Saturday, 13 March 2010


Search back through Monkey Picks and you’ll find me championing the work of Joseph Ridgwell: his books of poetry and his novel Last Days of The Cross, yet it was his short stories that introduced me to him, squirreled away in hidden corners of the internet.

Now, at long last, some of these have been scooped up and published in book form by the ever reliable Blackheath Books. I know we’re in 2010 and internet sites are all well and good but one physical, hold-in-your-hands publication is worth of a hundred of those to me.

What appealed – and still does - about Joe’s writing was primarily the subject matter: beer, sex, drugs, rock and roll, random acts of violence. What’s not to like? Then the style itself: rough and ready, bit dog-eared in places, but with bags of brash wide-boy bonhomie to draw the reader in. The influences are clear enough: Bukowski’s solitary drinking in shithole apartments, both the Fantes (especially the more explicit and un- PC Dan), even a swift nod to Kerouac and Hamsun and but he’s his own man. A bit of a boy really. Bit of a geezer. Sort to spin you a yarn in the boozer and for the most part you can’t quite tell which bits are true and which bits are Bertie Bollocks. I like that. Mind you, there are also imaginative and surreal flights of fancy which mix it up nicely. Prostitutes, transsexuals, orgies, blackouts, cheap tarts, death, life, dwarves and giant talking mice drinking bottles of wine. All in a normal day for Ridgwell and these frequently funny vignettes are the perfect way to get these booze sodden tales of excess down with the minimum of fuss. You can almost taste the warm flat can of beer with fag butts in from the night before; and Joe would still drink the bastard. That what-the-heck spirit predominates throughout.

There are fifteen stories here, plenty I remember reading before. You don’t easily forget some of them (who’d forget Fishy Fanny? The title in no way misleading) and that’s what makes a writer. Others may learn and hone their craft with finesse, decorum and a clear head, sod that boring squaresville man, Joe can write but his strength is his attitude, heart, soul and a big pair of dangling balls, and you can’t buy those things. Well, maybe you can, and Joe would probably know where.

Blackheath books are only printed in very limited editions and you’ll have to go to them direct so look sharp and get on the case. Mine has real tit tassels. You won’t find class like that on Amazon.

Oswald’s Apartment and other Stories by Joseph Ridgwell is published by Blackheath Books, priced £7.50

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