Author Archives: Patrick Whittaker

ReMyOwStMo – Day 18

As the title suggests, I have reached the 18th day of Read My Own Stuff Month and I am way behind schedule. If I want to get through all my novels and novellas by the stroke of midnight on Halloween, I’m going to have to remove a certain part of my anatomy from a certain other part.

So, without further ado, I present to an indifferent world my musings on the hideously (so I’m told) titled Dr Frankenstein’s Gift to Womankind.

 

A Review of Dr Frankenstein’s Gift to Womankind by Patrick Whittaker.

By Patrick Whittaker.

Kaspar (named no doubt with the real-life Kaspar Hauser in mind) is a lad not even his own mother could love. Not to put too fine a point on it, thanks to the heavy hand of Coulthard’s Disease (a genetic disorder so rare it exists only in the pages of this book), he is cursed with a visage that makes the elephant man look like Brad Pitt. Unloved and alone in the world, he decides to put an end to his wretched life, whereupon Fate takes a hand and drops him in the lap (almost literally) of disgraced plastic surgeon, Dr Friedrich Hoffman, the one man in the world who can make things right for him.

Dr Hoffman was once the world’s foremost plastic surgeon, but thanks to a radical procedure he invented going horribly wrong, he has been disbarred from practicing his profession. Dubbed Dr Frankenstein by the world’s press, he now lives the life of a recluse on remote Thunder Island with his beautiful wife Marion and Barker, their transvestite manservant.

Rather against his will, Kaspar is whisked off to Thunder Island where Dr Hoffman illegally performs on him a modified version of the cosmetic surgery that made him a pariah. This time everything goes according to plan and Kaspar ends up with a visage that makes Brad Pitt look the elephant man.

Dr Frankenstein’s Gift to Womankind is a picaresque tale of a youth given a second chance at life, only this time he is equipped with all he needs to make that life worthwhile and possibly even wonderful. With women throwing themselves at him left, right and centre, he certainly has much to live for.

It’s told with a great deal of brio and packed with bathos and pathos. Being popular with the ladies, Kaspar soon finds, is not necessarily the key to happiness – especially not when you fall in love with the wife of the man who created you.

The prose is often flowery (as is traditional in this sort of story) but never purple. The characters teeter on the edge of caricature but nevertheless seem real, albeit in a larger-than-life kind of way. Comedy and tragedy vie to become the overarching theme of the story.

Whittaker is quite right in his contention that a few chapters in the middle aren’t quite up to the standards of the rest, but that hardly makes for a curate’s egg. Still, this reviewer for one awaits his long-promised rewrite with bated breath.

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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.

Almost.

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.

tkopf

 

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?

ReMyOwStMo – Day 4.

I have just finished reading my first novel A Plague of Hearts and have that feeling you get emerging from the dark heart of a cinema into broad daylight. As promised, I have written the review (see below) I think I would have written had this book been authored by someone other than myself.

This novel current has a rating of 3.88 (out of 5) on goodreads and a rating of 4.75 (out of 5) on Smashwords. Reviews are mostly positive with a couple of reviewers expressing disappointment in the ending but otherwise pronouncing themselves satisfied.

 

 

Review

The plot of A Plague of Hearts parallels and intersects that of Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It follows the March Hare through a series of (mis)adventures as he gets roped into a conspiracy to overthrow the Panda, the despotic President of Wonderland. Along the way, we get to join the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and meet many of the characters we first encounter in Alice. What you might call the usual suspects are all there: the White Rabbit, the March Hare, the Cheshire Cat and the Knave, Queen and King of Hearts, to name just a few.

Plotwise, the author’s acknowledged debt to Kafka is apparent as the March Hare finds himself drawn into a labyrinth of political machinations he never quite understands. In that respect, he is rather like Alice in that events often seem both nonsensical and nightmarish to him. For Alice, Wonderland is a foreign country with a logic she can’t quite grasp, and the same it transpires is true for the March Hare, despite him being Wonderland born and bred.

This being the author’s first novel (written when he was still waiting for his balls to drop) it’s no surprise that the dialogue is sometimes – though not often – stilted and that one or two scenes could benefit from a bit of a trim. Overall though, this is a lively book with characters that feel like they’re in the room with you.

There are laughs a-plenty and enough plot twists to keep the pages turning.

A Plague of Hearts is not in the same league as its forebears (namely Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Kafka’s The Trial) but it’s not a bad effort. Its faults are far from fatal and I should think most people who read it will find it worth their time.

