a shit! D grabbing her by the hair and pulling her towards him, -It’s the principle now innit. I don’t like the attitude of this ho… Gun against her head; girl crying – Now get on dat ting!… And yo, you two! Avert dose eyes man. I want some privacy… I’m getting me some lovin’ here innit…

Grill tutted, walked out of the room; Rocks following. They headed into the kitchen/living room… -He’s going too far in there, Rocks said, this is crazy…

-Nu’in I can fuckin’ do, Grill shrugged. Still thinks he’s fourteen or something, that he can just go round groping whatever he wants… but if the guy gets his kicks that way…

Rocks went to the window, looked out into the night; Grill was rummaging through the fridge and cupboards selecting food. Rocks turned to him: -We’re not gonna come good out of this you know, I’ve got a feeling…

-Chill, Grill laughed, That bitch in there is well used to that kinda shit. Probably fuckin enjoys it. She’s with Shanx, ain’t she? Guy’s been done for all sorts. Ain’t exactly Mr nice in that department, you know what I’m saying… Grilla brought his spoils over to the seat and settled down in front of the TV.

In the background Rocks could hear the girl moaning and pleading. He started pacing up and down. He was thinking of that line-up years back that got them into trouble. It happened in the basement of some flats at Frampton, two girls D had said were up for it, into having it rough and that, but what did D know. It was crazy down there, all dim-lit and about twenty guys and so much noise it was hard to tell if the girls even wanted it or not. A bit of base was going round too, everyone revved up, and Rocks was stupid in those days and with all the madness went with the flow. Next day Rocks, D and a few others were pulled in and didn’t see the street for two months until the girls dropped the charges. Fucked up man. Back in the day there was loads of that shit going on. Still was, but these days Rocks didn’t get involved. But D was different. Didn’t think like that.

Rocks stopped pacing. It sounded like the girl was getting knocked about… -Grill, man, what the fuck’s going on in there?

-Up to him innit, Grill shrugged, chomping away, eyes glued to the screen, then – Rah, look at dis man! – He was watching a documentary on drug-busts: cops ramming a door, flying in… I know dose flats! he pointed, That’s Pembury man, I used to live up dat way!

Rocks wasn’t listening, -I’m going in there. I’m going to pull him off her. We don’t even know who she is…

-Tsss, Grilla tutted, She’s one of Shanx’s bitches innit, chill… then: Whoa, look at this – several men spread up against the wall, sniffer dogs on the prowl, stashes of drugs galore…

A minute later in walks D, tucking himself in… -Right Rocks, he pointed, you’re next, get in there and fuck that bitch – He headed straight for the fridge, pulled out a bottle of Supermalt… -Me, I need some refreshment after dat shit… Bitch gives good, man. Every which way, serious. Then he looked at Rocks, -Go on then, what you waiting for, you big pussy. Get in dere an slam that bitch… and yo, here – tossing him a pack of rubbers – Don’t want to be leaving no mess behind, you get me… He turned to Grill – She fuckin loved it, man, serious. Wants a ballin from da both of you…

-Look D, Rocks said, the guy’s not here okay, let’s just get the fuck out of here.

D put down his drink and slowly walked towards him… -You know, I’m gettin stressed with you man…

Rocks tutted, turned away, but D wasn’t finished… -Nah serious, you’re starting to fuckin vex me for real… D took the gun from his belt, hefting it in his hand… -Now I’m fuckin done wid your shit tonight – He pointed it straight at him… Get da fuck in dere.

-Don’t point that thing at me man…

D walked closer, -I’ll do more than point it, believe me…

Rocks saw his eyes, that stare…

Fuck it: Tss… he turned and walked towards the bedroom… D starting to snigger behind him… -And yo, Rocks, he said, putting the gun back in his belt, She’s waiting for you blud. Serious, I ain’t jokin. You’re gonna get a shock when you see her, cuz… laughing away.

He walked in and the girl suddenly stood up, awkwardly standing there in stockings and suspenders. Her face was heavily bruised, trembling in fear… -Fucking hell, Rocks said, what’s he done to you?.. God… he sat down on a chair, -Listen, cover all that up, I’m not touching you…

-But he said I’ve got to fuck you or he’ll kill me, she insisted. He said he knows where my mum lives, and my children are round there. He’ll kill them…

-Listen, don’t worry about him… He put his head in his hands… God, this ain’t my beef, man… I don’t even want to be here…


-Look, just cover up. I don’t need to see all that… She put on a bathrobe. Then she started breaking down… -You’re not going to kill him are you?


-Cobra… I know he’s done bad things and that, but he’s the father of my kids. He’s all I got. We’d probably starve without him…

-You mean Shanx? Rocks said confused.

-No. Cobra… Levi Johnson innit…

-Who?.. This is Shanx’s place ain’t it?..

The girl’s face started to change… -Shanx lives at the top of the next block… She was standing up now, eyes pure evil… Are you telling me you got the wrong fucking flat?..

Rocks was on his feet, putting his hands up, -Now whoa, listen, I don’t know shit. This ain’t got nothing to do with me…

-Are you telling me I’ve been put through all this for NOTHING!… She sprang for him.

In the living room D and Grill were smoking rock, laughing at the sound of action from the bedroom… -Listen to dat, D nodding. I’m impressed man. You know, maybe I’m wrong about that dude… Grill taking the pipe, chuckling along…

A few more tokes and suddenly Rocks flew in looking distressed to the max, -You two, let’s get the fuck out of here right now!! – all scratches down his face and a bloody lip… -Look at you man, D whooped, you two been playin tigers in dere or su’in?…

-I’m not fucking about, WE GOTTA GO!

-What you chattin about, dog? Grill’s having his go next innit… and yo listen up, she better be bendin over good, cos if da Grillaman gets on top he’s gonna be fucking a corpse, ain’t dat right Grill! – slapping his own knees guffawing. Then he stopped, slowly turned to Grill… Grill might be all gentle giant watching his back like a brother, but overstep the mark, man, and he can turn… But all was good because the G-man was lost in a TV motorway chase, eyes crack-crazy…

Rocks grabbed him – You’ve brought us to the wrong fucking flat, you prick, the wrong place! – Easy, man! D whacking his arms away, What you chattin about? – This ain’t Shanx’s place. It’s some guy called Cobra’s… Levi Johnson or something…

D froze. -What the fuck you talking about?

-…I’ve just had to tie that crazy bitch up in bedsheets back there, gag her and everything. She flipped…

D looked left and right in a panic… -The fucking Cobra?

Rocks stopped, -What, you know him? Who is this guy?

D ignored him – LET’S GO! – tugging Grill away from the screen… – Hey, I’m watching this, man… FUCK IT, WE’RE MOVIN, NOW! – The three of them hurrying out of the flat.

Down the dim-lit stairwell Rocks was still asking who the fuck the guy was, when D suddenly turned to him, a fear in his eyes Rocks hadn’t seen before… -Are you telling me you never heard of him? – I don’t think so, no – D turned away: -Well I don’t want to talk about it then – They headed across the estate – Let’s just get in the car and fucking move… Rocks got behind the wheel this time, the other two in no fit state; Grilla in his own world, mumbling rhymes, not even knowing what the hell was going on.

Rocks sped towards the gates. Waiting to pull out onto the road, a group of youngers formed out of the dark, scarfed and hooded, staring Rocks in the eye… Rocks pulled away and watched them in the rearview, one of them gunning them down with his hand… watchouts… little snitches that would get them stabbed, shot… the fear coming on strong. He slammed the wheel, turned to D – YOU FUCKIN IDIOT, MAN!

D was rambling to himself, eyes fixed ahead… -I don’t understand it… Cobra?… maybe I got the wrong floor…

-You got the wrong fucking block you prick!

In the back Grill started laughing, -What you two cats fretting about?… yo, bluds, I think we should go for more food you know. I got the munchies big time…


Whoa… D had crossed the line; but Grill was too shocked to register it, just said, almost hurt, -Rah, what’s bugging you, man?

D shook his head, was in a right state… -We fucked up, that’s what… Fucked up fuckin major innit… more than major… That was the Cobra’s place back dere!… one of the Cobra’s bitches innit!… Then he was rambling to himself again… I never knew that face still lived up these ends… I thought he moved away time ago… thought he was maybe dead… He turned to Rocks and G, voice cracking… I don’t think you two realize the kind of damage we’ve done here man…


-That’s true you know, Grill soon added. Fuck with a cat like Cobra and you’re gettin dead.

D was near-blubbing like a pussy… -I didn’t know blud… I didn’t know…

Rocks looked at him in disgust. Guy was fucking pathetic.

For minutes they sat parked by the road in silence, the atmosphere filled with dread…

Then D suddenly put his finger up… -I got a solution to this… he turned to Rocks: There’s only one thing we can do.


-We go back there and finish the bitch.

-What are you talking about?

-Go back and fucking merk her innit – D back in gear now, thinking fast – I should have done it back then. She’s tied up and gagged, yeah? We go back and waste her and no-one will know shit… even the cops will think it’s a burglary gone-wrong or something. We’ll make it look like that.

-Forget it man, Rocks shaking his head. We’ve been spotted by every fucker and his dog back there… there’s no way out of this…

-There is, I’m telling you. Those tinys at the gates were just strangers, man. They don’t know us from shit. We could be anyone…

-D’s right, Grill added, his face hunched between the seats… Let’s do the bitch. It’s the only way. That Cobra guy owns everything, fucking runs the place man. He finds out about this and he’ll hunt us to the ends of the earth. We gotta clean our tracks back there.

Rocks thought about it… He was still trying to recall who exactly the guy was… when suddenly it came to him… -Jesus, are we talking about the guy also known as Satan?

-Dat’s da guy! Grilla said.

Rocks buried his face on the wheel… Jesus man, no… you just didn’t fuck with a face like that. In fact, you prayed you’d never cross his path…

Throughout his presence in the black North London underworld, Levi Johnson had acquired a myriad of street-names with the ability to send the shivers up even the most hardened of gangstas… “Cobra”, “Ju-Ju Man”, “Doctor Death”, “Satan”… the list was endless. So far-fetched were the tales of his exploits that some people refused to believe this bogeyman gangsta even existed. Others said he’d been killed or incarcerated. Those more in the know insisted he was unkillable, a presence who these days operated from the shadows like a don, yet still made regular visits to the rumoured forty or fifty baby-mothers he had scattered around his old stomping grounds of Tottenham, Edmonton and Wood Green…

Rocks was fearing the worst… D, meanwhile, was enduring a mental horror-show of his own. He already had the misfortune of meeting the Cobra in the flesh two years back, and the incident had stayed with him. In fact, so disturbing had it been that sometimes he’d still wake up screaming like a baby. D had once dissed someone who knew someone else and somehow the complaint had led all the way to the fucking Cobra. But D of course didn’t know that. One night walking down Well Street a car pulled up and three niggas jumped him. They worked him severe with baseball bats then bundled him into the boot. Off they went. He’d been on the skunk all day, his mind all over the place, and the whole thing seemed like a bad dream.

