Back in the 1940s Herbert Huncke – New York thief, hustler, junkie, prostitute and inspiration to William Burroughs and later Jack Kerouac – would lock himself in toilet cubicles off Forty-second Street and, when not partaking in other activities, would scrawl his memoirs, poetry and short stories into tiny notebooks or on whatever else came to hand.
In and out of prison and into his 81st year Huncke was still testing positive for, among other things, heroin and cocaine. It’s an extremely glib way of putting it – and not an ideal lifestyle choice - but Huncke lived on his own terms, by his wits, and by all accounts, by his gift of the gab.
The escape from the drab and predictable nine-to-five existence, of knowing there must be something better out there – somewhere, anywhere – is touched on a lot in Joe Ridgwell’s work and again in his new short story, Jamaica, published by Pig Ear Press. It’s typical Ridgwell: dreams and schemes cloaked in a wobbly cockney swagger. He’s a storyteller. You get the impression Joe could, like Huncke, talk anyone out of their last tenner. Well, at least try.
What makes Jamaica particularly special is the way it’s been published. It’s not all about the presentation of course but it goes a long way. Pig Ear have done a beautiful job. These aren’t words on a bog roll, shirt shelves or even a piss and blood stained notebook. It’s like a hand-crafted passport and in the few minutes it takes to read will take you somewhere better until, like in the story, reality kicks you back in the balls.