Tuesday, 30 July 2013

THE RICHARD GODWIN INTERVIEW - PART ONE





 Richard Godwin

For those familiar with the crime/noir genre, the name Richard Godwin conjures up images of beautifully poetic prose couple with the darkest of psychological horrors. Richard Godwin is a man of immense talent - novelist, short story writer, playwright, and public speaker. To top it all, he is a thoroughly nice bloke. Richard Godwin also has the reputation of being one of the best online interviewers around, as evidenced on his Chinwag at the Slaughterhouse blog. If you've ever been interviewed by Richard at The Slaughterhouse, it's an experience never to be forgotten.

Having myself been the subject of one of Richard's Slaughterhouse interviews, I thought it time the tables were turned. The following is the first half of an interview I recently conducted with Richard - the second part will appear tomorrow, and a review of Richard's latest novel - ONE LOST SUMMER- will appear on Friday.

So without further ado, here is Part One of the interview . . .

 
I.A. For those people who have not had the pleasure of reading your work, Richard, could you tell me a little of the style in which you write, and the work you have had published?

R.G. My style varies a lot. Apostle Rising, my first novel has been described as a lyrical work, in the sense that the prose is not hard boiled but veers towards the poetic at times. That was considered unusual considering the dark subject matter. It is about a serial killer who is crucifying politicians.   

Mr. Glamour, my second novel is more pared back, and written in a style that suits the thematic material. It is a satire about a wealthy group of people who are fixated by designer goods and are being targeted by a killer obsessed with brands. I would describe  

One Lost Summer, my new novel, as being both lyrical and evocative. It is a Noir novel of psychological suspense. It is also the only one of my novels that is a first person narrative, told by Rex Allen, the protagonist. He moves into a new neighbourhood in a heat wave and becomes obsessed by his beautiful next door neighbour Evangeline Glass, who he thinks is someone other than the person she is pretending to be. He begins to spy on her and when he discovers she has a lover he blackmails her into playing a game of identity that ends in disaster. 

Reviewers are calling it haunting and that may be because of the style I use, which contains a lot of imagery and is reflective, juxtaposed with dialogue and a series of revelations. 

I have also written horror, Bizarro and literary fiction, so as I say there is some range. These are the novels I have had published and I mention my stories in my last remark. They have been published in over 29 anthologies now, among them The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime. I am also writing a series of novellas for the Italian publisher Atlantis under their imprint Lite Editions. Two have been published so far. The Secret Hourintroduces the nomadic Gigolo Paris Tongue, and The Edge of Desire is the sequel. He is the bastard child of a killer who seduces his way across Europe after he falls foul of the Mafia. I have just signed a contract with Atlantis for the novel I have written about him. That will be published in January of next year in both English and Italian. It is a Noir novel with hints of Erotica. 

Well, with a Gigolo you have to add a bit of spice don't you?

I.A. I imagine you do, Richard . . . :)
As you know, I am a huge fan of your work. Apostle Rising literally terrified me, and Mr Glamour chilled me to the bone. You have alluded to the breadth of your work in your previous answer. Noir, Bizarro, Erotica, Literary Fiction, in styles that have been described as ranging from 'hard boiled' to 'lyrical' to 'poetic'. I'd be fascinated to know, what are your own literary influences that have led you to write such a gammut of styles?

R.G. Literary influences are hard to determine, but I will mention some of the main authors whose writing has had an impact on me and made me reconsider the manner of delivery, if style can be seen as that. Style is both contextual and cultural, and the medium through which it is delivered alters its nature, be it the type of narrative structure of the subject matter. 

 If I talk of novelists only, because to involve playwrights and poets would create a list perhaps too long for this interview, the following names stick out: 

Dickens for his style and storytelling ability, Dostoyevsky for his depth of characterisation and for changing the course of the novel, Gabriel Garcia Marquez for his sheer poetic reality, Cormac McCarthy for reinventing speech and the new frontier, Graham Greene for his endless elegance and insight, F. Scott Fitzgerald for his subtlety and nuance, James Lee Burke for his lyrical beauty and depth, Elmore Leonard for his exquisite dialogue and structure.