They dragged him up to a flat somewhere, told him he’d cussed the Cobra and was going to pay the price. They led him into a room – a coffin laid out like a wake, except there was no body. He prayed it was some kind of joke. Then in walked Cobra, caressing a fucking snake. D was struggling now, the goons holding him tight. Cobra placed the snake inside the coffin. Then begging and pleading D was lifted off his feet. In he went. Down went the lid.

It was the worst experience of his life. He screamed himself hoarse, believed he was visiting hell. When they let him out he was panting and shaking and all he could see was Cobra and his men laughing all around him. Cobra walked up and slapped him round the face, and again they laid into him, and dragged him down to the boot. Later a passing squad car discovered him curled-up and convulsing on a Hackney backstreet, and he ended up in hospital for a while. He even spent a few weeks in the loony bin, but said nothing, told nobody. Back on road he was pretty fucked-up for a while, the flashbacks triggering violence – sometimes to even just strangers who had looked at him.

One guy he even shot in the face. Just saw him looking then, bam, dropped him point-blank with a .38. Good job the guy was still in a coma or maybe he’d be in the pen now doing fucking life… But anyway, along the way he’d heard Cobra was history, not on the scene anymore, maybe dead, maybe retired, but whatever, the guy wasn’t around…


D found himself slamming the dashboard. -What are we doing just sitting here, man! Let’s get the fuck back there and waste that bitch!

Rocks could see no alternative. D was right, they had to do this. He started up the engine, put the car into gear. They were heading back there….


From a distance, they sat staring over at the blocks, no-one having quite the courage to get out of the car; the aura of the Cobra everywhere now…

D suddenly took out the jacked bag of rock from earlier, started preparing himself a pipe… – What the fuck are you doing? Rocks said… – Havin a smoke, what the fuck’s it look like?… – No way, if you’re all fucked-up you’re gonna mess this up further!.. – Listen! I need alertness for this shit okay… – Me too blud, Grill added from the back, This is the fuckin Cobra we’re dealin wid here man…

They got cracking for a while, Rocks shaking his head when offered. The two of them were passing the pipe back and forth, Rocks using all his will not to grab it, take a hit for himself. But no way. Someone had to stay sane for this shit…

-So how we gonna finish this bitch anyway? Grill said after a while.

-Slice her throat, D replied. Do it quickly innit. Only way. Leave it to me. I don’t fucking care.

-But what if she’s not alone now? Rocks added… What if He’s there?

-She said he weren’t comin till midnight, I remember dat… but if anyone else has turned up, lak friends an dat, they’ll have my nine to deal with – D checking the ammo…

They watched a posse of souljas strut by on the street, four or five of them, eyes staring straight in… Rocks breathed deeply, -Shit man…

-Chill blad, D laughed, crack-confident now. Just fucking jokers, man… then he said: I see them ever again though, I’ll cut their fuckin eyes out…

They waited until all was clear. The street silent, dead. Then… Go. They got out of the car, hooded and scarfed. Headed into the estate. No lookouts, nothing. Good. They headed up the stairs towards the flat…

Halfway along the top balcony a figure suddenly stepped out of the flat wielding a Mac-10 – Shit!!! – D raised his nine, tried popping off shots, the guy darting inwards, but the damn thing was jammed… The guy re-emerged and now stood there laughing. In a panic they looked behind them… same shit: three guys, weapons pointing, sneers cracking into smiles. The Cobra’s men.

One of the thugs spoke into an earpiece, -We got ’em, boss. Then he stepped forward, Stay the fuck where you are!

Grill panicked, whipped out his machete and lunged towards him with a growl… BANG! – the blade was shot clean from his grip, flying out into the open air – What da? Grill looking at his empty hand and swallowing… The goon walked toward him and whipped him across the mouth… -Now up against the wall, all three of you! Handcuffs were snapped onto their wrists. They were marched into the flat.

In the living room after taking beats they were tied to chairs. Then suddenly all went silent. Somebody was entering the room. The goons stepped back, soldiers erect to attention. D, Grill and Rocks felt a collective sense of hell. Before them in leather coat and shades was the Cobra.

He looked each up and down, breathing hard through his nose as if to contain his anger. He removed his shades. All three shrank at the sight. Cobra was blind in one eye; in its place was a gleaming sphere of gold; the other adorned in an icy blue lens, staring so hard you could see the whites all round.

It was thought that Cobra lost his eye in a stabbing incident in his youth. Legend had it that the teenage perpetrator disappeared off the streets, his body never found but his severed heart sent gift-wrapped to his stricken mother, a woman who spent the rest of her days in a state of madness; some say literally cursed by demons. D was visibly shaking, scared to make eye contact. Cobra stepped forward, grabbed him by the jaw to face him… -You?… So we meet again, bwai – the grip nearly breaking his face.

D started pleading, but the Cobra put a finger to his lips and told him to hush…

-You come in here… you bone one of my women?

-We never knew she was connected to you, D begged, honest. We got the wrong flat, I swear on God’s life, I swear it…

Cobra nodded to one of his men to go get the girl. Seconds later there she was, restrained in a firm grip… -I’ll kill him!! I’ll kill him!!

-Which one a dem bone you? Cobra asked.

-Him!! That’s the bastard!! she pointed, lunging for D, I’ll tear his fucking eyes out!!

Cobra nodded. The girl was swiftly ejected.

For a full minute he paced to and fro, staring them down in murderous contemplation. Finally his glare settled on D.

-Strip ‘im, he said.

-No Cobe, please – the thugs stepping forward – I never meant it, man, honest. I swear on my mother’s life…

-I’ll kill your fuckin mudda, how bout dat? – The goons tearing the garms off him…

-Get de iron, Cobra said, taking off his coat and rolling his shirtsleeves – Heat it up. I’m gonna teach dis fucker some respect…

You can keep the Asylum Years

In offbeat on October 9, 2009 at 3:33 pm


The Beat Pix

Ian said goodbye and eventually left and Damien had the living room to himself. He felt a draught and looked up and Karen, his soon to be ex-girlfriend, was at the door, with her empty cardboard boxes and large suitcase.

Like I told you last night “I’m moving out” said Karen, and she picked up her boxes made her way into the flat.

“Do you need any help?”


“Make sure you don’t take any of my things, especially my DVDs”


Damien left Karen in the bedroom and went out to the living room. Looking for the Heart of Saturday Night hummed from the stereo whilst Karen packed her bags and collected her belongings. After a short while Damien passed caring if she took one of his albums or books. She probably bought them anyway.

“This is a ridiculous situation!” Said Damien whilst trying to keep an eye on what Karen was packing

She’s the one moving out, he thought, but Damien felt like the uninvited guest the one that should apologise or something.

Its funny how when you first meet a girl she likes you for who you are! It’s over time they try and beat the old you out of your system and install the man they want. You’ve only got to watch a chick flick and it’s the man that’s the love rat it’s the man that’s emotionally challenged. It’s funny how a woman can change your taste in music or when you actually get a chance to listen to some music.

When Damien first met Karen they’d spent hours making compilation tapes and listening to anything from Joy Division to The Smiths. Then over time it went to easy listening compilation CDs and some ginger bloke from…

“You can keep the Simply fucking Red CD!!”

It was only last week during a meal with “her” new work friends that Karen introduced Damien and went onto telling them that…

“…he’s an underground-writer, not a proper writer of course but someone with an unusual hobby along with a few BEATNIK friends who also write for no particular reason on a web site that hardly anybody visits”.

Damien tried to explain that “writing for no particular reason is the only way to create…as once you’re writing for someone else or you work to an unnecessary deadline… you might as well end it”. Nobody listened. They recommended books mentioned on SKY arts and the Richard and Judy book club. Matt recommended that Damien enrolled onto a writing course. Karen also amused the group with Damien’s unsuccessful career as a drummer for a band called “The Strangely Brown Incident” They thought the name was kind of cute, that was up until one of them asked…

“What exactly is a strangely brown incident?”

Damien replied “…it’s when you’ve unknowingly shat yourself stupid and avoid embarrassment by passing it off as a strangely brown incident; we’re pretty big on Google”.

The silence was incredibly heavy. Trying to move the conversation on Damien told them a little more about the band but none of them were interested and not exactly impressed that cartoonist Eric Reynolds designed the sleeve for their demo single called “wipe it clean” or even slightly interested that the Seattle based indie label Sub pop were actually going to offer them a contract and tour with Mudhoney.

Karen walked back into the living room with an overflowing cardboard box and checked her phone.

Damien couldn’t help but notice this and asked “Who are you expecting a call or text from, it wouldn’t happen to be from Matt would it?”

“And would that be a problem?” She replied in a matter of fact way

Damien actually wanted to ask her to sit down and think about what she was doing only because he was wondering how he was gonna get to work as Karen was taking the car. Considering this woman completely changed Damien’s life, he was gonna miss her. Was I or am I in love with her? He thought or was I conditioned into loving her…something similar to that imprisoned girl from Austria was towards her father?

Its weird how Damien’s flat now looked anaemic with only his pitiful possessions scattered around the room. Damien couldn’t help but think that it’s really cool listening to the Ghosts of Saturday Night and the way it reverberated around the room.

“I wish I learnt how to play the piano”. He said out aloud

Out of the blue the annoying polyphonic Cold Play ring tone blasted from Karen’s phone. She cheerfully answered and strolled into the kitchen and closed the door. Leaning against the door Damien could hear the low murmur of her voice over Potters Field.

Strolling back to the stereo Damien thought how men need a soundtrack to whatever they are emotionally struggling with. Holding a CD case he was sure the Tom Waits CD belonged to Karen, either way

“I’m keeping this one!

