If you decide to read anything this year, Spindle whole heartedly recommends this be your choice. Brain child of Tim Arthur, (Comedy editor at Time Out) The Blind Dog Gospels is the kind of cultish delight that Spindle does not hesitate to champion.
The book follows four cleverly interwoven stories that examine life, loss, love and pain in an explicit examination of the human condition. It deals with depraved elements of life; Sex, Drugs and Death being the holy trinity. The disparate characters you follow take you through a minefield of torment and realisation, yet no matter how twisted and disturbed the plots get, Arthur has the ability to subtly entwine the morbid with the comedic. A work of dark genius, The Blind Dog Gospels is a book you will be sad to finish.
We caught up with author Tim Arthur and pummelled him with some questions….
Q. Tell us a bit about your writing career so far….
I’ve been incredibly lucky to have more or less earned a living from writing for about 20 years. I’ve been a working journalist for Time Out on and off since 1990, (Jesus, where did those years go!). In that time I’ve interviewed Voodoo priestesses, vampire hunters, river police pulling bodies out of the Thames, stoned comedians, a dominatrix who ran a building company using subs as her workforce, a human mole and Bob Monkhouse.
I’ve also written over twenty plays which have been produced everywhere from the Derby Playhouse to the West End. I wrote my first book ‘Shadow in Tiger Country’ (Harper Collins) with my wife, Louise, and it followed her last year of life before she died of cancer in 2000. I then had an amazing three years of writing and directing plays for and with homeless people in the East End of London with the astounding theatre company Cardboard Citizens, before returning to Time Out.
Q. What inspires you as a writer?
I’m inspired by other writers especially the likes of Bukowski, Hunter S Thompson, Brett Easton Ellis, Iain Banks and my favourite author George Orwell, amongst many many more. I also think it’s impossible to grow up and not be influenced by the greatest artform of the 20th Century, ‘the movie’ – for every book I’ve read that has blown me away there’s been an equally influential film: A Clockwork Orange, Withnail and I, Memento, Les Amants du Pont-Neuf, Three Colours Blue, Anchorman, Oldboy and on and on.
I’m also hugely affected by music. Whilst writing Blind Dog I made a huge playlist of songs that I thought captured the moods I wanted to achieve in the book and played them over and over again to keep me in the space I wanted to write in. I had intended to add the playlist to the back of the book so people could read it and listen to the music at the same time but music is an intensely personal thing and the tracks that inspired me could drive someone else fucking nuts.
Q. The Blind Dog Gospels deals with the unravelling of human stability, it explores debauchery, drugs, death, disease, desire in an explicit examination of the human condition. What made you want to focus on these aspects of life?
After my first book was published I was asked by Harper Collins to write them a sensitive, funny man-style novel ala Nick Hornby or Tony Parsons. I had a really good crack at it but realised there’s a real skill in writing that kind of book that I just didn’t have. In the end I just sat down to write the book I’d like to read full of the stuff I thought would make for a fun few hours.
Q. The book labels Sex, Drugs and Death as the ‘holy trinity of life’, do you believe these to be the main elements of 21st century living?
We live in chaotic times. Sex and death are two of the main drivers in my life – I have an unnatural, all-consuming fear of one and an equally strong over-powering passion for the other, I’ll leave it for you to decide which is which. As for drugs, I’m fascinated by our desire to escape from reality into altered states whether that be by using narcotics or slipping into madness or getting lost on line.
Q. Do you have any literary suggestions to pass on to Spindle readers?
Do you mean things to read? It would be nice if they could read my book, I’m not being pushy or anything, but as mine’s a little difficult to get hold of (try ordering it from Amazon, whirlingchair.co.uk or Waterstones) you could always try some other good reads like The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen or Post Office by Charles Bukowski. If it’s writing tips you’re looking for I’d say write everyday – edit, edit, edit – and don’t tell too many people the story while you’re doing it.
Q. What’s next in the pipeline for Tim Arthur? Spill the proverbial beans!
I was sort of hoping to become a mysterious recluse a bit like J D Salinger, however, Catcher in the Rye sold over 60 million copies, I suspect The Blind Dog Gospels might be lucky to sell 600 copies so I guess I might have to continue writing. Apart from my day job at Time Out I’m working on a new play ‘The Thief of Childhood Memories’, a screenplay ‘Burning Tree Drive’ and a new novel ‘Kiss, Marry, Kill’.