I.A. A fascinating group of writers there, Richard. And what a dinner party that would make, eh. With the plethora of styles you employ, influenced by the aforementioned writers and their dispirate personalities, I'm wondering if any of this tells us anything of Richard Godwin, the man - the beating heart behind the novels and the stories you write?
 
R.G. It is arguable that they are a reflection of my tastes or that I hone in on aspects of myself in the things I enjoy, but enjoyment is not the only part of my relationship with these authors. I also try to engage with the things I feel unsympathetic towards. 

There is a common train of thought that dictates that writers should convey only the sympathetic characters, an unliterary fallacy borne from the posturing of idle profit seekers leeching off historical talent of which they have a mediocre understanding, and with little or no respect for Art. But you don't learn much from that, it is a bit like drinking your own bath water. I like to try different styles, different tastes and countries, different conversations. And perhaps we are all seeking a different dialogue with ourselves and the lives we lead to show us where we are and startle ourselves into a recognition that evades us. Literature may do that. Poetry hiding in lines of prose may assume a poetic reality that reminds us of the things we have forgotten.

I.A. I love the idea of 'seeking a different dialogue with ourselves' in order to 'startle ourselves into recognition'. With my counsellor hat on, I interpret that as a method for helping us to gain a closer knowledge of who we really are. With my author hat on <quickly changes metaphorical hats> I'm wondering if there is a dual process going on here, and assuming the writer's journey takes place more in the unconscious mind, what part the reader plays in his more conscious mind as he writes. In short, who comes first when you engage in the writing process, Richard - yourself or the reader, and does this change depending on the genre within which you are writing?

R.G. That is an extremely interesting question. I do think writing and Art come from the unconscious. I think duality and the tensions that involves are an essential part of it. Literature explores the human condition and in doing so may seem to illustrate who we are.  Therein, as Hamlet says lies the rub. Because we are part of it. Psychology is not a science since it is examining a condition it belongs to. I write in both ways. I sometimes write with the reader in mind and sometimes not at all, not through disregard but simply because something else is happening at that time.

I.A.  I agree with you, Richard, about Art and Literature stemming from the unconscious. I suppose the mark of a great writer or artist is the ability to communicate the unconscious material into something recognisable to someone else, without losing the essence of the spark.I think what an artist or writer is seeking to unconsciously communicate often comes through in the central themes in their work. In both Apostle Rising and Mr Glamour, one of the central themes for me was the sense of 'the outsider'. To be more specific, especially in Mr Glamour, 'the voyeuristic outsider'. Your latest novel - Our Long Summer - appears to develop this theme. The very notion of a voyeuristic outsider fills me with great pity. This primal search for belonging is enacted out in your novels amidst bloodshed and poetry, darkness, despair, and lyrical beauty, a chaos of contrasts, as if you are challenging the reader to stand before the dark heart of themselves.
. . .  to the question . . .
Do you believe part of your role as a writer is to challenge the reader? And if so, to what end, to what purpose?

R.G. I am not conscious of wanting to challenge the reader yet I think writing has a duty to do so, because entertainment is a form of opium and we are numbed on a daily basis by propaganda and lies, the promise of a situation that may ease our knowledge of ourselves. 

I think alienation is a historical signpost of the late twentieth century and early twenty-first. Given the two World Wars, the attempted genocides we have witnessed, the fragmentation of society, the technologisation of man, we cling to units, be they gangs or families, and we seek to belong, but it may not be possible to belong to anything. It is a basic form of tribalism that brings with it its own laws and punishments, many of them more arbitrary than the legal system itself. To be outside may be to see the things that are denied to those inside, but it amounts to a hall of mirrors. 

As Goethe wrote “And as long as thou hast not mastered this; dying and coming into existence; thou art but a sad and gloomy guest on the dark earth.” I think conditioning prevents people from living. That is the basis of alienation, to be unable to live, to love, to seize the day, to know the evening is coming.

TO BE CONTINUED . . .

6 comments:

  1. Godwin is full of immense talent. His work will shock every time, guaranteed.

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  2. I'm definitely a fan of his imagery. Haunting is a good word to describe it.

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  3. Mark thank you most kindly mate.

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  4. Charles many thanks it is appreciated.

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