Members 35. Wild East 7. Food.

I wasn’t always in the Irish Pub. Honest.

It’s a terrible oversimplification, but Central Europe and I expanded our food horizons together.

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Members 34. Wild East 6. Irish Pubs

Irish pubs were central to my experience of the “Wild East” as I term Central Europe of the 1990s. Both in Budapest and Prague, I had a default pub.
In the early days, these pubs were welcome havens in cities that felt incredibly foreign.

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Members 28. Inspiration

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However, before I go, I will leave you with a title for the next post in the series.

“Kidnapped.”

How’s that for a teaser?

 

Working Tools 20. – Music

“Music is the shorthand of emotion.” Leo Tolstoy.

I’m writing scenes set in Budapest in the early 1990s. My protagonist, Sean is in a bar. Everything is going his way. He’s invincible, unstoppable. The world is his oyster and everything is coming up roses, (ouch – talk about a mixed metaphor.) He is full of that impossible confidence of youth.

I want the reader to feel all of that, to be transported to a smokey bar, whisky in hand, rock music booming from the speakers, ready to party hard.

“Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. A song makes you feel a thought.” E. Y. Harburg.

History

I lived in Budapest in the 1990s. Sean and I have similar tastes in music. To get inside Sean’s head, I decided to build a playlist.

Wow.

I’m back there. It’s all I can do not to pour myself a Johnnie Walker Red. I can smell the bar, see the faces. Memories rush back with every chord.

I messaged a friend from those days. We reminisced about basement rock clubs full of leather jackets, tattoos and sticky dance floors. He suggested some missing tracks. Listening to a playlist melted 25 years, taking us both back to those days. It was a joy to bathe in nostalgia and “feel those feelings” again. The question is, can I communicate those feelings to the reader, without the music?

Technique

I can’t use the lyrics. In order to quote Guns and Roses or U2, I need their permission, which can be withheld or charged for. That’s overhead that I can’t afford, neither in terms of money, nor time.

Still. I’m a writer. Communicating is a core skill, I hope. How hard can it be?

Turns out, really hard.

I’m going to invest some time in creating specific playlists for each character and each venue. At worst, I get to luxuriate in memories of my youth, and the scenes become much more vivid in my mind’s eye.

I’ll publish them in the members section of the site.

Now. Where did I leave that Johnnie Walker?

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Debut Novel Syndrome

Debut Novel Syndrome is, of course, well-known. You haven’t heard of it? Shame on you. Alright, I confess. I made it up. As far as I am aware, which is as far as the first page of the search I just completed, Debut Novel Syndrome is not a thing. It should be though.

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Inspiration

Inspiration. Where does it come from?

They say that everybody has a book inside them. I say, “Of course everybody has a book inside them, many, in fact. The trick is getting the bloody things out.”

 

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Characters – The Protagonist

Notebook II is filling up fast.

Several times, I have resisted diving into the manuscript and re-drafting. That’s what happened last time, and see where that got me.

I’m determined to put more effort into the outline, so that the characters don’t end up wandering off on tangents.

More importantly, I need to get to know my characters. They’re already much changed over the last couple of years. Their time in the cardboard folders has had radical effects.

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O is for Organised Crime

organised-crime

I know that this is obvious, but Organised Crime is not a good thing.

It is worth writing down, because Organised Crime has had, and still has, some fantastic PR. All sorts of romantic associations of Organised Crime as a brotherhood, as a family, as a coping strategy. Lovely ideas, but all nonsense.

Organised Crime is made up of nasty, grubby, greedy criminals.

Researching into Organised Crime for my novel, I was struck by how err…, organised these groups are. Long before management consultants were extolling ‘flat, responsive, management structures’ and ‘smart creatives’, Organised Crime was growing, spreading and diversifying. I can admire the ambition, scope and efficiency of these groups, but I am under no illusions as to the true nature of them.

The Godfather, The Sopranos and the like were great entertainment but they downplayed the true nature of Organised Crime. It trades in human misery. It enslaves, tortures, rapes and brutalises without compunction.

Increasingly, criminal activities are one aspect of wide-ranging organisations that contain many legal enterprises, giving the whole an appearance of legitimacy that obscures the true nature.

In my novel, set in the 1990s, Sean meets one of these organisations in Central Europe. What begins as exciting and fun becomes something else entirely.

Blogging from A to Z Challenge

M is for Money Laundering

money-laundering

Organised Crime is about profit.

Status and power have a role, but ultimately Organised Crime Groups exist to get rich.

Ever since the FBI used tax evasion laws to nab and imprison Al Capone, criminals have strived to make their money appear legitimate. It must be quite galling to make millions from one’s nefarious activities but be unable to spend any of it.

Money Laundering is making the proceeds of crime appear legitimate.

In the best ever debut novel written by me, the hero, Sean has an opportunity to partner some unsavoury people as their laundry man. He is faced with a decision.

Straightforward you would think. Sean can do the right thing or the wrong thing.

I’m not sure that things are quite as black and white as that. Motive is a very difficult thing to pin down. Often different people have different definitions of what they see as right or wrong.

Let me leave you with a few questions to think on.

  1. Have you ever paid a tradesman in cash for a lower price? “Let’s call it a hundred for cash?”
  2. Bought cheap duty free cigarettes or booze from a friend?
  3. Picked up designer label jeans from a street market?
  4. Watched a pirated movie?

Quite probably all crimes.

Blogging from A to Z Challenge