Eventually Karen re-appeared and without a word picked up her suitcase and embarrassingly bright red backpack and left. Before the beat of dust she stirred settled, Damien’s phone beeped and it’s a text from Karen

You can keep the Asylum Years

Last Days of the Cross

In offbeat on October 9, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Joe grew up in the East End of London and left school with few qualifications. He then embarked on a succession of menial jobs. After being stabbed in a bar brawl and getting robbed at knifepoint he decided it was time to leave the country and promptly travelled the world; Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. He stayed in Australia for three years living mostly in the Kings Cross area of Sydney until he became an illegal immigrant. To avoid being deported Joe then went to Thailand and brought a share in the world’s smallest bar, the famous and now defunct Barcelona Bar. After fleeing Thailand with a tail between his legs he returned to London in 2001 where he lives and writes to this day.

What do you think of the more alternative, cultural phenomenon of the Internet based lit-Zine scene? Is it a good thing? Or is it killing off the traditional paper based publishing industry??

It’s a great thing, totally revolutionary, but it will never kill off the paper based publishing industry as humans still like the feel of a good book and a good cock!

What role has the Internet played in your writing?

Without the internet I might as well take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut!

There’s quite a bit of dialogue in what you write. You seem to have a good ear for dialogue. Is that something natural? Where did you develop that?

Hmm, dialogue is difficult, get it wrong and you just look like a c**t, but get it right, and as Bukowski would say, it’s like finding gold in the city dump.

Is what you write about purely literary, or is it a depiction of a certain world you’ve been a part of?

I would say that ninety percent of my writing is true stories and ten percent fiction, but it is the ten percent fiction which sends it spinning a million miles away from mere biography, confessional, narcissistic, up my own arse bullshit. I mean most peoples lives are boring, tedious in the extreme, so who wants to hear about that? Okay, I may have lived a vaguely interesting life, but just writing about what I’ve done or where I’ve been would instantly send the reader into a self-induced coma.

How do you carry out research for a new story?

I step inside the steels wires of my brain and see if there’s anything up there worth writing about, occasionally, much to my continued amazement, I find that there is.

Do you write a novel/short story for a reaction or do you write novels/short stories for personal reasons?

I write because if I didn’t I would get hold of the nearest AK47 and gun down as many of the c**ts as I could, men women and children, and no I would not turn the gun on myself. Being a man of peace, and a natural born coward, writing is the only feasible course of action.

Top 5 books you’d rescue from a burning building?

Hating Olivia, Mark SaFranko, Ask the Dust, John Fante, Hunger, Knut Hamsun, Philosophy in the Boudoir, Marquis De Sade, and ok fuck it, On the Road Jack Kerouac.

Top five films:

Psycho, Casablanca, American Physcho, Apocalypse Now, Goodfellas, Bugsy Malone.

If you could have a beer with any writer dead or alive who\’d it be, and why?

Charles Bukowski, just to confirm my suspicions that he couldn’t handle a beer, and to ask him what he thought of ECCO publishing anything he ever wrote and subsequently diminishing his standing as an artist.

What are you currently working on?

My sixth novel, Burrito Deluxe, numerous short stories, poems, and cirrhosis of the liver.

Anyone else on the scene you\’d recommend?

Michael Keenaghan. Mark SaFranko, every lover of literature must read Hating Olivia and Lounge Lizard when it comes out. Anything by Adelle Stripe.

What is the one thing you truly want people to get out of your work?

I couldn’t give a shit what people get out of my work, but if anyone slags it off, remember what comes around goes around……….

I wish people would take more notice of …

How pointless their jobs and lives are, for if they did maybe they wouldn’t take everything so fucking seriously, especially women.

The most surprising thing that ever happened to me was …

Everyday I wake up and find I can stand upright, is a small miracle….

A common misconception of me is …

Hmm, not sure if this a common misconception, but someone on a Guardian blog once referred to me as a Nathan Barley type. I don’t want to get the violins out, but I grew up on a council estate, went to a succession of terrible comprehensive schools, left with zero qualifications, and then embarked on a series of menial jobs. This country, still somehow being riddled with class bias, the only time I was treated as a human being was when I lived in another country. My advice to all young working class people is to emigrate at the first opportunity. I mean think about it, we are living in a country where James Blunt and Lilly Allen are pop stars and David Cameron is leader of the opposition! 


The complete ‘Home Clubber’ cartoons of genius comedy-duo Modern Toss

‘Staying at home reading a collection of Modern Toss cartoons yeah? Looks like it an’all.’

‘Home clubber’ is the surreal, laugh-out-loud funny cartoon that has appeared weekly in every Guardian Guide for the last four years. It’s a bit like a well-loved British sitcom, with the same set up every week: the same two badly-drawn figures slouching in the same two chairs, coming down after a hard night on the town . . .

Now, for the first time, all of the sofa-bound adventures of the two home clubbers are available in one book – the perfect giftbook for the couch potato in your life, from the genius that is Modern Toss. Tasty!

Jon Lip and Mick Bunnage are the founders of *hitflap.com and the writers and producers of the hit Channel 4 show Modern Toss. They live in Brighton and London .

Modern Toss

M.R. ~ Tom Ford

In offbeat on October 3, 2009 at 11:46 am

He left his apartment. Gliding his hands into his satin lined pockets, he anticipated the cool, slippery feel of the material with careless certainty and glanced towards his stomach. The sensation of his trouser material and smell of his jacket made him think of his father, but he wasn’t sure why. Checking his thoughts, he gazed upwards. The houses that lined his street were unpleasantly illuminated as the clean, afternoon sun glinted off their shiny exterior. Smiling oddly for a few seconds, he considered their unforgiving facades. Even in this flattering light, which now, he realised, did not hide the fact that it was a rather cold day, they were anonymous. His arms flattened to hug his sides.

Thoughts danced to the morning just a few hours earlier. His mouth reformed into a crooked smile as he greeted several photographs that obediently flashed into his mind. A seed of warmth grew in his head and seeped down to his shoulders as he was shown himself meticulously preparing for the day. An expensive tweed suit was lovingly laid on a four-poster bed, and then two pointed shoes were laced up slowly. The shock of thick, black hair above his eyes was precisely greased, patted and prodded in the mirror. ‘50s’, his mind sullenly muttered, a Hollywood film star’s echo that reverberated around the memory. ‘50s’, his brain’s voice repeated, as if narcissistically congratulating its own sound in the mirror.

Turning the corner of his road, the warmth that had settled in the base of his neck turned quickly into a sickly cool sweat as he remembered something from a recent party. He’d been surrounded with boorish figures, those who gazed drunkenly at him like expectant puppies, ceasing their chatter when he began, always drawn in by his lowered voice and studiously lazy eyes. Days previously he had asked Steven, his hairdresser, to give him a new haircut. ‘Similar to John Lennon circa 1962…but undoubtedly tidier’, he had said. He was unspeakably happy with it. Some arse at the party had laughed, however, saying that he looked like Floyd from ‘Dumb and Dumber’. He hadn’t even seen ‘Dumb and Dumber’ which made it worse. People giggled nervously leaving him to grapple awkwardly for a facial expression to suit the situation, and to cement the insult, the man had pushed his shoulder jovially. Even now, just thinking of it, it jarred his slender frame like a bully’s shove.

He composed himself. Turning the corner of his street, he was intoxicated with thoughts of the previous night, which caused his crotch to stiffen slightly as he remembered the girl he had brought back to his impressive home. She was blonde, bordering on beautiful, and slightly less intelligent than he. Struggling to remember whether she reminded him of Marilyn Munroe, or Cameron Diaz, this basic quandary annoyed him thoroughly. Before he even began engaging her at the party, in the same droll conversation he used to ingratiate everyone, he knew she would be round eyed and awe-full of him. He could not help, however, but employ the same practiced tone of voice, facial movements and carefully constructed hand gestures he used repeatedly and almost against his will. These blurry, cartoon human motions had grown silently tired to him, yet were still externally potent from endless parties and introductions. Oh, how he swam knowingly in the warmth of his own social comfort!

The low lying sun, he now noted, had rested behind a purple, bulbous cloud and the chill of the spring day wrapped around him cruelly. His outline cut a lonely image in the hushed street. Quickening his step, he wondered for a brief moment if he was in control of his replicating shell or whether he even enjoyed the company it commandingly grasped. His eyes winced into an uncharacteristic slit and he caught his reflection in a car window. Readjusting his hair, he encouraged his mind to move on.

His eyes wandered down and he began watching the two animals beneath his chin, the twin pistons propelling his path. He did this for some time, losing the sense of their movement and enjoying the absurd detachment the experience brought. ‘Why do these move?’ he thought, his brow coming downwards as if to speak to the legs themselves. ‘I do not instruct them to’. Just as he was raising his head, returning to the task of direction, an oafish blare filled his immediate path, shattering the air like glass, ‘mmOIIII Ronson! Fahhhckin Wankahhh!’ Animalistic laughter followed, tinkling the broken shards that the initial cacophony had created. His eyes met the noise’s source and his face slumped visibly.

It was a scene he was miserably familiar with, a drunken hog who had recognised the front of his head. His thoughts started to race. It was the 8th time it had happened this week and the effects were beginning to sear into his skin. Usually this tired episode would bring a sigh and a shrug, or perhaps a witty retort (always silent of course). But this seemed different. Like the red, exasperated mother sick of a child’s incessant cheek, the man lost his cool. A hot, empty orb in his stomach brought tears of sweat all over his body and his head began to whirr like a broken mechanism.

He checked to see if the shouting figure had gone and quickly steadied himself on a bollard, confused by this new sensation. Feeling positively sick and as his temperature fluctuated with disorientating rapidity, his mind swamped itself with a thousand different images, sounds and thoughts. He had never fainted before, but considered this was as close as one could get. He almost wished to lose consciousness, and wake up feeling normal. Without consulting his brain, his hands took a packet of Marlboro Lights from his pocket.

I’m Mark Ronson. Look everyone, it’s MARK Ronson. Is that Mark Ronson?… Mahhk Ronnzzen. The words ceased to mean anything in his thoughts as he sucked desperately on the cigarette he knew he wouldn’t enjoy. He ran his fingers through a moistening forehead and scalp. His hair was now more like a damp, knitted jumper unravelling atop his beading features as it began to escape from its previous duress. As an uncontrollable shaking took over his body, a rushed slideshow filled his mind. He could see Mark Ronson introducing himself to people at parties. Yes, there was the unnatural, grotesque face he used to greet fleshy figures in his pointless vicinity. Now, his album covers. Their shallow brashness flashed into his mind’s lens like an unpleasant photograph negative, and the pretentious way he held himself became apparent in disgusting clarity.