ReMyOwStMo – Day 2

So here I am, two days into Read My Own Stuff Month (ReMyOwStMo) and its going quite well. I’m halfway through A Plague of Hearts, the first novel I ever wrote, and thoroughly enjoying it. I’ve had the odd cringe at some of the prose – either because of its clunkiness or its purpleocity – but I honestly feel that the book stands up quite well. Makes me wonder why its taken me some 30 odd years to read it.

Just to  reiterate the purpose of ReMyOwStMo: the plan is for me to spend this month reading all the novels and novellas I’ve written – whether published or not – and to give my honest assessment of them.

After A Plague of Hearts, I will move on to NGC-1984, a novel which no one but myself has ever read – or would ever want to. It was written during a period when my head was in a bad place and could be looked upon as a cry for help. Will I manage to get all the way through it? Probably not if its as fucked-up as I remember it being. Time will tell.

 

Going Nanas over NaNoWriMo

With NaNoWriMo bearing down on me like a runaway freight train full of nitro-glycerin and kittens, I have vowed to get my finger out and let those creative juices flow.

For those who don’t know what the hell I’m blathering about (and I’m sure there are many), NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, which should actually be called International Writing Month on account of it being international, not national. The idea is that you sign up at the NaNoWriMo website (https://nanowrimo.org/), then on the 1st of November start writing like the crazy bitch you are and keep writing until midnight on the 30th, at which point you should have a 50,000 word novel ready for publication.

It’s easy as falling off a log while eating a piece of cake and drinking duck soup.

A few years back I took part and knocked up Riders on the Storm, an epic saga about two blokes who do some stuff. Anyone who wants to read it in ebook form can find it on Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/9151).

Since then, I’ve had a couple more stabs at NaNoWriMo and failed miserably each time – mostly because I was busy with other things. This year I am definitely, DEFINITELY going to complete a novel or die in the attempt.

To prepare myself for this Herculean feat, throughout October, I am going to read every novel and novella I have ever written, including a few which have never been published (on account of them being crap). After I’ve completed each piece, I will post an honest review, which will be word for word the review I’d have written had the piece been by somebody else. If what I read is more painful than a tooth extraction, I shall not flinch from saying so, nor will I hesitate to sound my own trumpet should it be appropriate.

Hopefully, by the time I’ve finished, I’ll be more aware of my own strengths and faults as a writer. Or I might just drive myself insane and end up dribbling down my chin in a padded cell.

Vanity or masochism? Heroism or folly? Only time will tell.

The TV Licensing Nazis and me

Despite not having a television set and never watching live broadcasts or iPlayer at home, the tv licensing Gestapo have sent me the following missive. It is headed: We’re giving you 10 days to get correctly licensed.
 
It goes on to say:
 
Dear Sir/Madam,
 
There is no record of a TV Licence at this address. The means you are breaking the law if [some bollocks].
 
Then there’s more bollocks followed by:
 
If you don’t contact us by 23rd February, we will then start a full investigation of your address.
 
 
 
I take this nasty letter as an attack on my freedom and therefore a declaration of war. These bullies will get zero co-operation from me and I wish them all a slow painful death.

Me and EU

Dear EU,
I’m sorry so many of my fellow countrymen fell for lies pedalled by known liars. It looks like because of what amounts in my book to an act of treason we’re about to part ways, but need it be like that?

Just because the UK leaves the EU, does it mean that I have to as well? Won’t you please let me hang on to my EU citizenship no matter what?

Pretty please.

Send in the clowns (Don’t bother, they’re here)

I have been asked quite a few times on where I stand with regards to the EU referendum, and I have until now kept my own counsel. But I think it’s time to state my position clearly: I no longer give a shit.

Politicians – mostly Tory – have turned one of the most important events to happen in my lifetime into a fucking pantomime. With their lies and exaggerations they have made sure the British electorate have no idea where the truth lies and what the real issues are. They have muddied the waters so badly not only can we no longer see the trees for the wood, they’ve forced me to mix my metaphors.

I firmly belief that most people who started on one side of the fence and switched to the other did so not because they were dazzled by the logic, rhetoric and clear cut arguments of those politicians whose views they originally opposed but because of the complete and utter shite spewing forth from the mouths of people they were relying on to put over a well-thought out case on their behalf.

Frankly, it’s embarrassing.

Dear Wetherspoons, please stop discriminating against young people.

