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b y J a c k T r e v o r S t o r y
A piece for the front of Michael Moorcock's novel, The Russian Intelligence
(This introduction to The Russian Intelligence (Savoy, 1980) touches idiosyncratically on Story's encounter with police-state thuggery in 1968. For those interested in this area of official imbecilityas we are!we reprint elsewhere on this site Michael Moorcock's elaboration of the episode in his article Jack's Unforgettable Christmas, from the New Statesman).
THE WORLD OF MICHAEL MOORCOCK is an unreal microcosm set in a terribly actual Marks and Spencer universe. When you are deeply engrossed and lost to your rotten old mum (who wants to suckle you really though she calls it just have your attention for a minute)right then when you are escaped, free, hanging on the next lunatic decision, somebody opens a door and there's Portobello Road. Christ, what a relief, though, sometimes.
"What is Moorcock getting at?" you have time to think.
His brain is like nothing I have ever seenand you are listening to an author who used to be a butcher. I have seen brains, I have cut them from their cavities, I have fried thembut nothing like Mike's. It works on its own. Listen! It works on its own! You watch.
"Hello, Mikecan I come in? I won't if you're busy. I did knock. I heard you typing from the street. Hillary let me in." This was his Hillary phase, mother of Max, or so I believe. We are not friends in that way. No probing. We know we're not homosexual and that's about all we do know. Well, of course you don't really know that. Through characters like Jerry Cornelius Mike can turn into anything. I expect that's what he'd be doing nowthe period was about then and he hasn't looked round yet. Sitting over there in the corner banging away on his £500 golf-ball typewriter. Then, from his mouth, his brain probably being in Tokyo, he says:
"Wine behind you, Jack. How are you. Nice of you to call. Any news from Maggie?"
You don't know whether you can talk back or not. Maybe if you talk to his flying fingers. I had done a terrible thing to Maggie and I had to tell him. We are in about 1972/73 and caught in the fury that only true artists know if something non-fiction happens (non-fiction is a monster)I had come to him for advice. I can't reveal what I had done to Maggie but it was something very personal, committed in a fit of anger that she did not love me any more. Well, that's not absolutely certain, is it?
"Why don't you shoot yourself?" Mike said, his brain still in Tokyo and conducting pidgin Japanese because I could see the words coming up on the paper. "Tie a string from the trigger to the door and make your first visitor a murderertie the knot so that the gun falls free. Try a short-sheep-shank."
"My God," I thought, "what a friend. How can he help me with my troubles without stopping work?"
And then suddenly you pick up such a book as this one and you understand yet again the qualities that elevate, a Michael Moorcock thriller into a land beyond thrillers, the other side of Chandler and Fleming, far, far into the hinterland of THROWAWAYmy own one and only favourite country. Throwaway cliché, throwaway drama, throwaway sentiment, throwaway sex, throwaway throwaway. Mike suddenly ripped the page from the typewriter and threw it away. I now saw the floorlittered with typed pages.
"I hope I haven't spoilt anything, Mike?" I said.
"No! In fact you've helped. I'm trying to light a bonfire in the backyard and I hate burning clean paper. I type all over it first."
By heavens, if only Iris Murdoch could hear this, I thought. He had now swivelled round towards me and drawn his knees up under his chin so that his heavily bearded face crowned by the cowboy hat evoked for me, irresistibly, Chick Webb, the hunchback drummer of the old Savoy Ballroom days in dear old Harlem.
"You are a cunt, Jack," he said. "What did you want to do that for? Giving away her personal secrets to all her friends and relations and his firmhe'll get the sack! There'll be war with Belgium..."
Well, of course it wasn't as bad as that. Mike can't stop inventing. Within the hour I daresay he had another Ladbroke Grove apocalypse. But he had got the main dramatic point which nobody in this country has done. War, I doubt it; but Maggic McDonald has the best reason in the world for fulfilling her vow on the telephone to me from Brussels on the night of October 18th, 1972. She said in her Scottie accents:
"One more word about Paul Nasty and I shall never speak to you again as long as I live..."
Of course, that's not his real name. His real name is Waeben. For the television series, Jack On The Box, we called him Mr Nasty. I met him once when I went to 507, Avenue Moliere, Brussels, where Maggie had hidden herself. You can read about it if you go to the British Museum Library at Colindale and look up The Guardian for Saturday July 22 1972 on the Arts Page. To save you a special journey I'll tell you nowshe wanted him to stay to dinner with us. She wanted him to help her break the news that it was all over. Oh, he wasn't that nasty I expectjust non-fiction. Rubbish in other words.
"I put you and Maggie into The Chinese Agent, you know," Mike said. Yes, I knew he had. I wish we'd stayed there, really. I was a famous dance band leader and Maggie was a jazz singer. We came out of a posh hotel together, terribly well-dressed, and shall do forever and ever where-ever Michael Moorcock is read and in whatever Ianguage. We were crying when Hilary came in with a tray.
"I've brought you some coffee, Jack," she said.
"Thanks, Hilary," I said. Gosh, I'd really like to get her into bed, I thought. And in many other ways Michael Moorcock and I are similar.
These are some of the words which have been applied to my writing and to Mike's writing over the past 20 years. Although I started first while we were both vorking for the Sexton Blake Library and he insists that I inspired him into printit is Mike who has made most impact as a novelist. Wherever I go I look for my books and can't find themthere's one in Leighton Buzzard public library; wherever I go I find Michael Moorcock. Even right down at Lagos (say it Lahgoosh, like that) in the Cornwall foot of Portugal, so to speak, the one and only isolated German supermarket had an entire wall of Michael Moorcock. It makes you sick.
