Monday, May 30, 2022

Places: the place and the means of production

 The Judas Case is a novel written on the run.  Three cities, six rooms, repeated journeys.  Cafes and waiting rooms my places of work.  Prose composed across the north of England at a velocity of 125mph.  

For a long time I used to get up early on a Monday morning, drive to Penrith and take a train, hoping that this week I’d get lucky with Richard Branson’s perpetually ‘run out at Lockerbie’ smoked salmon and scrambled eggs breakfast, to work in the West Midlands.  For 3 and a half hours it became my workplace and mobile writing shed. The faces returned:  itinerant academics alighting at Lancaster and Preston, travellers to Warrington and Stafford. They began to recognise me – “Oh, the guy with the notebook”. None ever asked what I was writing. Weekday evenings were spent writing at my favourite window table in the legendary Brown’s Bar in Coventry where the furniture spoke of a space-age 1950s that had never quite become the future we expected.  Thursday afternoon: the return. Cold drinks service after Wolverhampton: sharp sauvignon blanc and Shlomo’s memories of his vineyard and his return to his Zenobia. 

For a year of early mornings I wrote at a table in the Costa concession at Manchester Piccadilly high above the concourse opposite a gigantic LED-rendering of Caspar David Freidrich’s  ‘Wanderer Above the Sea Of Fog’. A large Americano and croissant. Fifty minutes of drafting Shlomo’s unrivalled experience of riots while the announcer told me that due to wet weather the concourse was extremely slippery this morning, and the Wanderer stared into vacancy down the tracks.  Then to the Sackville Building, where Ernest Rutherford once split atomic nuclei, and blamelessly well-paid drudgery running corporate IT projects for the lineal successors of Alan Turing.  Evenings crouched over an improvised fold-out table in the spare room of elder daughter’s Northern Quarter flat. 

For seven months I wrote in a studio flat in Edinburgh Old Town at the end of a walk back from work that took me through the Grassmarket and past Greyfriars’ churchyard.  Exhausted revision of Shlomo’s investigation of the empty tomb.  Then three winter months of weeknight re-drafting in an apartment hotel at the Holyrood end of the High Street where I was briefly snowbound by the Beast From The East. 

The first draft was finished at a port-side table on the upper deck of a ship moored at a dock in southern Italy in September 2016.  In order to maintain professional standards of mystery and suspense, the name of the ship and the exact location must await revelation in another post.

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