Author Archives: Patrick Whittaker
This is it: the end. I am done with reading my own novels and novellas. I can take no more.
Anyone who read my last review (of Riders on the Storm) might well have detected a certain amount of review fatigue on my part. The truth is I cannot stand to write another bloody review of my work.
Let’s face it: the reviews I have managed to churn out this month have not exactly been models of insightfulness and illumination, and when it came to Riders, I tried – oh Lord, how I tried! – to come up with something that would actually make it worth a couple of minutes of someone’s time to read.
And I failed.
So, no more reviews.
I only have one more book to read and then I’m almost done with ReMyOwStMo. My final act will be to list all my novels and novellas alongside my marks out of 10 for each of them. I might also throw in some of the reviews other people have written about my work, just to remind myself of how it can and should be done.
Then I will put Read My Own Stuff Month behind me, gird my loins and embark up the madness that is NaNoWriMo. And may God have mercy on my soul.
I’m glad to report I’ve picked up the pace somewhat with regards to Read My Own Stuff Month. Over the past few days, I have ploughed through both Riders on the Storm and Walpurgis Night and am well on the final few chapters of my children’s novel Tommy and the Gruber. My aim of getting through all my novels and novellas this month is starting to look achievable.
Riders, by the by, is a novelisation of a film script of mine which has over many years gone through numerous changes. Now the script is called Fleeced and is in pre-production with Split Second Films, which makes Riders something of a transitional fossil. In the meantime, a small part of the novel has formed the basis of my award-winning short film, Raspberry Ripple, starring the late, great Mick Green.
My review of Riders is below. With luck the one for Walpurgis Night will follow tomorrow with Tommy hot on its heels.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.