But of course it's nice as well. When Mike won the Guardian Book Prize in 1977 for The Condition Of Muzak (dedicated to me and 23 others) I was able to say:
"I knew him!"
Mike in his formative years was immersed in T H White's Once and Future Kingthat marvellous throwaway history of Arthur and Merlin and the Questing Beast. Now for some links and coincidences. Without ever having heard of White myself my own first novel was compared with The Sword In The Stone by the Chicago Tribune. Why? Because we live in the land of Throwawaywith Fats Waller, with Thornton Wilder, with Twylla Tharp and perhaps with you and you and you. Michael Moorcock, tired of the Sexton Blake routine life of steely eyes and grim forebodings and getting in at nine in the morning, performed the greatest throwaway so farhe threw his typewriter (the firm's) out of a fifth storey window in order to get the sack.
Our editor, Bill Howard Baker, was understandably put out. "You might have killed the wrong person!" he cried. Mike wanted to go and live in Denmark where they have free love. I didn't see him again for something like I5 years. This was perhaps the most fateful, as they say, night of my life. It changed my innocent attitude towards the British police force and the legal system; and this new awareness that Britain is probably the most brain-washed police state in the world is what has motivated in the most profound and fundamental way the intentions (if not the achievement) of my writing ever since. And just imaginethis watershed, this crossroads, this shattering and soul-changing experience (without which I would still most probably be writing comedy-thrillers) began on a moment with Maggie and me sitting side by side in the Jaguar at the top of East Heath Road, NW3, wet, dark, cold, two days after Christmas, 1968. I was waiting for traffic to leave a gap so that I could turn right, crossing the top of Heath Street and passing the Whitestone Pond on the way for a drink possibly at Jack Straw's Castle, probably at The Old Bull and Bush, almost certainly farther out into the country around Harpenden and Bill Johnson.
"Must we always go to Harpenden?" Maggie often said. People say this when you only have one friend.
There was no gap coming so, I turned left instead and went down towards Hampstead Village.
"Where we going?" asked Maggie, brightly.
When we came back it was seven in the morning, Sunday morning, without the car, in a taxi, crying, bedraggled, my foot busted by a policeman's boots, Maggie broken in spirit having been stripped in a cell and punched like a punch ball between a gang of policementhe object being to incite me to rescue her, which I did, or tried toand it was to cost me £500 to win the appeal squashing her sentence (she was alleged to have kicked a policeman, but I had seen it organised by the sergeant).
"Jack was not drunk," said Hilary Bailey (Mike's wife) in the witness box. "He and Mike had been playing draughts and drinking coffee for two hours since their last drink. We helped him start his car." Hilary and Mike pushing me down Ladbroke Grove at four o'clock in the morning. When I came up to the red light in the deserted streets I was reluctant to wait too long in case the engine stalledI crept across and the patrol car with one tutor sergeant and three student policemen crept over behind us.
"These old buggers are always the worst," said the sergeant, instructively. And that was just the beginning.
I was on crutches for three months. We began locking our door in case the police came. There was no redress. The Guardian couldn't publish my article about it because of the libel laws in this countrythere were ten police witnesses against their two victims.
"I am the best barrister you could find when it comes to cases against the police," said this expensive chap at Lincoln's Inn, "but you would lose the case. The police not only lie but they write their hes downthey are professional liars. You don't stand a chance."
There was also a little regulation that insists you pay a thousand pounds into court before you begin to sue the police for brutality. And also all complaints outside court are investigated by guess who . . . ? The only thing I could do as a writer and remain within the law (I should be a criminal?) was write my next book about a similar incident of police brutality and dedicate it to the policemen involved by namethis I did, the novel: Little Dog's Day. I then wrote another one with the same burst of anger, The Wind In The Snottygobble Tree, which Mike Moorcock published serially in his magazine New Worldsadding a few substantiating photographs of the author on crutches.
Our new relationship was now bonded with a different kind of cementwe are both serious humourists, serious guitarists, serious throwaway artists. We are both I feel dedicated to enormous erections under which we place our bombs. In The Russian Intelligence Jerry Cornell blows up the rubbish and nonsense of international spying in this see-through transparent world. War is for power and profitcall it patriotism.
What is Patriotism 1979, citizens? Watch my television programme about it this spring.
THE QUEEN APPLAUDS THE HYDROGEN BOMB ALL'S RIGHT WITH THE WORLD!
Great stuff, this is what keeps us writing, isn't it? You're sixty-twowho needs plots? In Mike's new book, The Russian Intelligence , Jerry's wife knows all this (all our girl friends and wives know all this) and therefore cannot be blamed for fighting all through the book and at the most intensely dramatic nodes of significant action, to get her old man back to bed. Bed is where we belong, citizens, this is where we we we we we WEWEweeeeeemake the future, future, future, future, future, future, future, FUTURE...
That sounds a bit like Mike Moorcock, doesn't it? Just a little? And, as I am obsessed -with Maggie McDonald of Larkhall, Nr Hamilton, Lanarkshire, Scotland, so my friend Michael Moorcock is obsessed with Derry and Toms. But don't be fooled. Watch the perimeters. This is where it's at with throwaway people. •
Jack Trevor Story in Savoy:
Michael Moorcock in Savoy:
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