Monday 27 September 2010

Dancing With Myself: MALACHI STONE interviews MALACHI STONE

Today I'd like you to welcome Malachi Stone.

As you can see, he's in good shape.

On Friday I went along to a wedding and had a lovely day. There were crazy pipers, real pipers, lots of friends and ceilidh dancing to enjoy.

Thing is, that for the meal it was so posh they had a palate cleanser after the starter, Rusty Nail sorbet. I didn't think about it and just dived in there. Basically it was Drambuie and Whisky poured over sugary ice.

For a while there I was smiling away and enjoying the grin my face (made without me thinking of anything funny) and the tingle in my scalp. Caught myself looking at the waiters who were taking away the sorbets of those who found it too strong. Wanted to call them over.

Five years since I've had a drink and this was the closest I'd come. It was food, right?

Anyway, Saturday was OK and Sunday on the lousy side.

Today I re-read Malachi's interview. Now I feel much better about life again. Thanks Malachi.

A warm hand for Malachi Stone.


Wow! That’s a tough one right out of the box. (Here I go, spouting clichés like Nancy Grace pounding out a bestseller.) I suppose if I had to pick one thing I couldn’t do it, so please spot me two.

The first is, of course, taking that first drink, or at least that first drink legally in a bar. From that time on and for the next fourteen years I drank enough to float a battleship, and while I don’t really believe it damaged me physically or mentally, it damaged my education and my ensuing career in terms of potential. There were the usual embarrassments, frequent blackouts, car accidents, injuries and all the other baggage that goes with a crippling addiction. I knew I was an alcoholic, went to a few meetings but never quit until at the age of thirty-four I met and soon after proposed to my lovely wife Maria. From that day forward, strange as it may seem, I have never craved another drink. An overrepresentation of great writers—James Lee Burke, Cormac McCarthy, Elmore Leonard come to mind—are recovered alcoholics. I have no answer for why this is so.

The second thing I regret is taking up writing as late as I did. Although I’ve been writing as a serious avocation for the past nearly fourteen years—with no commercial success whatsoever, I might add—I wish I had started much earlier, say in high school like Stephen King did. I credit the invention of the word processor for introducing so many latecomers to writing. Manual typewriters, typewriter erasers, typos, smudges, re-typing and re-re-typing ruined pages, wastebaskets full of crumpled papers—it all served to thwart the creative process, at least in my particular case. (A Chevron typewriter I bought from Sears when it was still calling itself Sears & Roebuck carried me all the way through college and law school, and probably still works if you could find a ribbon for it.)

I attended colleges and law schools where writing was emphasized, as it should be. Nowadays I’m afraid institutions of higher learning, particularly law schools, fail in that area, perhaps because the professors don’t want to read the crap their students write.

Having said all that, I strongly believe that the only person who can truly teach you to write is YOU. Learning to communicate clearly and powerfully through the written word, finding a voice and making that voice sing—these are talents that demand a lifetime journey of practice and self-discovery, not something you pick up in a three credit hour English 101 or legal writing class. In that respect it’s rather like being a musician. If you develop your talent playing the violin, let’s say, and practice every day, somebody someday may be willing to pay money to hear you play. Then you’re a professional. If not, then you’re an idiot.


Another heavy question. (Do people still say “heavy” when they mean “profound?”)

Hands down—and I’m not saying this to win brownie points with my wife because she refuses to read my stuff anyway—the best thing that ever happened to me was my meeting and marrying Maria. Inextricably intertwined with that blessing are the births of our four kids. If anything can be credited with making me go all mystical in middle age it would be those experiences. It’s as if your guardian angel appears at your side in a kind of Wim Wenders moment, saying, “This is the real deal, Neal.” (My guardian angel reads a lot of Nancy Grace in his spare time. He’s also devoured everything Janet Evanovich has ever written, not just the Stephanie Plum series.)


Oh, bring it on! Abstruse theological questions. My younger daughter accuses me of being obsessed with death. My response is, so was Hemingway. Like the majority of Americans, I strongly believe in the existence of Heaven. Unlike that same majority I also strongly believe in the existence of Hell. I can’t explain it any more than I can explain the superabundance of senseless human suffering and human cruelty that goes on in the world, and I’d much rather not believe in a Hell, but I can’t claim to be an Eastern Orthodox Christian without acknowledging its reality. Somehow it’s one of those things that you wake up at three o’clock in the morning and know in the depth of your soul is true. Christ was very specific and unequivocal in warning us about Hell, and I for one believe him.