Dear Wetherspoons,

Myself, my two brothers, my sister-in-law and my nephew (amongst others) were enjoying a pleasant get together in the Velvet Coaster last Saturday. My nephew, who is 21, went to buy us all a drink and was only allowed to buy a drink for himself, because (and here I quote one of your staff) ‘we had to check his ID which means he might have been trying to buy drinks for people who are under age’ – which would of course be a criminal offence. This not only embarrassed my nephew who had to return empty handed and apologise to the rest of us, it seriously hurt his mother’s feelings. She, unlike your company, regards her son as a responsible adult who is not in the least inclined towards committing criminal acts.

When his mother and I asked the staff why they had treated my nephew like a criminal, they told us to our faces that it was the law. This, of course, was a bare-faced lie.

May I point out that anyone – regardless of age – who buys drinks might be buying them for someone underage? And that you should therefore by your own logic not serve alcohol to anybody ever?

My local Wetherspoons has recently been displaying posters exhorting young drinkers to drink in Wetherspoons rather than at home. There have been several editorials in the Wetherspoons house rag complaining about people consuming alcohol at home instead of down the pub and firmly laying the blame at the feet of the government. May I suggest that while Wetherspoons are discriminating against young people and undermining their self-esteem, at least some of the blame might lay closer to home?

The Mistreatment of Love Apples at the Hands of the Brits.

The tomato is perhaps not the most important food item in the world. Unlike potatoes, coffee, tea and bananas, no country in the world depends on tomatoes. No nation will find itself bankrupted and no war will ever start because a tomato crop has failed. Then again, a world without tomatoes would perhaps not be worth living in. Just imagine going the rest of your life without baked beans or tomato sauce! Doesn’t bear thinking about does it?

Of late, I have been thinking about tomatoes a lot. It began with a sojourn to the town of Fleetwood in Lancashire, where I decided to take lunch in the Thomas Drummond, a Wetherspoons pub. Being in a celebratory mood, I treated myself to a 12 ounce Aberdeen Angus steak.

Now when it comes to a steak meal, for me the only establishments in the UK I deem worthy of my custom are Wetherspoons pubs. In terms of quality and price I know of no other establishment on this sceptred isle that comes within a country mile of ‘Spoons.

I’m afraid a year of living in Dallas raised my expectations of how big a steak should be and how much it should cost. Before Dallas, I actually considered a visit to an English steakhouse to be something of a treat. Now you’d have to point a gun at my head to get me to set foot in one.

Admittedly, even a 12 ounce Aberdeen Angus jobby pales into insignificance against the dirty great slabs of dead cow on offer in your average Dallas eatery, but you’d be hard pushed to find a Dallas-sized steak in this country that wouldn’t set you back the price of a second hand car.

Anyway, the point is that my Wetherspoons steak was just fab. The Jack Daniel’s sauce was scrummy. And the onion rings were fine. The only fly in the ointment – or should that be in the soup? – was, rather inevitably, the tomato. To be specific, it was half a tomato. Not that I had any problem with the incompleteness of the fruit in question. No, my beef was with the fact that the outside was cooked and the inside was raw.

Yep. That’s right. Outside cooked. Inside raw.

Now, that’s exactly how I like my steak, but it’s not the way I like my tomato. If you’re going to cook a tomato – or even half of one – make sure it’s cooked all the way through, why don’t you?

Frankly, I wasn’t at all surprised that the tomato was only half done; in fact, I was rather expecting it. You see, there doesn’t seem to be a single eatery or hostelry in Britain that knows how to cook a tomato properly. Or perhaps they know and just can’t be bothered. Perhaps they think that because everyone else fudges the job they’re at liberty to do the same.

Throughout the length and breadth of Britain I have eaten ‘cooked’ tomatoes in pubs, clubs, restaurants, greasy spoon cafes and trattorias, and I don’t think I have ever once been served with a tomato that was cooked as a tomato should be cooked. I have even breakfasted at 5 star hotels (not at my own expense, I hasten to add) where for the most part the cuisine is way above par but where I have found myself confronted with supposedly fried tomatoes whose skins are cooked to a crisp but whose innards are cryogenicly preserved.

Why is it so hard for people to get it right?

Here’s a tip for the tomato cookers of the world: if you’re going to grill or fry tomatoes, use cherry tomatoes. They’ll cook all the way through in no time. Failing that, slice a beef tomato and throw the slices under the grill or into a pan. It’s not difficult and you’ll be helping to make the world a better place.

And while we’re on the subject, who the hell is responsible for inflicting plum peeled tomatoes on the world? Bleeuuuurrrrgggggh!!!!!!!