Reblogged from ‘Jamie Dark’:
“Well, the nymphomaniac daughter pairs up with the vicar who believes in ghosts.”
“What about her husband?”
“Didn’t I tell you? He’s going to fall off the top of a mountain to his death while he’s having sex with the trapeze artist.”
Ralph and I would spend hours bouncing around the threads of plots for his novels. Eventually the story would come through, it always did. Because Ralph Neverchance was in most people’s opinion one of the most successful storytellers in recent times, regularly earning awards for a ‘thumping good read’, bestseller of bestsellers and goodness knows what else.
But unfortunately, Ralph was dying. A horrible illness had him in its grip and at the age of eighty-nine, it looked as if he wasn’t long for this world. He’d said to me just this morning, “Well I’ve had a good life, all I’ll really miss is thinking up stories. I love it so much, I always have.” He looked pensive, chewing his lower lip. “I only wish I could go on doing it. Maybe there are books in heaven, eh? Perhaps God will give me a typewriter. You know, Hecci, it’s never really mattered to me that my books are so tremendously successful. I’d go on writing them even if they sold as badly as yours do.”
“Thanks very much!”
“Sorry old boy, but let’s face facts. Your novels are all so bloody boring, aren’t they?”
Since he was so ill, I knew I had to make allowances for his tactlessness. What’s more, to my chagrin I knew he was right.
Amanuensis is a funny old word, but it describes what I do pretty well. I wrote to Ralph twenty-eight years ago, when I’d just graduated from university, and was trying to become ‘a writer’. Ralph wrote back enthusiastically, offering me every encouragement, telling me that you should never try to be writer so as to be rich, because it rarely ever happened, you just had to have the ‘urge to tell a story’. Twists in the plot, sexy bits, gore and violence, fiendishly cunning storylines, they were all very well he’d told me, but enjoying telling a tale was all that really ever mattered. Ralph had invited me to come and see him, and we’d got on well. Since he was then in his late sixties, he told me that the ‘nuts and bolts’, of typing up, editing and proofreading his books was something which bored him, he just liked getting the ideas down, so on the spot he offered me a job of being his general dogsbody, and I’ve done it happily ever since. He always typed everything on an ancient manual typewriter, using two fingers. When he was inspired those fingers would fly like lightning, the clattering and clacking sound almost deafening. And afterwards I would type it up properly, and do the edits and so on.
Alongside helping Ralph with his novels, I carried on writing my own books, and I like to think I’ve improved a bit over the years. Maybe Hector Goodbody isn’t quite such a catchy name for an author, but at least it’s memorable. I thought gloomily of a recent review on Amazon: ‘Hector Goodbody’s story was so dull it helped me get to sleep. His characters have about as much life as a game of dominoes between octogenarian bores and I didn’t care what happened to any of them’.
Continue reading: Jamie Dark – Psychic investigator and architect