C.S. Lewis, an atheist as a student, began seriously reading the New Testament in his twenties and was astonished at the number of references he found there to a “dark power.” “The other guy” is a presence who cannot be denied, but I don’t think it wise to dwell on him. I prefer to focus on Heaven and its rewards. For a long time I felt conflicted about writing the kind of fiction I do, focusing perhaps too much on the dark side of humanity. Then I encountered a quote from Philip Romolo Neri, a Catholic saint, who said: “Do as you wish, I do not care so long as you do not sin.”

That’s good enough for me.


Because I can’t help it. It’s an addiction. Maybe that’s what happens to recovered alcoholics who discover writing—it supplants the original addiction. Anybody who could write eight novels and be working on a ninth without making a red cent at it is either hopelessly hooked or he’s close to an idiot, fiddling without pay in the alley behind Carnegie Hall.


Let’s do some simple math. When World War II broke out there were around one hundred thirty million people living in this country. Now there are more than three hundred million. World population is currently pushing seven billion and is growing exponentially, doubling every 39 years. When I was in college there was a guy named Paul R. Ehrlich running around college campuses making money from speaking engagements lecturing about his book THE POPULATION BOMB. I and other biology majors like me used to sit around worrying about overpopulation the way we had once worried as children about the H-bomb, until temporary interruption of my student deferment status and the specter of an all-expenses-paid one-way trip to Vietnam gave me more immediate cause for worry.


I always remember one of my favorite passages in Robert Stone’s brilliant novel DOG SOLDIERS where Converse says: “They say the world is coming to an end. They say that’s why it’s so fucked up.”

“Wishful thinking,” Marge said. “The world will go on for a million years.”

I think there’s hope for us yet, although it seems obvious to me that we may have to undergo some herd-thinning in order to survive as a species. There’s always the Yellowstone caldera, a comet or meteor strike, or any one of the old barbershop quartet of plague, famine, war and death. Therefore I consider myself an optimist. Hurry December 21, 2012.


Okay, I already warned you that I’ve gone all mystical in meso-age. Let me confess something. Lately I’ve been visualizing Satan, after he’d been cast out of Heaven with his legions of angels, as a huge broken colossus—an Ozymandias if you will—lying somewhere, at the earth’s core, say, totally paralyzed. This is not an original or a new idea; the Book of Enoch, one of the Pseudepigrapha, at Chapter 10 verse 12 describes rebellious angels condemned to be bound fast for seventy generations in the valleys of the earth. But even though Satan can’t move at all, his mind remains clear. In his paralyzed state he tempts humanity through the sheer power of his mind and the focus of his malignant will. If the thought continues to dog me I might try writing a book about it.


Here’s one definition of an optimist: a guy who’s never sold a novel but is working on his second sequel. I wrote a novel called DEAD MAN’S ACT featuring a main character called Bosco Hoël. I really got into the character and when I had finished DEAD MAN’S ACT I wanted to write a second book in what I hoped might become a Bosco Hoël series. As my current novel NIGHTMARE NUMBER NINE begins, somebody is fucking with Bosco’s dreams. He falls asleep uncontrollably and keeps having the same nightmare where he murders a young woman and dumps her corpse on the front steps of a convent. Bosco is about to undergo experimental treatments for his sleep disorder when his wife, a medical malpractice defense attorney, is involved in a car accident and her leg is amputated. A lunatic disguised as a nun haunts the hospital and messes with Bosco’s mind.

That’s all I have so far. Demands of my profession have temporarily sidetracked work on my novel.


Taking time away from my writing.


If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.


Jen will date and eventually marry Justin Bieber on his twenty-first birthday. The two of them will then have a brood of nine kids through in vitro fertilization and a surrogate mother, Kim Kardashian. Plan B, Brad and Jen’s company, will produce a reality show starring all of them entitled Nine By Design. I’d watch it, wouldn’t you?

And I don't know about you guys, but Nightmare Number Nine looks like a winner to me.


  1. That Nightmare book does sound good. And I'm diggin the youtube stuff.
    All around fun.

  2. Those Youtube pieces are works of great comedy and are extremely clever. If you haven't seen them, they're a must. Steve is good at tweeting the links, so pay attention.

  3. Maybe also could be sung to The Yellow Rose Of Texas? "Because I can't help it." Right straight to the sweet spot, that answer. I'll think about Satan bound for a while. A lot of points stated wisely. Thanks Monster Cock.

  4. The You Tube stuff is brilliant I'm trying to kep up with your output. If you write to replace drinking you must have been a hell of a boozehound! keep on being so prolific-with the writing.