As he sat down on the pavement, half a cigarette smouldering beside him, his exhausted brain developed fully a new and strange dimension of himself. It wasn’t him looking at ‘Mark Ronson’. It was an increasingly detached, glossy representation, like an advertisement or lurid TV slogan repeated until meaningless. It was the staccato 3 seconds of ‘Mark Ronson’ spliced with a million other bright, hideous images seen by hundreds of middle class 32 year olds flicking over the television or leafing through magazines. He was in the skin of a brown-haired teenager as she chatted to her friend, seeing through their eyes as they took a fleeting interest in a ‘Mark Ronson’ set at a soulless festival. Jesus Christ!

On his hands and knees now, an involuntary bout of retching brought a small ball of hot sick, which was spat quickly on to the ground. The vomit seemed to relieve some of the pressure in his temples, and his nauseating thoughts began to peter out. A brisk wind was blowing, and may have been for some time, but the man was now grateful for its awakening chill as he gradually came to his senses. ‘It’s fine’ he said, in his head, or perhaps via his throat, he wasn’t sure. ‘Fine’, he repeated, his own shaky but reassuring voice now undoubtedly filling the air.

He erected himself on the pavement. Frantically looking about the silent street, he checked to see if anybody had witnessed what had just occurred. No one. The relief poured over him like a warm glow, and, flattening his hair, he set off walking again. He had people to see, and there were conversations to be had.

The juxtaposition of what had just happened, next to his imminent meeting with friends, presented itself in all its terrifying gravity. The infinite series of anticipated future social scenarios, each slightly different versions of past events, seemed almost superfluous now. Straightening his jacket and curling his lips into an insouciant pucker, he attempted a safe return to his perceived self. Nobody must find out. Retreating to his usual thoughts and actions was paramount, and as he strolled towards the main high street, he concentrated with conscientious attention to this end.

Spiral Out (an excerpt from the novel by u.v.ray)

In offbeat on September 18, 2009 at 8:42 am

Rap rap rap.

Rap rap rap rap.

Rap rap rap rap rap.

I had been numb for I don’t know how many weeks. No feelings left for anyone or anything: just a dead-eyed stare greeting me every morning in the bathroom mirror. I’d been running on a diet of whiskey and nicotine. Sometimes I’d spit blood in the basin but still didn’t feel anything stirring inside.  If I’d taken a kitchen knife and sliced my arm open with it I felt sure the wound wouldn’t have bled. Every day became the same. Each frozen hour slowly melted through my bones like mescaline, until finally, at that moment, the old clock on the wall suddenly stopped ticking and the stark discharge of silence roused my senses.

   I became aware of a dull thudding sound that gradually evolved into the realisation that someone was banging earnestly on the door. Glue had turned up at my place with a shit load of speed. “Jesus Christ!” Glue said when I opened the door. “I was knocking for ages.” He invited himself straight in, shouldered past me and slumped down heavily in the armchair I’d just vacated. He was called Glue because you could never get rid of him. I bought some gear off him and then, of course, he hung around. He laughed, flashing his rotten front tooth, as he slapped the two wraps in my palm and said, “If you wanna rocket ride you gotta put some fuel in the tank. Know wha’am sayin’?”

Yeah. I knew.

    Glue talked funny. He had an indecipherable accent. One you just couldn’t put a finger on. I put Joy Division on the stereo and we sat about for a while drinking wine. We twisted the speed up in Rizzla papers and bombed it down that way, swilling it down with the wine. 2 hours later and the pair of us were out of our skulls and rolling along the Aston Expressway in my car. Ahead of us the monochrome blast of Birmingham city lights strung out like diamonds, a swirling mass glittering on the apex of amphetamine charged night.  I was down to skin and bone. I hadn’t eaten a thing or slept in 48 hours and my jangling nerves were stripped to the bare wire. 

   I didn’t actually think much of Glue. But as long as he kept turning up with the gear, I tolerated him. Otherwise, he really was just an insufferable cunt. He was like toothache. He didn’t mean to be. He was simply one of those desperate people you wanted to get away from. Just like me, Glue hardly ate. I’d rarely seen him eat. But strangely he always remained quite bloated and had this ruddy complexion that a lot of people mistook for a healthy glow. But Glue used Skag. He was a junky and if you left any cash lying about, or anything else he could quickly have away in his pocket that he thought he might be able to offload at the flea-market, he’d steal it the minute your back was turned. He was just someone I’d met through somebody else sometime or other in a pub called The Black Horse. I’d become acquainted with him simply because he could supply speed and acid. When you do drugs you spend half your time trudging from place to place, hanging around trying to find someone to score off. A reliable source like Glue became a valuable semblance of friendship. And that was the thing with Glue; I always got the feeling there was something lost about him. He wasn’t like other dealers. I suspected he only did it because he wanted to be liked. He definitely didn’t make much money out of the game and what he did make simply fuelled his own compulsions. Since his personality type wasn’t particularly conducive to winning friends and influencing people – in fact he was more the kind of man who’d make even Dale Carnegie want to kick his head in – dealing drugs was the only thing that kept him popular around town. Maybe that was it. I didn’t really know.  What I did find out from him was that he never knew his parents.  He was discovered abandoned in a cardboard box. He grew up in various homes. Got shifted around a lot and hadn’t learned to form lasting friendships. I didn’t know much else about the rest of his life. I imagined that this start had probably compounded a life of alienation and rejection, which at least explained the reason why he was like he was. Myself, I didn’t have any such excuse. I’d actively subscribed to being a drop out.

   Class structures exist even amongst the homeless. “It depends where your cardboard box is,” I’d heard said.  When Glue was found in his, he was on a waste dump. He was 36 now – eight years older than me. His face was scarred and his dirty brown hair hung down past his shoulders. He looked quite a bit older than his years. But sometimes he’d show up looking considerably younger. This was on the rare occasions he’d bathed and scrubbed the grime out of the crevices and pockmarks that peppered his cheeks and forehead; making them less apparent. Glue drifted about, sleeping on people’s floors every now and then. Quite often he slept in bus shelters or down in New Street railway station. Usually they shifted him out of there well before the morning rush began and he’d sometimes go and freshen up in the fountain in Victoria Square. He almost always wore a Ramones tee shirt and when he hadn’t got his leather jacket on you could see the veins in his arms were shot to pieces. In cold weather he would instead wear a black sheepskin coat with a fur collar that he called The Gorilla. I always thought he had such very sad, brown eyes; they seemed to look right into you, begging for some sign of acceptance or recognition or something like that. They were painful eyes that I could hardly look at. The pleading eyes of an ill-treated dog.

    I shoved a Jesus & Mary Chain tape in the stereo and the familiar murderously heavy bass lines reverberated to the dazzling Expressway lights trailing in the rear view mirror. I floored it and the V8 purred as we hit 90 miles an hour. We were in my old ’79 Merc. It was all black except that it had green bonnet salvaged from the junk yard. There was a dent in the driver’s door and part of the front bumper was hanging off. But under the bonnet that engine was still sweet as a nut. I rolled down the window and let the wind blow through my hair. The car had been brand new when I got it. An 18th birthday gift from my parents. Glue was sprawled across the back seat with one booted foot stuffed up on the rear parcel shelf and the other down in the foot well, his back against the door. Cigarette ash and a myriad of other stains were ingrained into his black Ramones tee-shirt. Passing a bottle of Jameson’s back and forth between us, we travelled without conversation. There was just the scintillating mix of city lights, engine purr and music. I couldn’t stop grinding my teeth. My jaw ached. Glue’s brown eyes orbited mindlessly in their sockets, aimlessly tracking the cars to our left as they fell behind us one by one. I’d no idea where we were going. We were just driving. Burning off the tingling chemically induced energy. I turned off the Expressway and threaded the car around the inner city ring roads for a while before swinging down Colmore Row and pulling over and parking under an orange street lamp outside Steelhouse Lane police station.  I sparked up a cigarette and tossed one over to Glue. He snatched it out the air without a word of thanks and slotted it behind his ear like a carpenter’s pencil.  The speed and whiskey had dried my throat and I needed a drink. The hospital casualty department was right across the street.

   “There’ll be a Coke machine in the reception over there,” Glue motioned limply with his hand. I hated the way he spoke. It was a pained rasp and he had a habit of screwing up his face and rolling his tongue out as if he’d tasted some bitter pill.

And maybe he had.

The bitter pill of self-realisation, perhaps.

   I got out the car, making sure I’d taken the key from the ignition.  I finished my cigarette as I strolled over to the hospital. Inside, waiting on the rows of plastic chairs, was the usual Saturday night conglomerate of bloodied and bruised drunks. One of them had a ludicrous, makeshift bandage wrapped around his head. It was strapped under his chin and was secured with a huge bow on top of his head. I heard him complaining to whoever was sitting next to him that his bastard wife had stabbed him up and under the chin with a fork. I hid my laughter.

   I slotted in the coins and waited while the machine clattered and dispensed the can into the tray. I could only have been five minutes but by the time I rushed back outside, sure enough, Glue and my car were gone.

   I sauntered into the police station sipping my can of Coke trying to look as normal as possible. I knew my eyes were a dead giveaway. I couldn’t properly focus. The strip lighting in the place seemed excessively bright. My pupils were dilated, like a jammed camera lens. I leaned on the desk casually and said, “My car’s been nicked.” The short, bullish desk sergeant surveyed me knowingly but he just sighed and scribbled down the details saying, with what I thought was an air of nonchalance, they’d be looking for it. I had to get a taxi home. The black Merc with green bonnet was spotted two days later by the Devon & Cornwall Constabulary, parked in a street in a place I’d never heard of called Heathfield or Hatfield or something like that. There was a twisted steel nail file in the ignition. The barrel was loose anyway, it could be jiggled, and Glue had almost certainly clocked that little detail at some point. There was no sign of Glue, not that I’d have shopped him anyway. But The Gorilla was left on the back seat. 

   It was still pretty early in the morning the day I was to drive the car back. The sun was still rising and was glinting off the slate rooftops. I’d got a full tank of fuel. Maybe I’d take a look around. I thought of staying in Devon. Or anywhere down south; somewhere warm where I could spend days doing nothing but throwing rocks in the sea and nights lying on the beach, shooting imaginary bullets at the stars. I thought about buying a light-house where I could simply live alone, allowing memories to peel away from me like dead skin cells. I thought of just about anywhere else that was far enough away from Birmingham. I fired up the engine and started driving.



