On my ninth birthday I discovered the bitter truth about this world
It was my grandparents who told me.
‘Yonder,’ they said, raising their arms and pointing west, ‘lies a town called Aberystwyth where the people eat jam and cheese sandwiches all day.’
Like a fool, I believed them.
Straightaway I wound up my affairs in Shrewsbury, said goodbye to my parents and headed west.
I disguised myself as a citizen of Aberystwyth and went to live among them. I ate the same food as they did; learned to operate a spinning wheel and cast spells on my neighbours like they did.
And like them watered my crust of bread each night with tears.
But no matter how I tried, there was no getting away from the cruel truth: I had been deceived.
The people of Aberystwyth ate the same shit as everyone else.
The sense of betrayal became the grain of sand in my soul’s oyster, one that eventually led to my Aberystwyth Noir series of novels and numerous other transgressions you can read about on this website.
Have fun, but try not to break anything.
What is it about Aberystwyth?
Over the years the sense of betrayal I felt about the sandwiches gradually subsided.
Later, I read German at the Universities of Warwick and Freiburg. After that I became, for a while, the world’s worst aluminium salesman, raising the art of not selling aluminium to levels which have seldom been matched since.
In my time I have been an advertising creative director, a BMW assembly line worker, a deck hand on a yacht in the South Pacific and a hotel washer-up.
In 1998 I quit my job in advertising and took a year off to write Aberystwyth Mon Amour, the first draft of which was finished on board a cargo ship off the coast of Guyana. The novel was published in 2001 and was well received and my editor at Bloomsbury suggested I write more in the series.
I duly rented an apartment in Bangkok for three months and wrestled with the problem of how to continue a series about a town I had carelessly wiped off the face of the earth at the end of Book I. Somehow that three months turned into seven years, and one book turned to four.
I left Bangkok in 2007 and now live in Oxford. I spend my time drinking beer, fighting tyranny and generally being a bit of a berk.
Aberystwyth can really break your heart sometimes…
‘I have come to the conclusion this is the same trick repeated every spring by the old courtesan Aberystwyth. She cakes on the all-concealing foundation, and stands at the back of the chorus line, where the shadows are deeper, hoping that her faded charms will last another season, while the leg-kicking strumpets at the front twirl petticoats that flash and blaze like fireworks in the hot footlights. Is it not so dear Louie?’
‘I’ve never heard Aberystwyth described like that before but it captures her perfectly’. –From Aberystwyth with Love
The day it all began…
A photo that captures the moment I became aware of my destiny: to catalogue the moral turpitude of Aberystwyth. My best friend Marty had a note from his Ma’ excusing him from games on account of his tuberculosis. Games teacher Herod Jenkins dismissed the note and sent Marty off on a cross-country run from which he never returned. I knew I could never rest until I had faced down my games teacher and given Marty justice. But I was too scared. So I invented a fictional character to do it for me.
Marty, front far right. Herod Jenkins, front, third from right. King of Welsh Noir, back far left.
Language is a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to,
while all the time we long to move the stars to pity—Flaubert
Why are there no more Aberystwyth novels?
Ah, long story my friend.
Most of them were written during a period of intense happiness lasting from 2000 to 2007. I was living in Bangkok – a place I love – enisled away from the chaos in a beautiful oasis called Floraville Apartments. I wrote all day and got drunk at night.
But then the wheels came off.
One morning there was a knock on my apartment door and I opened to find a chap with cloven hoofs and a big rock. He pointed to the rock and said, ‘Did you order this?’
I said, ‘What is it?’
‘Depression. You just have to roll it to the top of the hill every day. Then overnight, while you sleep (on the rare occasions that you can) we move it back to the bottom again. Have fun!’
Since then the story of my life is captured by this image below of two passports.
I’m not complaining, just explaining because so many people have been kind enough to ask.
I always try and console myself with the words of Nabokov, who when asked what surprised him most in life replied:
Floraville, Bangkok. My desk for seven years
‘The marvel of consciousness, that sudden window swinging open on a sunlit landscape amidst the night of non-being.’
I wish I’d written that. It really is an amazing privilege to view the sunlit landscape for a while, even when things are not going well.
Although I am aware that many people, throughout history, never got much chance to see the sunlit landscape. And I will admit, too, there are times late at night when I will sneak into a church, walk to the front and look up, and ask for my money back.
The situation was not helped by the fact that my publisher, Bloomsbury, told me in late 2010 that they did not want any more Aberystwyth novels.
Something has happened since I wrote the above. Like a round-the-world sailor who expects never to return to the arms of his mistress, the Sea, I woke up recently, sniffed a certain salty tang on the breeze and decided to walk down to the metaphorical harbour. My boat was still there and I began to jot down some thoughts for a new Aberystwyth novel. It has since taken on a life of its own and it certainly looks like I will write the novel. I will probably self-publish it.
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You will be hearing from me.