Well, I guess you dodged taxes…

I found out yesterday about the death of an old… friend?  I’m not sure if that’s the right term, although I think it was for quite a long time.  He wasn’t a good person, and he hurt most of the people who got close to him, but he did take care of my mom and myself at a time when we really didn’t have anyone else and he had no obligation to.  Because of all the bridges he’d burned, I only came to learn that he’d died three years after the fact.  I’m not 100% sure how I feel about the news, if you can even call it that, three years late.  But I wrote this…

I only find out
three years after you died.
So far as I knew, you were still out there,
scamming and scheming,
racking up more debts you’d never pay,
dreaming up your next dodgy deal,
the bonanza you knew was your birthright.  
Three years on, I learn that you’re dead.
I shouldn’t be sad about it.  
The unvarnished truth of it is
you were a bit of a bastard:
a con man, a crook;
a lousy business partner, a nightmare debtor,
a negligent father, a faithless husband,
a bad boss and a shady friend.
You didn’t even like Champagne;
you just liked other people seeing you drink it.
Yeah, you were a bastard,
but you were our bastard.

Our Fagan, our Black Beard, our
cockney Don Corleone,
lurid legend of the tabloids and consumer shows
with your Montecristo cigars and malapropisms,
your E-types and your excesses,
your bankruptcies, both financial and moral.
You looked after us.  You took us in.
Any port in a storm,
and those were stormy times,
and – although it came close – we didn’t drown.
Perhaps it’s gratitude, or
misplaced loyalty,
that pinches uncomfortably somewhere inside me,
when I hear about how you went.
It should have been different.
There should have been some last stand,
a blaze of dubious glory, a final reckless burn
as you rode one right off the cliff edge.
It shouldn’t have been so small, so dismal,
so unremarkably tragic.
Back in the day, I wasn’t even sure you could die;
I figured you’d just move on and start up
some new franchise operation,
reincorporated under a new name, in a new town.
But when I heard you were dead,
I think what shocked me most
was finding out it wasn’t suicide.

A novel I wrote about sex, death and sofas

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Alex Austin is nearing thirty; a self-confessed fake, charlatan, degenerate and – worst of all – a failed poet, Alex’s life has become a meaningless sequence of bad habits and poor decisions. He ekes out a living doing a job that makes him feel dirty and ashamed. His only friend, JB – the developmentally arrested offspring of two famous psychologists – is just as broken as he is.

He’s emotionally uninvestable: incapable of experiencing pleasure or joy without resorting to unhealthy extremes, Alex’s days are divided between sofa-mining and grief-surfing; shiftily rummaging down the backs of display model couches for fallen coins and notes, and cynically manipulating strangers’ grief for his own depraved gratification.

As his self-destructive behaviour escalates and his self-loathing deepens, Alex is relentlessly, savagely cross-examined and berated by the voice of his own conscience, which speaks to him in the sneering, righteous tones of a retired TV news show host. When Edie – a former grief conquest, now wise to his scam – shows up out of his sordid past, he’s not sure if she’s here to save him or destroy him, and he can’t decide which is the more terrifying prospect.

Anhedonia is a darkly comic study of the way human beings fetishise death; a story about the struggle to find meaning in the disconnected jumble of reality TV, deodorant ads and celebrity murderers; a tribute to the best of our culture and an indictment of the worst.

Anhedonia on Amazon.co.uk
Anhedonia on Amazon.com