COCAINE EYES ~ Michael Keenaghan

In offbeat on September 16, 2009 at 8:36 am

Standing on Kym’s doorstep having delivered my speech, she hands me back the flowers.
“I’m sorry, Michael,” she says. “I’m glad you’re clean now, I really am. But we’ve talked about this before – it’s over. Finished. I’m sorry.”
I hear somebody behind her. A man.
“What’s going on?” he says, standing next to her.
“Michael’s just an old friend,” she says. “He was just going.”
Putting his arm around her, he closes the door.

A week later, standing on my tenth-floor balcony, I feel an actual click inside my skull, and it’s as though I’ve woken out of a bad dream. I walk back inside – the flat an incomprehensible mess. I have flashbacks to how I’ve spent the past seven days and I’m horrified. I frantically tidy the flat, shower, put on clean clothes. Then sitting down I take deep breaths and tell myself: There is absolutely nothing to worry about. So I lapsed. I binged. It was a mistake. I’m clean now.
Up until a few months before, I’d worked for an insurance firm in the City. Unemployment was hard to take. It wasn’t so much the lack of money – I had savings and an inheritance sum – than the sudden lack of structure to my life. I started drinking more, and my coke habit spiralled out of control. I’d been seeing Kym since before being laid off, but suddenly it was all up in the air. I ended up in rehab. But it was the best place for me. During those six weeks away, I met a lot of good people and it changed my outlook. Made me re-evaluate things.
But later as I rack up a line – just the one – I honestly tell myself: So what. It’s a line. One fucking line. I mean, I’ve got to get things into perspective here – the idea of one hundred per cent abstinence just isn’t realistic yet. One step at a time. Besides, I’ve got a lot to think about. Like putting my life back together. Like getting back with Kym. Like this time really giving it a go.
Kym lives in Hackney, near London Fields. I find myself frequenting the pub at the corner of her street – it’s used by the mostly young professionals who have part-gentrified the area. Kym hasn’t returned any of my messages, and I tell myself I’m just trying to build up the courage to once again knock on her door, but more realistically I’m spying. I watch her return from work. Watch the man follow minutes after. Watch them sometimes return together. I sit drinking, sit watching. Why do I torture myself like this?

One afternoon I walk in and a couple are sitting at my table by the window. They’re talking animatedly, and as I stand at the bar drinking pints I’m simply itching for them to piss off and give me my seat back. I start to stare them out, try making them uncomfortable so they might move seats. The girl looks me up and down, whispers something, then the man looks me over and laughs.
Something snaps. I lunge towards them, upturn their table, drinks flying. The woman is screaming and I’m grappling across the floor with the man. Standing up he’s a lot bigger than I realized and suddenly he’s punching me hard in the face. I fall to the floor and he’s shouting at me, but the barman pulls him away. I get up. There’s people around us now, asking what happened, if I’m alright, but I shrug them off. There’s blood pouring from my nose; the man looking embarrassed now, trying to explain what happened; his girlfriend crying in the background. I get out of there. I know I can’t come back.
Back at home I feel completely out of it. With a pack of peas against my face, I phone the dealer. The runner arrives – a friendly black kid – and he’s shocked when he sees me. “Rah, bruv, you okay? What happened to you man?”
I make up some bullshit that I’d been jumped – but guess what, I pulled out a fucking gun on the bastards. You should have seen their faces – scattered like mice the lot of them. I’m re-enacting the scene, really getting into it, and he probably doesn’t believe me, but saying goodbye I don’t really care. I rack up some coke and pull out a pack of Stellas from the fridge. I put on a couple old Oasis albums and swagger about the flat singing and drinking like I don’t give a fuck. Then I go out onto the balcony to cool off. It’s dark now. The whole of London spread out before me.
Suddenly I feel insignificant. So alone. I start to panic. Then I do what I always do. I phone for some company. Next thing I’m sitting on the sofa with my trousers around my ankles and a blonde head going up and down on my lap. Who the fuck is she? I pull her up – her wig coming half-off in my hand; short black hair beneath. She’s Japanese or something. Looks nothing like Kym at all.
“Get out!” I throw her off me. She lands back on the floor shocked. I grab her coat and throw it at her. “Get the fuck out of here, now!” – an unexplained panic coursing through me. By the door she warns me that I won’t get away with this, slamming it behind her. I go out to the balcony for some night air, smoking cigarettes, drinking vodka, not even realizing what I’ve done.
Suddenly the doorbell goes. I freeze. My biggest fear the police; my coffee table covered in coke. “Answer the door now!” Fists are pounding. I’m starting to sweat. “Open up, you cunt, or we’ll kick the fucking door in!” I open it. Two men: black, white. The black one punches me straight in the face and I fly. They charge in – the white one dragging me up onto the sofa.
“I think you owe someone an apology, don’t you?” he says. I look over and see the prostitute right there. They stand back laughing as she grabs me by the hair, punching me in the face. She’s shouting at me, calling me a prick, a bastard, a piece of shit, pounding me as I curl tight into a ball. When she’s finished they pull me up. One holds me while the other beats me with his fists. They take this is turns until I’m semi-conscious. Then they round up all my coke and the cash I keep on the table and warn me next time they’ll throw me off the fucking balcony. The next thing I remember is staggering out into the communal hall in a bloody mess and collapsing on the floor. I wake up in hospital.
After that, I move out of the flat. I can’t live there any more. Too many bad memories. Besides, I need a new environment to clean up in.
I rent a place in Stoke Newington – a mile or so from Kym. The flat is light and spacious and moving in I feel invigorated. It’s a whole new start. One day, on the High Street, a girl hands me a leaflet for a gym. I’ve lost weight and need to build up. I join. The positive vibes of the place are infectious. On my first session I work out so hard I can barely move afterwards. But it’s the beginning of something I desperately need – a routine. From now on, every morning around 10.30, I go there and work myself rigid.
I make a gym buddy in Neil. He uses the weight room daily – first showed me the ropes when he saw me struggling. He’s a good bloke – well-built, but not your typical meathead. He likes to party, enjoys a line here and there, but tells me he keeps it mainly to weekends. I tell him I’m pretty much like that too. I never see him out of the gym, but occasionally we have a drink afterwards. He drives a 7-series BMW, has a black girlfriend and works in music, running a PA hire business – keeps his own hours. Neil seems to have it all worked out, has the balance right. I need to learn from that.
Despite the shakes and the high-protein diet, weight-gain for me is slow. In the mirror doing weights next to Neil I feel a little pathetic. I need to bulk up, fast.
“There’s always things you can take,” he winks. “If you’re desperate like.”
“What, steroids?” I laugh.
“Don’t believe the hype,” he tells me. “I’ve used them myself. Not now, but in the past. Like any drug, there’s dangerous levels and there’s safe. It’s all about common sense really. If you want seriously fast results, it’s a good temporary option. Long term though it’s about putting in the work.”

Looking at his physique I envy him, yet I tell him I’ll stick to the shakes. I’m still on the coke every day but trying to keep the alcohol and binges to a minimum. The last thing I need is a newcomer.

Days later, however, I’m asking about side effects.
He tells me they’re over-hyped and over-reported – some just plain nonsense. “What does the media know? Fuck all. All it’s interested in is horror stories, blowing things out of proportion. The minute GlaxoSmithKline decide to market the stuff for bodybuilding – which eventually they will – it’ll suddenly be all harmless… Listen, if you’re interested I’ve got contacts and can sort you out with some quality stuff. If not, don’t worry about it.”
Every few days he has a package for me.

In the mirror I’m beginning to like what I see. Neil agrees. “Look at me,” he owns up one day, strutting out of the shower. “How the fuck do you think I look like this?”

In the changing room we talk about sex. He tells me about his girlfriend’s insatiable appetite, all the positions they do. Tells me I should come over some time, bring the Mrs for a foursome.
One day, over a post-workout drink, he confides that until a big contract comes up in the Summer things are going to be pretty tight for him – he’s got debts and bills coming out of his ears – roll on Summer hey. I find myself loaning him more and more – sixty here, eighty there. Each time he acts embarrassed, but I tell him it’s okay, no problem. I like Neil. He’s a good bloke. In fact, he’s the only kind of friend I’ve got. I burned all my bridges in that department long ago – pissed off untold people, my behaviour out of control. But looking back, alot of them weren’t real friends anyway. One day I give him £250 quid to pay off some bills. Another time I give him £400 for his car’s MOT.
Some time later, after all of this, I’m knocking on his flat at 11pm, the sweat pouring off me. Minutes later he answers. He’s standing there in a thong, his girlfriend looking on from the background.

“What the fuck do you want?”

“I want my gear,” I tell him. “You haven’t been at the gym for over a week and haven’t answered my calls. I need my roids.”
“How did you get my address?”
I tell him I paid off the gym receptionist, which I did.

He disappears inside, comes back out with my stuff, bangs it into my hand. Looking left and right, he leans into me: “Listen here, you cokehead cunt. You don’t know me, don’t know where I live, don’t know nothing about me. You fucking got that?” Then he slams the door. He’s gone.
Neil doesn’t return to the gym. Then nor do I. One day picking up the Hackney Gazette I see a mugshot of him looking back at me. DRUG DEALER SHOT DEAD. I stare at it in shock. He’d been dealing coke and heroin, crossed people who’d vowed to kill him. They burst into his flat, shot him four times in the head. 
There’d been no friendship there atall. Neil had just been taking the piss. I hated him for that. Couldn’t even understand it. I was glad he was dead. Two men had killed him and good luck to them. You think someone’s your friend and they just use you. Shit on you like that. Just like Kym. You think somebody’s the love of your life and they don’t seem to care if you’re alive or dead.
I’d been texting Kym off and on for months. Not a single reply. I couldn’t work it out any more. Why was she doing this to me?

One day, trying to fend off my craving, I tidy the flat. Rooting through some stuff I find the number of a man I met at rehab. He’d worked in finance, but dropped out to travel the world. He ended up bumming around Goa and came back a heroin addict. We got on well and we’d talk for hours. He told me to promise that I’d phone him some time and we’d meet. There’d been a bond there, and right now I needed that bond – somebody to talk to, who understood what I was going through. I phone the number. A woman answers. She’s tells me she’s his mother. Tells me that he relapsed, overdosed and died. I sit staring at the wall for an hour. Then I phone the dealer.
Since stopping training and coming off the roids I feel drained, physically weak. Walking the streets after dark I feel vulnerable. Police witness boards line the pavements, and the stories in the local papers are always the same. Muggings, stabbings, unprovoked attacks. Perversely, I find myself reading them more and more. One day I read a story about a gang of Hackney teenagers jailed for approximately 150 vicious muggings over the space of six months. Their targets lone professionals returning from work. They’d batter their victims ferociously with chains and bats before robbing them. One man was blinded. A woman raped. One man suffered brain damage and later committed suicide.
I dream of violence. Burglars enter my flat and I crucify them against my living room wall. I stand throwing acid at them, laughing at their screams as their bodies melt. I dream of running through the streets, a gun in each hand, firing randomly. I dream of avenging all the bad luck I’ve been bestowed – ex-bosses, work colleagues, old friends – making them pay. And Kym – I dream I knock on her front door and her boyfriend answers. I blast him back in a hail of bullets and he dances to his death in front of her.
Kym runs to me, thanks me. We hold each other tight. I kiss her face, close my eyes. When I open them she has turned into an insect, arms and legs growing around me. I wake up in a pounding sweat. My coke consumption is hitting the roof. 
I buy a dartboard. I hang it up in the flat. Instead of using darts I use knives. I never leave the house without one. I’ve started screwing more blacks girls. Just like Neil. I have them up on the table, doing them from behind. Standing there I imagine what Neil’s head must have looked like, blown away at point blank. I see my wall covered in brain tissue and blood. I imagine that I am him, that I’ve transformed into his body, fucking the prostitute below me.
“Doing well, Mick,” a voice says to my left. I turn. There he is, standing in the doorway. “Get in there, my son.”
I turn back to the whore and thrust myself harder. Then I turn back to Neil. This time he has his cock out. He’s weighing it in his hand, laughing at me. I pump harder, giving it my all. When I turn back to him his face is deadly serious. Slowly he reaches into his leather. Pulls out a revolver. Points it at me.

I scream and push the girl away. I’m shaking in shock.
The girl turns around. “What’s wrong, darling?” she says in a West Indian accent. I see her face, notice she’s well into middle-age, possibly in her fifties. “Come on,” she coos, coming off the table, her huge breasts moving beneath her. “I’ll take you in my mouth. You’ll like that.”
“Leave,” I tell her. “Please.”
“But I want you to come inside me,” she smiles. She reaches for me but I push her hand away.
“Tsss!!” she kisses, walking to her clothes and eyeing me evilly as she dresses.
“I’m sorry,” I tell her. “I really am. It’s not your fault…” I’m pulling notes out of my wallet, telling her she’s beautiful, she’s lovely…
A minute later she’s holding me with two arms as I break down.
“You need to go more easy on the coke, darling. Trust me on that. You need to get some help…”
The next day, after the worst nightmares of my life, I check myself into rehab.
Two weeks later I check out. I’m clean. Clean at last. I get off the train at Dalston and with the sun shining on the streets, walk back to the flat feeling happier than I’ve felt in months, possibly years. I get in and sit on my seat. Everything is exactly as I left it. I look around at the blank walls, blank windows, blank TV screen. The euphoria slowly drains. Eventually the emptiness inside me becomes unbearable. Instinctively I rummage through the mess on the coffee table – then realize I’m not supposed to do that any more, I’ve put it all behind me. But suddenly the idea of living day-to-day without drugs scares me to the core.
Three days later I wake from my binge. The flat is a mess, but it doesn’t shock me any more. I feel numb. Mail has been building up by the door for weeks and I work through some of the letters. I read one from the bank. I’ve spent all my savings, all my inheritance; I’ve overdrafted and loaned as far as I can go. I am broke.
I tear open more mail. I owe money on another account, and money to credit card companies. I owe three months rent to the landlord, and several letters are from bailiffs. I’ve broken out in a sweat. Where’s my coke money going to come from? Suddenly I remember I have a bag of cash stashed in the cupboard. I rummage for it, pull it out, three or four grand at least spilling across the floor. Thank fucking Christ.
I needed a gun. There was no other way. With a gun you can do anything. I could do betting shops, post offices, newsagents – the options were endless. People get away with it all the time. And who would suspect me? This was it. The answer to all my money problems. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of this before.
Buying drugs on the street or in shady pubs, I started asking around. Most people laughed, thought I was joking. Others taxed me for phone numbers or info that led nowhere. I was sent to a pub in Bermondsey that was boarded up; another in Canning Town that didn’t exist. But I was relentless. I wouldn’t stop. I needed this.
A dealer puts me on to a black bloke that I meet in a Dalston cafe. He’s friendly enough and seems genuine. I pass him £80 (“for his services”) and he makes a call right there in front of me.

“Okay,” he says, clicking off his phone. “These men are the real deal. They’ll get you whatever you want.” He tells me to meet them tomorrow 2pm at a pub in Dagenham. Two white blokes, Darren and Steve. He guarantees he’s not fucking me about – tells me these guys supply half of Hackney. We tap fists and bid each other a good day. 
The next day I meet them. Any reservations I have about being set up by police vanish. These two are hardcore. I start talking but they nod me out to the car. “Not here.”
Wordlessly they drive me out to a derelict dock by the Thames. With the vast murky water and nobody around for miles, I’m almost beginning to regret the whole thing.
We get out of the car. They stand in front of me. “So, Sammy sent you up from Hackney yeah. Who the fuck are you?”
I show them some ID. “I’m genuine, guys, don’t worry about it.”
They look at it. Hand it back. “Right, take your fucking clothes off.” 
“What are you talking about?”
“You might be Old Bill. Might be fucking wired. What are we, cunts? Get ’em off.”
They check me out. Once they’re satisfied we get down to business. They’re talking handguns, Glocks and Berettas, but I tell them I want something bigger. Something visual.

“How about a sawn-off?” the main man suggests. “We’ve got one brand new as it goes, freshly sawn. 12 bore, pump action. Powerful bit of kit. I reckon that’s exactly what you’re looking for.”
“Is it scary looking?”
“It would frighten the knickers off your granny, mate.”
I start to laugh but both of them are dead serious.
“I want it.”
“It’ll cost you.”
“How much?”
“Two and a half grand.”
“Where do I sign?”

The transaction is on for noon tomorrow. Parsloes Park, north side of the lake. A man in hat and glasses will be on a bench reading the Racing Post. I’ll sit next to him with the cash in a bag. He’ll walk, leave his holdall. I’ll remain seated for fifteen minutes, then take my goods and go. It’s all agreed. They drop me off at Rainham station. I train it back.
The next day coming out of Becontree tube it’s raining hard. I head into the large empty park, nobody around, but when I reach the lake, sure enough, there’s my man – hat, shades, paper falling apart in the rain. I see the holdall next to his feet. No sooner do I sit down, he takes the cash and walks. I sit out the fifteen minutes hardly able to contain myself, then I grab the holdall and run over to the nearest tree.
I zip it open, rummage through the mounds of paper wadding. At the bottom I find various lumps of scrap metal. Attached to one is a note. NICE DOING BUSINESS WITH YOU CUNT.
No!!! I throw the bag across the green. Roar until I’m hoarse. I’ve just blown the last of my cash.
That night in Hackney, balaclavad and knife in hand, I hold someone up by a cash machine. I get him to withdraw the maximum his card allows then tell him to walk away without turning or I’ll fucking kill him. Then I run. I don’t like it, don’t enjoy it, but from then on that’s pretty much how I’m living from day to day.

One afternoon I decide to go back to the pub on the corner of Kym’s road. The fight was ages ago and the barman probably won’t recognize me. These days I can hardly recognize myself. Somewhere along the way I’d got out of the habit of shaving, and looking in the mirror one morning at the face staring back at me I thought I was hallucinating. I walk into the pub. The second I get to the bar the barman recognizes me. “Out,” he says. “Out now or I’ll call the police!”
I head into an off-licence. Then I walk. I walk up and down the street past Kym’s house. Finally I think, fuck it, and head straight up her path and sit on the steps waiting for her to return from work. At one stage the gay couple who live upstairs walk around me to get in. I raise my can of Special Brew, say hello; they politely ignore me.
Half five comes and goes. I’m getting worried now. I need to see her. I’ve suffered enough. Then I see the both of them coming along the street with their shopping bags. When they open the gate and see me, they stop. Kym looks shocked. The man continues towards me. “Greg, no,” I hear her say.
I’m standing on the steps, looking down on him. “This has got nothing to do with you,” I warn him. “I’m here to speak to Kym.”
“You’re the bastard who’s been sending her threatening messages, aren’t you?”
“I’ve never threatened Kym in my life, you lying cunt.” Then I call out to Kym, “Tell him. Tell him who you really love. You don’t love him atall, do you? It’s me you really want. Tell him.”
Kym stands there frozen. Greg turns back to me and laughs. “If I’m correct, you went out with Kym for a few months, then that was that. You hardly even know her. You’re deluded. A pure pest. Now if you don’t get away from here I’m going to call the police.” Kym is standing behind him now.
I walk towards him. He’s taller than me, in better shape, but I don’t care. I hate him. Hate everything about him. He shades Kym from me as I walk past. Then suddenly I turn and swing a blow towards his face.
In a flash he’s grabbed my arm, twisted it behind my back and I’m locked on my knees. He breathes into my ear: “Come around here again and I’ll break every bone in your body.” He twists my arm a little harder. “Have you fucking got that?”
The pain is excruciating. “…Yes.”
“Now piss off,” he says, pushing me down the path.
By the gate I stop and look at him. Under my jacket I’m carrying a blade. For a second I think about reaching for it and taking a run for him. But the men upstairs are at their window now, asking Greg if everything’s okay. 

