I've been doing some research over the last few weeks. Whilst I don't pretend that the events in the Miller books are acts of wanton journalism, I do like to keep up to date on the real goings on in the area they are set. The truth is stranger than the fiction, of course. We all know this by now. There are things we'll find in 'real life' that nobody would believe in one of our stories. With that in mind I started to go a wander down memory lane, to the time I was young and stupid and knew many of the kinds of people I would later invent in fiction.
I'm thinking of the time a friend called me at three A.M. asking me to come and fetch him- he'd taken something he was offered in a nightclub and crashed his car, and was now hiding behind a road sign to avoid the police. I don't drive, which made me the single worst person he could have called, but I rounded up another friend and we drove out to where he was. He hadn't crashed his car. Well- he had. He'd gotten in, turned the ignition, put it in gear, and driven into the metal railing of the car park a couple of feet ahead. There was minor cosmetic damage to the car, if that, and he was squatting behind the metal railing thinking we couldn't see him. It's nights like this you learn to switch your phone off. It's also on nights like this you learn the difference between the truth and the tale. In the years since, everyone I've told the story too has preferred the stoned imagination version of events to the real one.
But even more, I'm thinking of the single most entertaining day I had in this period of my life.
We were film students. Each of us saw ourselves as the rightful heirs to different directors. Added to that, I was the idiot who wore an Indiana Jones jacket and had to be the expert on everything. Two of my friends, Channy and Pepsi, were making their third year film. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that making a film with these guys was an experience. No scripts, no plan, no permissions. They would set out armed with a promise to get you drunk, a notion of which Scorsese shots they wanted to ape, and a Rolling Stones CD ready to insert their favourite songs into the scene.
Their third year film was going to be a straight up heist story; they had an experienced actor for one of the male leads and me for the other. I wasn't, and never will be, a decent actor. But I was the best they had. Plus, I had that jacket thing going for me.
Early on the first day of shooting Pepsi picked me up and asked where we could get the props. Neither of us being master criminals we made it up as we went along. We drove to a chemist and picked up two sets of stockings and took them to the counter.
"Are these good?" I asked the guy behind the counter.
"Like," Pepsi said, "Would they fit over our heads?'
This was not the first time we'd had to talk someone down from panic and explain that we were film students. Better was yet to come.
For the gun we agreed to drive to the local comic shop. Like all comic shops at the time they basically sold a bit of everything. Replica swords, Princess Leia costumes, black trench coats an cuddly toy versions of serial killers. They also sold air pistols and other replica guns. Trouble was, Pepsi didn't know the city centre well, and was taking directions from me. And again, I don't drive. Wolverhampton then and now is a maze; a one-way system from hell surrounded by a large ring road. I think some drivers are still caught up in it after one wrong turn in 1969.
So we drive the wrong way down the one way system and get flashed by a police car. As Pepsi pulls over I say to him, "just blame me. Play dumb. You don't know the area and you're taking directions from someone who doesn't drive."
"I've got it," He says.
He climbs out, and says, "Sorry officer, but we got lost, we're on our way to buy a gun."
After another bout of having to flash our University badges and explain the whole crazy film student thing, and that, yes, there is a connection between us buying a gun and having stockings on the seat, but it's not quite the connection you think, officer, we made it to the film set.
The film set being a street, next to an office building, and with a nice secluded car park. The actor and meself donned out 'masks,' and spent the next hour or so repeatedly robbing someone dressed as a security guard, then running off down the street when the getaway car wouldn't start.
the thing about office buildings is that they tend to have office workers in them. And these office workers, when they see two men run past carrying guns and wearing stockings over their heads, tend to jump to irrational conclusions. Totally unjustified. Still don't know why they panicked, or even thought they should need to call anyone.
Hi officer, yes, I'm wearing a stocking, and what? This? Not even a real gun. It's all a misunderstanding. We're students, you see...
This is all around ten years ago now. And in the years between I can't count the amount of times I've sat down and tried to fictionalise this into a short story. But the thing is, nobody would believe it as fiction.
Couple of quick mentions. First, our buddy Nigel Bird has an ebook available for you all to buy and love, and t'other friend of DSD, Paul Brazil, has a website waiting for you to go and flirt with it.
Finally, a quick shout to Craig at Gritfiction. He's offering to help people out with kindle formatting, and I can vouch for him- he's helped me on a project you'll be hearing about soon and did a great job. Go check out his site and clicky-click some of those links.
Okay that's me done for today. Get off my lawn.