Giving Birth to the Books…
The Laszlo’s Millions rebooted version is now available on Kindle and all other e- book formats, in paperback – at last!
The novel had an incredibly long gestation. It was originally written in 1972! When I was roaming the hippie streets of London fuelled by terrible chemicals, filled with rampant idealism and rampant rampancy too. At home my dear wife stewed in our crazy commune, her mind skittering all over the place. She had been cracked open by LSD on the beach at Eilat, victim of 1000 mcg of purest Purple Owsley, the most powerful Acid in the world. What was left was schizophrenia, paranoia and terror. Not all the time, fortunately, because the baby had to be fed. My son. His first years in hippie hell. He may forgive me one day. I had hoped that the baby would stabilise her – but post-natal depression added a further layer of madness to our lives…so I retreated into fiction. The first version of Laszlo’s Millions clack-clacked out of our typewriter, my escape, my ultimate drug. You will detect so much of this real-life story in the novel. But please remember, ‘Novel’ means new. ‘Fiction’ means lies.
The manuscript, once finished, sat in a drawer amongst socks, safe while my life unravelled. She left, taking the child. I moved, moved again, made new friends and alliances, wrote stories novels poems. I never tried to get anything published. I was writing for myself.
Then marooned in a flat in Chelsea by the disintegration of a relationship, I let Umfaan’s Heroes out in the late 80’s. It escaped from me, clackety-clack straight from up there to paper. And once it had left me I knew this book was more than good enough and important enough to be published. I bought the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, s directory of publishers and agents. I wrote to three agents, offering UH. I didn’t know that this is quite unethical! Form has it that one only writes to one agent or publisher at a time…one letter was returned address unknown. Both Curtis Browne and AD Peters wanted to see the manuscript.
Again, in my naivety I sent both of them a copy. Bad boy.
And both wanted to represent me, so I ‘interviewed’ each of them for the job! Bad boy.
AD Peters: establishment. Lovely offices. Antiques. Motherly agent. Curtis Browne: modern, thrusting. A new agent, young, sassy, ambitious. No names! Which did I choose?
The latter. Deep regrets plant no daisies.
Still, she got me Andre Deutsch, the fantastically respected independent publisher with VS Naipaul, Penelope Lively, Gore Vidal and other huge names on their list. August company! My editor, Esther Whitby, was and is a darling, who helped me craft UH into a delightful novel which, when published, got me my fifteen minutes of fame and fantastic reviews from Hilary Mantel and others. Also, appearances on great radio programmes, press, events with famous people, celebrity stuff. It was good. (Esther has published her own memoir of those days under the her maiden name Esther Mennel, entitled ‘Loose Connections’. About me, she says I am one of the authors she is ‘proudest’ to have published. Danger of Hubris… she is the Editor I am proudest to have been edited by.)
And of course, they wanted another novel.
And it just so happened, in my sock drawer….so Laszlo’s Millions blinked its way into the light and after huge rewrites and revisions with the help of the marvellous Howard Davies, was published on the eve of the Iraq War. Despite some publicity (chat shows and press mostly) it dropped into that black hole especially reserved for second novels, where they go to die….which meant that the third novel (Celine) in what was going to be a trilogy, was rejected as a probable dud by Deutsch with scarcely a glance. Thank goodness! It’s rubbish!
Time trickled by. Got a job. Got a three-piece suit. Became a teacher.
Deutsch was taken over by a rapacious asset-stripper who stripped its assets and died unpunished.
And so last year I decided to reclaim my intellectual property. I searched, found somebody who claimed to have the rights to Umfaan’s Heroes and Laszlo’s Millions, wrote asking for them back.
The whole world of publishing has changed so much. With Kindle, Amazon, IBook, and all the others, the day of the huge publishing house has almost passed. Self-publishing is now honourable, no longer referred to as ‘Vanity Publishing’ by most people. I decided to self-publish, and with Amazon, Kindle, Bookbaby and Createspace, I can now offer both the novels in electronic form, as well as paperback.
I had to get UH scanned to produce an electronic version which I could edit. I used Boundbook scanning, very helpful. There were of course loads of errors which always happen in a scanning process. I hope I found and corrected them all! Offer: I will give £5 per error spotted to any reader! ??
UH hit the websites last year…and then I got to Laszlo’s Millions.
I didn’t want to get it scanned. I wanted to rewrite it, once again. I sat down and clackety-clack, the same incredible exciting process began all over again, the same magic which gave birth to Umfaan’s Heroes. There I was chortling and yelling and weeping too, making it all real and alive. The time with Howard when I did the first rewrite, that was nothing. There was no emotional involvement. It felt like a mechanical process, rather like, I assume, Jeffrey Archer churning out a formulaic story with no heart and no art whatsoever. This was so different…heart and art!
Hey I believe I am no egotistical braggart. Really. Ask my mother. Mind you, she won’t remember. Or my psychiatrist. That’s fine, I don’t have one. But I love it. I think it’s grand! I’ll go further. I think it’s grander than grand. I don’t want to boast, I feel as if it wasn’t really me who produced this book. I feel as if it was someone far better than me, someone who can write really great comedy – and tragedy too. No idea who.
Here is the description I wrote for the blurb: “Laszlo’s Millions is a tale of hilarious terror, a political satire as well as a zany comedy. This multilayered story follows Tom in the most catastrophic year of his life as he struggles to convince a mysterious “jury” that he is a fit and proper person to inherit Laszlo’s Millions. Not easy when his psychotic wife is rushing about the place hammering nails into people she doesn’t like and the South African Bureau of State Security have recruited him as a spy…the time is the early seventies when the hippies chanted for peace and America made war. When Apartheid made millions of lives unbearable in South Africa – and our hero pops into swinging London like a cork from a bottle…! try it. Buy it. If you don’t laugh by page 3, I’ll give you your money back. “ . And I will.