Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mark Barry Gives Hollywood a Shakedown

Gladiator's Pen welcomes Mark Barry to the ludis today for a conversation about his latest release Hollywood Shakedown. Refill your cuppa, prop up your feet and let's get acquainted with Mark.

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 Hollywood Park, which is sadly, about to close after 75years. Can you tell us about that and the roll the racetrack plays as a setting?
I’m really annoyed and feel completely impotent about the closure of Hollywood Park. 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 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
every line for this because it was my first work of fiction.  The last chapter, which most people like, was very tough. I didn’t want to ruin the payoff – nothing worse than that, as a reader.

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 Notts County on the banks of the River Thames. I support the latter and the chapter is exactly as it sounds.

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; Hollywood was seeped in movie culture. Every banister, every railing, every corkboard tile was dripping in it.
      Despite the best efforts of the hunched janitors in orange coveralls and their five-foot brushes
wielded like pikes, dead tickets found the floor with unerring accuracy. The joint was a firetrap waiting to happen. One reckless cigarette butt in the bin could see them all go to hell. The crowd's optimistic chatter and the frenetic pulse of the simulcasted commentaries from tracks around the country, from Aqueduct and Sunland and Oaklawn, accompanied the two men as they passed through the betting hall.
         “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,
really early mornings and late weekend nights. I wrote the bulk of Carla in a weekend, so I am best under pressure. I suffer from insane bursts of creativity.

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 Indies, 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 Nottingham, 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: 


Mary Ann Bernal said...

Great interview; love the behind the scenes stuff

Mark Barry said...

Thanks Elise, absolutely brilliant! :-)

The Indigo Quill said...

Great interview! Love interviews where we learn not just about the author, but writing itself. Awesome blog, too!

Lis Ann @ The Indigo Quill (http://theindigoquill.blogspot.com)