Welcome to the first edition of the Lee Library where I talk about books that have inspired me to write. It will crop up between my usual daily blogs and is a chance for me to hopefully point you towards a book you may have been unaware of.
These won’t be books I think are just okay, no point doing that, these are the best of the best in my opinion.
In the first instalment, I have to mention the amazing book Kill Your Friends. There is some nationalistic pride that John Niven is a fellow Scot but he is a great writer regardless of this, one of my favourites. Another of his books may creep into the Lee Library at a later date.
What drew me back to this book was shocking black humour. This book is dark, very dark and not for the faint of heart. If you are easily offended, you won’t click with this book. If you need closure and a sense of karma in the universe, this book isn’t for you. Evil quite consistently prevails here- and I do mean evil. Our main character, Steven Stelfox, isn’t only a ruthless businessman (something I could respect), he is a murderous lunatic. There is no point trying to debate his good points, he simply doesn’t have any. Although there may be some sins you would be willing to forgive if you don’t mind that kind of thing, he will always up the ante to the point that will shock you.
The story is set in the pop industry in the 90’s UK, which saw bands like the Spice Girls on the rise and making millions. I like this change in the usual setting for a ruthless, career ladder climbing villain. Normally you would expect to see this in finance, banking, law, politics- but the pop scene? In my reading experience most stories set here are more about an innocent who is corrupted trying to make it as a singer/actor.
Although the plot is interesting, it is the pitch black humour that will keep you turning the pages. Stelfox is a combination of the worst things you can imagine- he despises everywhere that isn’t London, he considers the British public loathsome and happily peddles to their basic instincts. He has zero interest in personal relationships, seeing everyone as either a rival or (in the case of women) something to get in bed, then boot out when he is done.
Stelfox is likewise contemptuous of the industry he works in, considering most celebrities empty headed morons who want to sound deep but are actually totally shallow. I won’t lie, I couldn’t help but agree with that a bit.
The author doesn’t shy away from any of this or any controversy. He doesn’t hint that Stelfox thinks these things, he brutally shows us. Writing from the first person was a good choice here as it lets us really get into the diseased mind of the main character.
This is an important point if you want to go down this path with your stories- don’t be afraid to really go into the worst people capable are of if that is what your story is about. I find some people are nervous about tackling some issues because they think some people will link them with the character, especially if it is written in the first person. In a novel I wrote, The Man With The Green Tie, the main character is a bit of a cheating scumbag and like Kill Your Friends, this was written in the first person. He gleefully cheats on his wife without a second thought. I find that abhorrent but I didn’t hesitate to put it in the story. These aren’t my views but if you are a good storyteller, you can show someone believable who does these things.
What to take from this book is how to see this sort of humour done well. If you do want to tap into it and make your writing dark but also a bit funny, this book is like a how to guide. There is a plot but as I said it is totally in the background, you read on to see what the hell Stelfox is going to do next.
This certainly isn’t for everyone but I really enjoyed it as you can tell from my dog eared copy below.