Your new book is called Drums of the Lost Gods. In a few
words, what is it about?
By way of a trailer I couldn’t do better than
recite the back cover blurb for the book:
“Drums of the Lost Gods
a thrilling cliffhanger, set in South America, in the turbulent 1930s. An ill-assorted band of adventurers follows a
nameless river into the sacred mountains and steaming jungles of a Lost
World, in search of ancient civilizations and vanished cities of gold.
An uneasy alliance of
mercenaries and hoodlums trades shots with river pirates and ferocious
cannibals and then turns on each other, their ambitions perverted by lust
and greed. Soldiers-of-fortune spar with Amazon warrior women, while
hapless missionaries try to teach the natives how to play cricket. A
debutante duels to the death with a gangster’s moll. Warriors of
antiquity wage war against a robot army from outer space!”
A few words about your main characters, and which were your
characters are all the usual suspects:
The scholarly Professor Angus
Mackenzie, who for all his prodigious intellect, is really a babe in the
woods, an innocent. It’s his expedition, but if it has a genuine
figurehead then it’s Nate “The Nail” O’Dwyer, the ruthless
American gang lord, a man with a singular talent for violence. His
reluctant companion – and a particular favourite of mine – is
“Trixie” Marlowe, an exotic dancer with yearnings to be a movie star,
the Platinum Blonde with a heart of gold: hard and yellow. Her arch rival
– and the doughty heroine of the piece – is the much admired Celia
Cavendish, an English Rose, the wealthy socialite and tennis champion;
escorted by Jeremy Whittering-Smythe, born with a silver spoon in his
mouth, the boy with everything, a handsome profile and an Oxford rowing
blue. Meanwhile, the main contender for Nate’s title is the
bullet-headed Prussian, Colonel Gustav von Seyfritz, a proud and bitter
veteran of World War One and now a fanatical Nazi. His nemesis is the wily
Frenchman, Armand Dubois, a mysterious soldier-of-fortune. Bringing up the
rear are the “goons”: Mack and Lefty, Nate’s bodyguards, his
“torpedoes”; and Braun and Gruber, the Colonel’s loyal henchmen.
What unites this motley crew are boredom, a thirst for excitement and
adventure - and a lust for gold.
What can you tell us about the titular Lost
Gods, which actually sound pretty Lovecraftian?
was looking for something that had a classical ring to it, classical pulp. Something ancient and mythical. Although it has none of the
intellectual pretensions of Lovecraft. Anything but!
While your last book Cool
Cat was an obvious hommage to exploitation literature and movies
from the 1970's, Drums of the Lost Gods
seems to go further back in
time to the pulp literature and serials of the 1930's and 40's. What can
you tell us about your fascination with that era?
1930s is one of the most compelling eras in history –
socially/politically/culturally – the Golden Age of Hollywood; the Great
Depression; the rise of Fascism, all building inexorably to a World War.
And it was perhaps the last great age of adventure: there were still lost
worlds left to explore.
of the books and serials that have inspired Drums of the Lost Gods?
big banner headline on the front cover is Spicy Pulps. My
inspiration was the “Spicy” and “Shudder” pulps. With their lurid
attractions, their heady mix of sex (or “spice”) and violence, they
were the exploitation of their day. That and the hard-boiled
detective stories by the likes of Carroll John Daly; and of course the
tales of Robert E. Howard. And the classic movie serials: Flash
Gordon and all the various Jungle Girls.
other sources of inspiration?
of course, Spielberg’s Indiana Jones movies. And all those that
rode in on that bandwagon, good and bad. I enjoyed them all.
What prompted you to write Drums of the Lost Gods
in the first place?
It was just something that I’ve always wanted to do, to write my
own vintage pulp story. I wanted to be a real pulp writer.
Drums of the Lost Gods
reads like it was amazing fun to write (which is infectuous, by the
way). What can you tell us about the writing process of the book?
it was great fun. But I’m a painfully slow writer. I can’t write so
many words a day or for so many hours a day. It takes time to percolate in
my subconscious before it comes out. I’m a huge admirer of those old
pulp writers, who could churn out stories and books at an incredible rate
(of course they had to, they were being paid by the word). I wish I could
be like them.
I don't think you'll be
offended when I say realism is not one of the key concerns of your book.
So, did you do any research concerning some actual facts of
the tale you're telling at all?
What’s that? Maybe Drums of the Lost Gods
take place in an
alternate universe, an alternate 1930s and 1970s. In the way that Godard
used the real
to represent another galaxy, in Alphaville (I’m
comparing myself to Godard!). I didn’t do any specific research for the
book, it all came from my general knowledge of the period and the rest is
fantasy – but the story of the missionaries trying to teach the natives
how to play cricket is based on a true incident.
Your writing style is very visual, almost cinematic. So if
your book was made into a movie, how would you like it done, stylistically
and special effects-wise?
Description and detail create a real unreal world. The detail makes it
believable, however unreal it may be. And I like to break it down into scenes and
shots, with cinematic cutting from one to another, that
gives it pace. If Drums of the Lost Gods
was made into a movie (in my dreams!) I suppose it
would have to be in black-and-white. As for the special effects – no CGI!
The dream cast of Drums of the Lost Gods
- the movie, no matter how impossible?
if only ... Trixie is obviously Jean Harlow, she couldn’t be anyone else
(“Marlowe”/”Harlow” - get it?). I pictured a young Myrna Loy as
Celia, she would have that tough coolness. Nate would be played by one of
the leading heavies, someone like Wallace Beery. There were many
young male actors, juvenile leads, who could have played Jeremy – the
“I say, anyone for tennis?” type so popular in the drama of those
times. And any number of reliable character actors to play stereotypical
Prussians, Frenchmen and eccentric scientists.
would you compare Drums of the Lost Gods
to your previous novel Cool
has one central character around which its entire universe revolves. Drums of the Lost Gods, on the other hand, is an ensemble piece.
Drums of the Lost Gods
reminds me of
something that a famous thriller/adventure story writer once said: “I create a
set of characters and then I think of different ways of killing them off”.
and Drums of the Lost Gods
contain an element of sci-fi and/or the
supernatural. Once you take the story out of the strict confines of the real
world, anything is possible, you can make anything happen. And as with Cool
Cat, with Drums of the Lost Gods
I didn’t want to do a modern take; I wrote it as if I
was back in time, as if I was writing it in 1933. I wanted it to be a genuine
1930s pulp adventure.
Both Drums of the Lost Gods
Cat are loving hommages to vintage pulp novels and the like. Have
you ever considered writing anything more "serious"?
Absolutely not! I just want to have fun. My one and only serious
project has been the biography of the actress and face of the 60s
and 70s, Imogen Hassall – Tuesday’s Child: The Life and Death of
Imogen Hassall, also published by Midnight Marquee. That was an intense
experience and quite enough for me.
few words about your publisher Midnight Marquee and the Spicy
Pulp series Drums of the Lost Gods
was published in?
Pulps isn’t actually a series (although it could be if I wrote a
sequel to Drums of the Lost Gods
or another vintage pulp story). As for Midnight Marquee, I can’t praise them enough. They’ve stood by me and were
willing to publish my books when others either ignored me or rejected me.
Fiction is new for them, they mainly publish great books about movies -
visit their website - www.midmar.com.
Feeling lucky ?
Want to search for books by
The links below
will take you
just there !!!
future projects you'd like to talk about?
the moment I’m writing a sequel to Cool
Cat, in which Cat goes on the
road with a rock band who are in league with the Devil. And I have vague ideas
for another 1930s pulp adventure, which may be a straight sequel to Drums of the Lost Gods.
writers outside of the pulp-genre?
Bradbury was my god when I was in my teens. If you want to get serious,
then To Kill A Mockingbird is, in my humble opinion, the greatest
book ever written. Closely followed by The Great Gatsby. On a
lighter note, I’ve been re-reading the James Bond books lately –
I’ve always preferred the Bond of the books to the movies.
Anything else you are
dying to mention and I have just forgotten to ask?
I’d just like to mention the superb front cover artwork for Drums of the Lost Gods, which was done by a friend of mine, Jeff Duke (who also did
the cover for Cool
Cat); and the spectacular job that
Midnight Marquee made of designing the full cover spread
– after all, it’s the cover that sells the book! And now, I’ve
droned on long enough. Many thanks for the great review and the chance to
do this interview, much appreciated.
Thanks for the interview!