April 8, 2009 was a special day. It was our Baker Day, as we proudly presented John Baker, on the fifth stage of his virtual tour of wise and witty lit & writerly blogs on the occasion of the publication of the very fine ‘Winged with death‘ (Flambards Press, 2009. ISBN: 978 190660102 7 from all the usual suppliers plus John’s website; or try your local library).
This is an edited version of what was on our front page
and what followed that day.
I think it was my old Kentish Town Library compadre, writer Mat Coward, who first brought John Baker to my attention, specifically the remarkable ‘White skin man’ – Stone Lewis is a pretty unique character in crime fiction, and this was more than crime fiction. From there I picked up ‘Poet in the gutter’ and I was sold. There is a joy in finding someone who can just seemlessly slip a line from a Dylan lyric into the dialogue without taking a breath.
OK, it’s an in-joke but – hey – I got it. Sock it to ’em JB! Sam Turner a neat turn, this engaging but unshirking English take on Phil Marlowe, a private eye working in the light and dark, the sweet and sour. And taking tea and a bun in Bettys in York. Each book was pitched differently, not quite the same.
Here was a writer who had no intention of re-tracing his steps. He was, not to labour the point too heavily, not like everybody else. Which, as it happens, is the title of the song that Ray Davies, the muse of this here website, opens his live performances with these days. Hence a spurious and forced bit of fun and games adding JB to the stylised period piece of a Q&A NME Lifelines session that you can find later on here.
‘Winged with death‘ is a very different trolleyful of cakes – “a novel about time and tango and revolution, abduction and denial” and we are not talking Strictly Come Dancing. There’s a couple of excerpts on another page to whet your appetite, and not so much a review as some musing also on another page to nudge your elbow.
This website boasts a feature called ‘The Kinks in literature’ and as it happens, Martin Edwards, whose website was the previous venue on this virtual tour, features strongly in it. The Stones, Phil Ochs, Neil Young and Elvis get mentions in ‘Winged with death’ but, alas, no Kinks. Truth be known, what I hanker for from John is a novel that brings back Sam Turner & Stone Lewis as a double act, whistling Kinks songs in the dark. Never say never, eh?
John Baker’s home, home on the web is always worth a visit and a mosey around. There’s a great set of writer’s portraits and a fine collection of quotes on “writing and revolution, on dance and time, art, humour, lies, serial killers and other subjects” (easiest found from his menu) as well as the blog and excerpts from his other books.
John’s responses were:
Real name: John Baker
Born: 1942, Hull
Personal points: about 5ft 9in, but often look like 6 ft 4in; greenish eyes; no hair
Parents’ names: John & Rita; two sisters
Instruments played: guitar, computer keyboard
Where educated: secondary school in Hull, Trinity House & Hull University
Musical education: sadly lacking; used to blow on a harp & knew 3 chords once, listened to a lot of Dylan
Age entered show business: nobut a lad – a gig for the local telephone exchange
Biggest break: finding a publisher for ‘Poet in the gutter’
Biggest disappointment: the inexorable metamorphosis into my father
Biggest influence: youth
Former occupations: milkman, social worker, day labourer, shipbroker, grocer
Hobbies: dance, books, swimming, meeting interesting people
Favourite singers: Dylan, Elvis, Dusty Springfield, Lucinda Williams, Billie Holiday, Steve Earle
Favourite actors: Ian McKellen, Billie Whitelaw, Ben Whishaw, Gina McKee
Favourite food: cheese, good Chinese (very hard to find)
Favourite drink: water, wine
Favourite clothes: jeans, T-shirt, my leather jacket
Favourite composers: Beethoven
Miscellaneous dislikes: travelling, sweets, politicians, the deluded
Most thrilling experienece: starting to write a new novel
Pets: no pets
Personal ambition: to keep growing
Professional ambition: to keep growing
This page has the following sub pages.