“You’re not going to get away with this,” I point.
Heading off I’m so fuelled-up with hate I feel like I’m going to explode. I buy some brown off a street dealer and sit smoking it on a bench in London Fields. I need to chill the fuck out. Groups of trendies are dotted about the grass; some estate kids letting their bull-terriers rip the bark from trees. The H mellows me so much I fall asleep for a while.
I wake up to the sound of voices. It’s dark now, night, and for a second I don’t even know where I am. Figures are in front me; one of them up close fiddling with my jacket. I throw his hand away and he jumps back. I’m on my feet now. There’s five of them – teenagers – four black, one white.
“What the fuck do you want?” I demand. The white one who’d tried to check my pockets comes forward again. He pushes me back down onto the bench. “Gimme your money or I’ll kick your fuckin arse innit!” He has a stick in his hand and he’s raising it at me. He turns his head back to the others for approval – all of them laughing and whooping.
I reach for my tool and spring at him, the machete connecting hard across his face as he turns back to me. Blood flies; I hear a collective gasp, and again I bring it down, chopping into him. I’m screaming at them, “You want some! You fucking want some!” They’re scattering, dragging the boy away, his body like a rag doll, half-running, half-falling, and I’m yelling after them, blade swinging.

They disappear into the dark. I’m alone now, breathing hard, the whole thing a mad dream. I look at the machete and the path around me smeared in blood. I put the weapon away. Think of cut-open cows being dragged half-dead across abattoir floors as I make my way to the opposite side of the park. Sirens sounding their nightly wail as I walk the fifteen minutes home.
I dream of hell. I am Jesus on the day of his crucifixion. Whips lash my back as I bear my cross through the Hackney streets, the hill of Springfield Park my Calvary. Demons flit in and out of the fiery darkness as crowds heave and buildings burn. I reach the gates of the park, local Hasids screaming psalms, gang kids firing guns. I climb the mount. I am nailed to the wood, risen high on my cross. The rabble frenzied in celebration. I spot the faces of Kym and Greg; then they are lost in the swell. Slowly I pan from the scene. See myself revolving on a swastika cross. Hackney raging in a furnace. I long to die, for the pain to end. But it never will. My pain is eternal.

I sit reading the local paper. Page 7 displays a heartbroken mother holding a picture of a shaven-headed white youth. PLEASE FIND THE MONSTER WHO KILLED MY SON. I scan the article with fascination, half expecting to see my name somewhere, my picture: This is the man we are looking for. But no. This is Hackney. One of the great murder capitals of Great Britain. A part-gentrified but council-estate ridden mess that the police have no hold over. I’ve killed and I’m going to kill again. One more piece of dead meat on the Hackney streets. Who cares? Nobody gives a shit.
I dream of the past. I work, I come home, I am contented. I have found love. She is beautiful, caring, kind – everything I have ever wished for. In the evening we’re drinking wine, cuddling close in front of the television. The door swings open. We turn. It’s Greg. He’s naked. Erect. Kym slips from my arms and slowly walks to him. I try to move, try to shout, but I can’t. Kym looks at me, then gets to her knees and begins to suck… Then I dream I am falling downwards through space. Tossing and turning for hours, sweating, screaming, plunging to hell. I land. I am on a butcher’s table. My arms and legs have been severed. I can’t move. The butcher pulls down his mask. It is Greg. Kym is standing by him. Greg smiles. Then he lifts the cleaver high in the air, brings it down towards my face. I wake up screaming. I feel like I’ve been tortured. Feel like I’m sweating blood.
My floor is littered with wraps, bottles, newspapers… newspapers everywhere… police are urging members of the public in Hackney to beware after a string of violent cashpoint robberies… Broadway Market gun chase horror… boy shot in gangfight… crack-addict’s year-long mugging spree… picnic couple slashed… pregnant woman stabbed… cyclist battered with iron bar… estate residents ‘living in hell’… girl, 13, gang-raped in flat… machete mugger on the loose… axe gang in rampage… body parts in bin… man stabbed after leaving pub… man tortured in flat… man shot in the head.
Saturday evening. It’s all worked out. I stand in front of the mirror – the right jeans, right trainers, hood, scarf, jacket padded for bulk. I stare at my face in awe: bright eyes shining out of blacked-up skin. The plan: Kym and Greg head out into the dim-lit night to socialize; I attack fast, demand cash, then run. A botched mugging. Mugger panicked and fled – Greg on the floor with fatal wounds. I stand hefting the machete, snarling into the glass. Will I be recognized? Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. Maybe I don’t care any more.    
In the mirror Neil stands behind me. “You look just like one of those cunts that killed me,” he says, adjusting my clothes.

“I know I do, Neil. I know I do.”

Nightfall. I’m hiding in a front garden across from Kym’s flat. I’m tucked among the bins. 
“Okay,” Neil instructs from his vantage point. “Get ready.”
Kym’s lights have gone out. The door opens; they step out of the flat. As they head along the street I follow them. They’re talking, hand in hand. I hear them laughing together, feel the hate swell. I up my pace. I’m running now.
“You fucking bastard.” I bring the machete down. Greg turns; it catches him deep in the shoulder. He staggers sideways; Kym screaming. My mugging plan forgotten now I go for him again. Headfirst he runs at me, but I slash at him wildly and he falls back against the wall covered in blood. Kym is struggling, screaming at me. I push her away. Greg on the floor – I’m ready to kill him now. 
“Please,” he says.

Suddenly Kym flies at me, scratching my eyes. I knock her back with force, feel the rage explode inside me – and something happens. She’s down on her knees, clutching the side of her neck. Her eyes are shocked, blood gushing through her fingers. She crumples downwards next to Greg.

“What have you done!” Greg’s screaming. “What have you fucking done!” He’s struggling to cradle her in his arms, Kym lifeless, head at an angle, the whole scene drenched in blood. Figures emerge at the sidelines. Voices scream.
I run. I tear through the streets. I don’t stop until I reach the flat, and then inside I’m frantically snorting up coke trying to stop the screaming hounds of hell from bursting through my door… I’m slamming the table in front of me, fists dried in blood. What have I done? What have I done?
Neil sits opposite, laughing through the chaos.
“Come on, Mick. You wanted to do her anyway. You hated the bitch.”
“I didn’t, you bastard! I fucking didn’t!” 
I pick up a full bottle of vodka, throw it at him.  
“Oh yes you did, Mick. Oh yes you fucking did.”
I toss back the table. Tear the place apart. The sound of Neil’s laughter echoing in my head.
Next thing I’m in the kitchen. I’m slashing my wrists.

Suddenly all hell breaks through my front door. Police telling me to drop the knife, drop the fucking knife…
“Don’t come near me!.. I’ll kill you!… kill the fucking lot of you!”
I kill none of them.
But part of me dies that day.




In offbeat on August 29, 2009 at 8:43 am

her ashes fall from
my mouth
like an empire of widows;
a ragged death sewn
together from
tears –
something only
half-remembered, like
a fragment of
somebody else’s


A poetry book… but not as we know it

baby, i’m ready to go is a break-the-rules collection of poems that’s not afraid to mess with convention.  it’s a poetry book that mixes the radical with the traditional – the anarchy of dialect and free verse, with the conformity of rhyme and traditional poetic forms.  and that’s not the only thing that sets this collection apart.  baby, i’m ready to go achieves that rarest of things, intimacy with the reader.  from the teaser first lines at the start, to the closing interview with the writer by various punk bands, this is a book that wants to get close to you, wants to speak to you.  and it does.  through the poems of course, and through the background notes at the end of the book as well.  like the banter between songs at a gig or cliffs notes designed to make you fail the exam, the notes provide a rare insight into the writer’s thinking.

baby, i’m ready to go takes us to the extremes of the M1, from the two-up-two-downs of the writer’s native yorkshire, to the urban masai mara of inner-city london via a town called me, population one.  a knowing, edgy collection, baby, i’m ready to go shows us the wonderful and funny in the weird, banal and ugly.  it reminds us of the cruelty and sadness that is life and other people. 

so, if you like your poems florid, saccharine and bbc poetry season-approved, baby, i’m ready to go ain’t for you.  best try some dead poet with a title, or your nearest branch of clinton cards.  if, however, you prefer your poetry alive and well and living in the real world, beg, steal, borrow… or preferably buy this book from http://www.grievousjonespress.com  baby, i’m ready to go one for all you lovers, loners, heart breakers and jimmy saville worshippers out there.  POETRY IS DEAD.  LONG LIVE POETRY!



reviews of baby, i’m ready to go

“in turn freewheeling and funny and dark and insightful, melissa mann’s poems surge with energy. in these works, witty wordplay, pop culture references and the minutiae of everyday existence vie for space in a collection that sees the quietly desperate dreams and repressed desires of british life, sliced open and laid bare on the page’s slab.  like morrissey with tits. and balls.”  ben myers, author and journalist

“melissa mann’s gorgeous collection of poems is about love, and the forlorn people of the world, and the little moments of despair that eventually drive us insane. which is to say that it’s a great book full of brilliant gems about life itself. it’s beautiful and it’s profound and you have to read it. and baby, she’s ready to go.” — mark safranko, author of hating olivia and lounge lizard

“concise, precise and full of vice; melissa mann’s poetry focuses on isolation and a need to belong in today’s london, a city full of people making an ‘ome from home, some succeeding, many not. the poems are terse, to the point and well distilled, and you’ll find ’em lamenting their lot in pubs across town.” – tim wells, poet, author of rougher yet and boys’ night out in the afternoon, bon viveur and gout sufferer.

about grievous jones press:

an independent poetry and prose press dedicated to writing that kills inner demons, has sex with them, or makes them a cup of tea.  full details at http://www.grievousjonespress.com  

about melissa mann

melissa mann is a wordsmith, head honcho of litzine beat the bust, btd tv and beat the dust bookshop (http://www.beatthedust.com), and lead singer of the legendary punk folk band the holy whores.  okay, well the first few are true at least; the latter is just a figment of her imagination.  adventurous types wanting to explore melissa’s imagination should head due north to http://www.melissamann.com equipped with all-terrain boots and a torch.  her work has been widely published on bus shelters and public conveniences, as well as anthologies and literary publications, including 3:am magazine, dogmatika, the laura hird showcase, zygote in my coffee, succour magazine, radgepacket – tales from the inner cities, and the beat


 blackheath books

Urchin Belle

by Jenni Fagan

Published by Blackheath Books

Publication date: July 2009

Urchin Belle is a debut collection that combines a genuine poetic originality with a startling no bullshit clarity. This is a voice born out of a life lived on the extreme peripheries of society.

The poems are as touching as they are heroic and as fragile as they are tough.  The erotic and mundane collide with the surreal and extreme to produce a voice at once beguiling, shocking and entirely unapologetic.

The poems take you from downtown Cairo to Glencoe, to a world where sawn off shotguns, underage prostitution, dealers, pimps, bent cops and brutality are the norm.  The stories of those living within and outside the system recur alongside the kind of raw erotic base need that leaves the reader wanting more.

Blackheath Books’ reputation as discerning independent publishers climbs another notch with a bruising first collection of poems by Jenni Fagan.

The back cover is proudly stamped with words from the Chairman of Edinburgh & Midlothian Young Offenders Report 1993: “Miss Fagan is a considerable danger, both to herself and to all of society.” In a Bart Simpson way, I’m thinking “cool”; except it’s not cool. Fagan’s accounts of abuse, violence and prostitution in childhood are far too real and unsettling to get off on some vicarious kick.

You can feel the danger throughout Urchin Belle as the fizzing tension and pressure builds like a can of Tennent’s booted down the stairs, ready to explode. It’s not all doom and gloom though; there are moments of snatched tenderness and the end poem about nicking lights from police cars provides a defiant, funny, and triumphant two-fingered finale.



Jonathan Trigell – Boy A

In offbeat on August 29, 2009 at 8:39 am

The story has some parallels to the fates of the murderers of James Bulger, although the crime itself differs significantly. Among others, it echoes aspects of the Sakakibara Seito case in Japan and the Mary Bell case. The writer always admitted that the killer was not based on anyone he knew. However in Milan in 2004, he said there was a hint of truth in his writings, although did not disclose any further information on the subject.

Published by Serpent’s Tail in English speaking countries, the novel has been translated into French under the title Jeux d’Enfants published by Gallimard and also into Russian, Dutch and Spanish. It won the 2004 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the 2005 Waverton Good Read Award. On World Book Day (UK) 2008, Boy A was voted the most discussion worthy novel by a living writer in the Spread The Word poll.


Bonnie and Clyde Were Lovers

Melissa Mann reads Cockeyed

A Long Walk Around the Cross
beat’s antique belly dancer at the belly up dec 26th 08
Beats Antique live bassnectar tour 2008!
The Show Must Go On

dope-induced book deal ~ Sean McGahey

Joe flicked the switch of his stereo and rose from the settee. He walked over to the window, lit another in the endless chain of cigarettes and gazed out at the neon city skyline. The front door opened and his flat mates, engaged in deep inebriated conversation, came in and sat down. Joe leaning against the wall put on his Doc martins, black Oxfam crombie and headed out for a few drinks.

 A seedy Broad street bar, a defective neon light sputters and a plasma screen flashes images of scantly clad pop stars. A young barman with a soft face wipes the bar top with a paper towel. A glass collector aimlessly strolls around. Joe sits alone in a drunken stupor gazing at the black varnished wood. Joe pulls out his little black note book and pencil and scribbles a few observations. After awhile he mumbles a few words in the style of Kerouac’s intoning tales of hard times and life on the road. Instead of the garish beats of the ministry of sound Joe imagines a piano player weaving a little piece of unobtrusive jazz.

“The Bomber loads his literary guns and aims his spit full of words of malignant prose towards mangy moth eaten worldly worriers of woe….whilst the 3 am crowd of maladjusted undiscovered poets and word wise screamers of the street spread the word like a sexual virus….”

After a few hours drinking, mumbling and arguing with the occasional Big Brother reject, Joe popped a pill and closed his eyes.

Joe wakes to the screams of anguish from the damned souls of reality TV. The virginal soft features of the barman slides away leaving a pulp scorched face. The glass collector is face down in a pool of his own blood and excrement, whilst the frenzied drunk and dancing bystanders start savaging and fucking his withering torso. The once small and cramped bar has lost its sense of space; the dark walls slither like tar. The barman walks towards Joe and offers him a drink, not phased with what is happening, Joe takes the shot and couldn’t help but notice the barman’s encrusted lips fall away leaving behind fouled bloody flesh.

The barman’s dry and cracked mouth slowly parted with a metallic digitalised recorded voice. Joe could see the sound waves pulsate towards him.

 “di glass collector lay face down in a pool of fi im own blood and vomit whilst di once drunk and skanking bystanders started biting and fucking fi im withering structure…”

Lighting a cigarette and looking at the digitalised Dictaphone Rasta sounding corpse. Joe asks him a question.

“Do you think its fair you kill off the glass collector and leave him to your Big Brother degenerates?”

The barman grabs Joe’s collar. Joe is close enough to suffer his phosphorus rank ass breath.

“see yahso young writer, I have no argument with I and I! would I and I like fi im batty eaten out by fi im alter ego whilst he chews on di severed cock of a latter day shepherd of jah? or experience an explosive rectal haemorrhage?”

“Fuck me! Talk about an over reaction! I’m going for a piss”

Joe finds himself in front of a fly infested piss pool of an excuse urinal and is overwhelmed by the sight of a mutilated bloody body ripped open with entrails spilling out of a designer shirt.

Back at the bar and feeling ill Joe was about to mention the body in the toilet, but was somewhat taken aback by the barman as he was holding an unusually large cock in his hand that writhed like a dying sea snake. Like the Old Man of Crete, whose tears are the source of all the rivers in Hell, the Dictaphone Rasta sounding barman pissed his degenerate liquid up onto Joe’s face….Then appeared an apparition! It was of a man but his features were not clearly visible. His body consumed all light…

Slumped across the settee Joe wakes up to the orgiastic scene of his flatmates double fucking a woman he vaguely remembered seeing earlier serving customers at Waitrose…

“What happened? That sudden flash of light, unbearable heat…those cries of wag girlfriends in torment…the absence of…”

The mosaic images of flesh fade and Joe blacks out.

Later on Joe methodically listed in his mind the ideas and chapters for his novel, called “Death of Miss America” or “Self inflicted rectal haemorrhage”. After 3 hours chain-smoking before the window until the room became cloudy with a blue haze, Joe typed out his squalid tales of human bestiality and e-mailed them to his editor.



Generation something? ~ Sean McGahey

In offbeat on August 29, 2009 at 8:25 am

I was wondering if Zoë knew what I was feeling. She talked in great detail of Fenton’s passion for pasta and his 6 months living in Italy; she went on to order lasagne, fettuccini and spaghetti with meat sauce along with two bottles of Orvieto Classico. Without asking, Fenton ordered on my behalf the six-layer lasagne, two layers of ricotta cheese and roasted garlic, all topped with mozzarella cheese and covered with meat sauce. The waiter offered me another bottle of wine, it was really good wine. Since I had not eaten anything all day, the wine went straight to my head and soon I was feeling pretty good.

Whilst leaving the restaurant, somewhere near the East college station, Zoe staggers off to a club; I make my way towards the cemetery somewhere near Texas Avenue South to buy some pot. According to Fenton a cemetery is the ideal place for a drug deal.

A peaceful and visually pleasing atmosphere

I’m waiting for ‘Chad Towers’ an ex-employee of the Texas anti-drug task force. Allegedly back in the 80s he lead the task force that gained a bad name when it participated in the widely criticized drug raids in Tulia. He miraculously escaped a prison sentence for shooting two students in a confrontation during a pre-dawn raid. The first kid he shot had no class drugs but had a concealed weapon. Eventually he appears. He’s steely eyed & greasy looking. Don’t let his looks fool you; his father was a wealthy Wall Street playboy whose girlfriend, Lauren, dumped him after he lost his job to a recreational drug problem.

Feeling awkward I spark up a conversation.

“Have you any competition around here?”

Half stoned he replies:

“Gangs can be a problem, they battle back and forth over their neighbourhoods in an attempt to lay claim to larger and larger areas. A gang’s turf can be anything from a lousy alley behind a store to a graveyard. When they talk about controlling these areas, what they mean is controlling the narcotics sales in those areas.”

I thought a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ would suffice.

“Have I seen you around college?”

“I’m the campus drug dealer; I combine studies with the lucrative and at times dangerous job of supplying the vices of my fellow students, you see it’s a numbers game, the more street corners you control, the more transactions you can do. This results in turf wars, which are often the cause of drive-by shootings. Most of the guys you go up against somehow seem to get shot up to heck and back and they still survive, but the guy who drives around the street, sitting looking cool in his BMW gets hit by a stray round and that kills him. Luck of the draw I suppose.”

“So it’s all about luck, numbers and turf?”

“Yeah, luck, numbers and turf, at least 5 or 6 kids around here drink or buy some drugs on any given weekend. A number of their friends overdose on meth or ‘e’. A number of my top clients are those 18-year-old daddies’ girls on Valium, xanx, oxycontin and the classic methadone. Some kids can get a bit pushy.”

“What do you mean?”

“At any given moment they end up shooting at each other. I mean, one night I heard shots, then I heard one of them scream ‘I’ve been fucking hit!’ so then of course I ran over and started immediately applying pressure.”

“So you tried to save a life.”

“Oh no! Not that kind of pressure, I told her she still owed me for some acid tabs, I helped myself to her purse and took what cash she had and threatened her for the extra $170. By one account, on that night 12 to 15 shots were fired. Fortunately only that one teen was hit. There were numerous eye witnesses to the shooting but they were all either armed or loaded up on crack, so you can understand why they didn’t volunteer any information.”

“So do you have people working for you?”

“Dealers can sell the drugs themselves, or they can hire local dealers and the carry out transactions on the main dealers’ street corners.”

“Who do you work for?”

“Fuck off man! I am the main dealer, people ask for my permission to sell on my corners, they come by every week and pay 70% of what they make. If they don’t like it or don’t pay well, we’d rough them up or clip ’em.”

“Why a grave yard?”

“I just like being in these weird, deathlike places, they’re kind of aesthetic looking and if in the event someone pulls a fast one, well, I’d simple ask where they’d like to be buried it pretty much freaks the fuck out of them.”

“Do you live around here?”

“I usually sleep in the car, I don’t sleep or eat all that well, now can we end this fucking interrogation? I mean, just because you know a few people I’m not telling you anymore shit.”

I’ve got my stash and heading towards the club. It’s one of those chic celebrity haunts, where gaining entrance requires at least an academy award nomination. Tonight it’s featuring a new band called Spastic Sound Wave a house/techno group.

I’m sat with some people who I vaguely know; some guy called Miles is talking to me.

“So it was only yesterday I heard that Sean spent the evening here at this club going on about his dead girlfriend. In the early hours of this morning, which is like today, he was rushed to Saint Georges Medical Centre, he was pronounced dead at 2.30am, I mean how fucking bad is that!”

He has this frozen traumatized look on his face, waiting for a reply.

I mumble something along the lines of  “Yeah, that’s pretty fucked up.”