Guy Adams is the contributor for this week’s Take Five, a regular series where we ask authors and editors to share five facts about their latest books. Adams is the author of Deadbeat – Makes You Stronger, available now:
Max and Tom are old, old friends, who used to be actors. Tom now owns a jazz nightclub called Deadbeat which, as well as being their source of income, is also something of an in-joke. In a churchyard one night they see men loading a coffin into the back of a van. But, why take a full coffin away from a graveyard and, more importantly, why is the occupant still breathing? Tom and Max are on the case.
1. The original novella that Deadbeat is based on is the first book I ever had published. About thirty people read it. Literally. Despite this it somehow got nominated for an award. Quite rightly, it didn’t win.
The publisher I first submitted it to said two major things were wrong with it: it switched between first person narrators and it balanced humour with horror. It still does.
He wanted me to rewrite it in the vein of Popular Author and Lunatic, Robert Rankin, retaining the characters but making it a more obviously comic tale of haunted beer in a London pub.
I said no and they didn’t publish it.
I later met Robert Rankin and got lethally drunk with him. So much so in fact that I was still falling over the following day. Either the beer was haunted or Robert Rankin is a terribly thirsty man and I simply couldn’t keep up.
2. The main characters are based on real people. One of them, Tom Harris, is writer and director Steve Newman, who I worked with extensively when I was an actor.
In his play Portrait of an Artist, I played about twenty different characters, one of whom was Hitler. In a scene intended to present a historical juxtaposition, I read an amalgamation of Hitler speeches to the sound of Benny Goodman and his orchestra playing the Carnegie Hall. I never bothered to learn the speeches (I was touring two plays at the same time, both double-handers and you took your opportunities for lightening the workload where you could find them) I just read them from a sheet on a lectern. Which was fine until the night I lost one of my contact lenses. I had to build in Hitler-style moves to my performance that would allow me to cover one eye so that I could read the sheet clearly. Nobody noticed.
The other character, Max Jackson, is based on me. Though I am becoming steadily more fictional every day.
3. The opening of the book, in which Max and Tom stumble on a body (who is breathing) being smuggled out of a church in a coffin, was a direct attempt to channel Brian Clemens. I adore The Avengers (the sixties TV show rather than the comic, though, actually I adore that too) and Clemens was always the master of the cold open (conventionally a pre-titles ‘tease’ that hooks the viewer).
I later met Brian Clemens and found out that he had been living only a few miles from me. Sadly he had just moved, otherwise I would have stalked him relentlessly and made him befriend me, at gunpoint if need be.
4. At one point I wrote a Deadbeat story as a TV script. Friend and onetime Doctor Who script editor, Andrew Cartmel, took a look at it to give me some advice. He liked it but joked that I’d never keep the central twist secret. He was quite right, though only one review has blown it so far by mentioning it.
At the time, I thought the twist was terribly original. Now, because the world moves on, I worry that it’s not, so I do my best to downplay its importance because we writers worry about that sort of thing much more than we probably should.
5. Before they appeared in Deadbeat, Max Jackson and Tom Harris featured in a very strange serial I wrote for an online company (my first paid writing work). The idea was that people paid for monthly subscriptions and they would receive two “episodes” a week by email. Imagine how Dickens would have worked if he’d had a GMail account.
Many of the people working for the company treated it as a delivery method for a novel, breaking their book up into chapters. I’ve always been a bit fascinated by structure though and decided that was cheating. It should be a proper serial, open-ended with a mixture of stand-alone episodes and multi-part stories (I was writing a prose comic essentially). The serial was called The Organisation and featured a large cast of characters. Max and Tom appeared in three stories because it was Steve Newman who got me the job in the first place. It was an in-joke between us. He was writing a serial about the life of Hemingway.
In their first story, Max and Tom met up with Hemingway (an event crossover!) in Spain and fought a temporal paradox that was haunting a mountain village. The title of the story was The Breath of God which I later re-used for a Sherlock Holmes novel.
In the second they teamed-up with Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa and fought zombies (Krupa killed one in the middle of a drum solo, flinging his drumstick through its head).
In the third they… well it was terribly complicated but it involved a dream city designed by Hawksmoor and a bar owner (who was quite obviously Tom Waits) delivering a whole episode in the form of beat poetry.
The Organisation has never been reprinted.