ReMyOwStMo – Day 8.
Thanks to a sleepless night, I have finally made it to the end of my novel NGC-1984, aka The King of Pulp Fiction. Phew!
In many ways, I am glad to put this one behind me, because a fun read it ain’t. As I’ve intimated elsewhere, I wasn’t exactly in a great frame of mind when I wrote this. And boy does it show! Which isn’t to say that it’s lacking in humour, but it’s humour of the gallows kind.
Now that there’s a great deal of daylight between me now and me when I wrote King, I’m able to pick out a good many plus points in the novel. If ever I get the time, I will rewrite it, because I think as it stands, it’s almost publishable.
Up next for me in ReMyOwStMo is Dr Frankenstein’s Gift to Womankind, which I humbly submit contains some of my best writing and some of my worst.
Incidentally, before the review begins, I should like to point out that I have never in my life taken acid. Honest.
Review of The King of Pulp Fiction
One can only wonder at what demons haunted Whittaker’s head when he churned this out. The King of Pulp Fiction (the author’s preferred title – the alternative being NGC-1984) is set mostly in Amsterdam at the turn of the 21st century. Lenny Moon is a moderately successful writer who has upped sticks from Blighty to immerse himself in the Bohemian culture of this little city.
While wandering the backstreets of Amsterdam, he chances upon a book shop within which he comes upon a (to him) priceless hoard of literary gold, namely shelves of books written by his hero, Vincent Korda.
Let’s allow Whittaker to set the scene for us and reveal its significance:
This is a requiem to Vincent Korda, my personal memoir of an all-but forgotten dreamer who was once the King of Pulp. When paperbacks were new, Vincent reigned supreme. He produced over three hundred novels in as many different genres as you could name. Then he disappeared.
Who remembers him now? Only a few – a privileged, fanatical band of dedicated dreamers who horde his dog-eared paperbacks and spend days tracking down obscure editions. From time to time, we hold conventions to allow us to buy and sell memorabilia, trade opinions, and to re-affirm our love for a body of work that we feel unjustly neglected.
None of us will ever praise him for the fluidity of his prose or his stunning use of language. That wasn’t the point with Korda. He was, first and above all, a story-teller.
We dissect his work and extract meaning from hastily assembled sentences and poorly conceived subplots. His characters live and breathe through us as we have lived through them. We seek his works in flea markets, junk shops and second-hand bookstores such as the one I happened across in Amsterdam. It was nestled down an anonymous alley squeezed between grey apartment blocks and crumbling warehouses on the outskirts of Amsterdam’s Red Light District. If I hadn’t been lost, I would never have found it and my life would now be a whole lot different.
A whole lot different indeed. Thanks to his discovery of the book shop with its massive Korda collection, Lenny learns to his great surprise that Korda is still alive and is in fact living in Amsterdam. Our hero, of course, wastes no time in tracking down the great man, whereupon he finds a broken down wreck with cataracts, who appears to be haunted by paranoid fantasies about a mysterious radiation emanating from a region of outer space called NGC-1984. According to Korda, this radiation is poisoning reality, changing the past and slowly driving the world to destruction.
From then on, Moon’s life gets seriously complicated as step by step he buys into Korda’s madness.
As the novel progresses, it reads more and more like Kafka meets Bosch meets Burroughs (William that is) meets that mad bloke who likes to sit next to me on the bus while carrying on a running argument with his invisible tormentor. There is some seriously deranged stuff in here. If one were in a corny mood (and one is), one might say that much of The King of Pulp Fiction could be described as despatches from the far regions of one man’s nightmares.
The whole thing has the air of a bad acid trip.
Actually, that’s not quite fair. The ending is reasonably upbeat, at least in comparison to what has gone before.
Despite pushing at the envelope of believability, the story holds together quite well. There is the odd moment of cheesiness – Men in Black indeed! – and passages where the author strives too hard for effect, but all in all King is actually quite readable. With some incisive editing, it could be rendered fit to be presented to the public, but would the public want it?