We’re talking about your book
Hollywood Shakedown today. Can you tell us what
inspired this story?
I’m a huge fan of Charles Bukowski, and the main character in Hollywood Shakedown is the mythical son of Bukowski’s alter-ego, Henry Chinaski. He’s called Buddy and he’s just like his dad! Two friends of mine inspired the novel. First, my friend in Houston, Paul Vani, challenged me to write a short story, and at exactly the same time, my much more local friend, Clive la Court, inspired me to write a fiction novel. I combined the two challenges and wrote about some of my favourite things. Comics, horse racing, football, LA,
London, women, crime,
food and weirdly named worldwide pubs.
There is a scene that takes place at
, which is sadly, about to close after
75years. Can you tell us about that and the roll the racetrack plays as a
setting? Hollywood Park
I’m really annoyed and feel completely impotent about the closure of
Over here, a place with Hollywood Park ’s
kind of history would have a Listed notice slapped on its gates and the
developers clapped in irons. Did you know they’re replacing it with a retail
and residential development??? Like, LA doesn’t have any malls. I have four
months to make enough money to visit – it has been one of my ambitions. In the
first chapter of the book, Buddy is tracked down by two goons who discover him
in the stands of the Park. I try to put across the sounds and smells of the
racetrack (see below) and also the baffling decline of horse racing as a
spectator sport in the Hollywood Park US.
The book is full of racing – Bukowski raced there, too.
Was there a chapter, or scene, or part of the novel that was difficult to write, and if so why?
Most of it was quite tough. I once wrote a novel in eighteen days. This one took nine months, labouring over
If you had one day to live inside of this book, how would you spend it?
I actually did! The gang watch an FA Cup match between Fulham and
on the banks of the River Thames. I support the latter and the chapter is
exactly as it sounds. Notts County
Do you have a favorite part or moment in the book you would like to share?
“The men walked up the stairs and into the main betting hall. Five bucks a piece found its way into the hands of a stony faced black woman in a red neckerchief. Like the track, she'd seen better days. Ramirez said something under his breath but the woman scarcely noticed, de-sensitised to everything but the thought of getting out of there.
It was livelier inside than they expected: Bettors milled around the cacophonous hall, hundreds queuing at the windows, sitting in the carrels, some perusing the Form, others smoking, scanning the cheat sheets and Indian Charlie. The air was blue with cigarette smoke and smelled of tobacco, tacos, cheese food, hot dogs and warm beer - all mixed up with the usual gambler's cocktail of sweat, fear, excitement and anticipation. Yet even a pair of racing agnostics like Bishop and Ramirez could palpably sense the tradition and the heritage. The smoky trails of Walter Matthau's Marlboro, or Bing Crosby's briar pipe;
was seeped in movie culture. Every
banister, every railing, every corkboard tile was dripping in it. Hollywood
Despite the best efforts of the hunched janitors in orange coveralls and their five-foot brushes
“Bet the ponies, Bishop?” Ramirez asked as they made their way outside into the sunlight, their brogue heels tapping sharply and noisily on the floor.
The older man shook his head. His craggy features never moved.
“Stocks.” He replied.” That's the smart boy's gamble.” (Chapter One)
What are three things you must have when you write?
The Inuit hunting cap my friend and reader, Kelly Sherwood, gave me for Christmas 2010. Music. My writing voice nagging at me.
What element or elements do you believe make a story great?
Writing and vocabulary to start with. I like writers who take risks, who break the rules and try to push the envelope. Martin Amis is my all time favourite. What he can do with a sentence is sublime. Sadly, Indie is full of Novel Writing 101. Every great story breaks rules. I love the adverb. I would start every sentence with And, if I could. The latest diktat from the Creative Writing gurus, “Show, Not Tell”, has caused a sturm-and-drang conformity, which has hamstrung the development of writing (and writers) because it has become a meaningless cliché. Well timed exposition and stories within stories can turn a novel from a good story to a classic: Indie authors have forgotten that.
Do you write as the muse hits or do you have a set ‘work day’?
For a year, I wrote full time. Now, I’m working again, so I have to write when I can. As Paul Auster said,
How do you avoid or deal with distractions when in the writing zone?
I’m lucky that I live on my own so I can do my own thing. The Internet, and particularly Facebook, was once a huge distraction I struggled to beat, but my addiction to social networks seems to have abated.
Who are some of your favorite authors to read?
Of name authors, I worship Martin Amis, with the exception of his latest, which is bemusingly bad. I have also read everything by Paul Auster, Charles Bukowski, Henry Miller, Liz Jensen and John King. Of
Suzanne van Rooyen, who writes YA and science fiction, Emma Edwards, who is making
a stir with a quirky vampire novel set in Wales.
Mary Ann Bernal writes innovative historical fiction and Ngaire Elder is a
much-underrated children’s writer who should be much better known than she is.
What can we expect next from Mark Barry? Is there another tale being spun and/or event coming up that you can share with us?
I’ve just finished the sequel to my top selling football book, Ultra Violence. It’s called Violent Disorder and it should be out on August 1st. I’m also writing a contemporary fiction novel about the lost generation in
called Keith The Philosopher; a crime
fiction novel called Painful Death
and an anthology about sex, death and food; so, I’m busy.
What would you like to say to fans or fellow authors?
Try to push the boundaries in anything you do. Don’t listen to gurus, especially writing gurus, because, invariably, they know much less than you do. Listen to the voice within you and act on it.
Okay? Thanks Elise.
About Mark Barry:
Mark Barry, author of “Hollywood Shakedown”, “Ultra Violence” and “Carla”, is a Psychologist and writer whose main interest focuses on relationships between people. He has been writing since he was twenty one, having his first piece published in 1986. He has written extensively on a variety of topics including, horseracing, football, personality disorders and human relationships. Influenced by the great playwrights and screenwriters, much of Mark’s work transpires in dialogue. He deplores exposition and in his fiction, leaves the reader in a state of nervousness more than he probably should.
Mark has had an extensive career as a professional project designer and bid writer, having accrued over £20m for groups and organisations working with disadvantaged people. An ex-lecturer, Mark designed and delivered the UK’s first ever course in Criminal Psychology in 1997. Much of this work infils his fiction: Psychopathy and Borderline Personality Disorders are featured heavily in “Carla”, for example.
Currently, Mark is a full time fiction writer and freelance blogger. He has been interviewed on several Radio talk shows where he has given readings of his work. His work has been featured in The Sun and Daily Mail and he has also been interviewed on Television.
Mark resides in Southwell, Nottinghamshire with his teenage son.
Where to find Mark: