Monday, 9 February 2015

Charles Spencer - guest blog

Today, I'm pleased to host a guest blog post by Charles Spencer, sometime Daily Telegraph theatre critic and occasional crime novelist. I was pleased to hear that the Will Benson books are to have a fresh life under the Bello imprint, partly because I enjoyed them when they first appeared, and partly because Charlie and I go back a long way. All the way to student days, in fact. We attended the same college, though he was reading English, whereas I was grappling with the law (academically speaking, I hasten to add.) 

Charlie was in the year above me, and was the publicity manager for the Oxford Students' Arts Council, a post which I took over from him. Those distant days were a great deal of fun, and it's curious to think that we both later became published crime writers. The last time I saw Charlie was, in fact, at the Dead on Deansgate conference that he mentions very frankly below.. So I am all the more delighted that things have taken such a turn for the better in the intervening years, and I hope that one day we'll see a new Will Benson book. Over to Charlie... 

"I have been a fan of crime fiction for much of my life, with a special fondness for thrillers that combine a galloping plot with humour. Back in the 1990s I had a shot at writing such novels myself, with Edmund Crispin ( the pen name of Bruce Montgomery who was a close friend of Philip Larkin’s at Oxford) and Kyril Bonfiglioli’s Mortdecai Trilogy among my influences. Like the books of Raymond Chandler and Dick Francis, they are first person narratives - though I would never dream of  claiming a place  in such august company

I was working as the Daily Telegraph’s theatre critic when I wrote them, but the books were inspired by the happy couple of years I spent on the theatrical trade paper The Stage in the 1980s when I delightedly discovered a world of talent contests, strip shows and filthy comedians. The books are, I hope, bawdy, funny, fast paced and at times touching, and they received some good reviews when first published though they never became the bestsellers I had fondly hoped for.

The hero, Will Benson, is a braver and more reckless version of myself, and there is a lot of booze and I hope laughter in the books.

The drink caught up with me in the end. When the third novel,  Under the Influence  was about to come  out  in 2000  I attended the Dead on Deansgate crime convention in Manchester and spent three days in a reckless blur of alcohol. If anyone reading this blog encountered me then, please accept my apologies. 

 I didn’t quite make it home on the day the convention ended, spending much of the night crashed out under a bush in a neighbour’s garden in the pouring rain.  My poor wife was worried sick until I was discovered in the early hours and drenched to the skin.  With her help and a fistful Valium I just about made it to the official book launch in London the following night  and the day after that  I checked into rehab at The Priory, Roehampton. With God’s grace, one day at a time, have not had a drink since then.

So the three novels – I Nearly Died, Full Personal Service and Under The Influence now seem to me to belong to a distant and more troubled past. But re-reading them before their reissue on Pan MacMillian’s Bello imprint of e-books and print on demand novels, I found that I enjoyed them. There were moments that made me wince, others that made me laugh, and some that moved me.  And I hope that will be the experience of readers  discovering the Will Benson stories for the first time."


Clothes In Books said...

Very interesting, and you've definitely tempted me to read one of these. A very honest account of the drinking....good for him for succeeding in giving up.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Moira. It is good for a story to have a happy ending, and I'm looking forward to meeting up with Charlie once again before long.