A small helping of gravy…

41psoxo7d7lI realised the other day that I’ve never posted a good, solid, proper extract from ‘Gravy Train’ – something you can really get your teeth into, and that gives you a good flavour of the book. So, without further delay, here goes. This bit is from Chapter 27, when Lenny the mugger has lost the bag of money and is desperately hunting for clues to try to get it back.

Apologies for any salty language, by the way, but I hope you enjoy the ride.

***

Lenny shook the aerosol can one last time before pressing the button to release a steady stream. A neat outline: four feet, a swelling back. Black, as always. He only ever used black. True street artists went for subtlety. They got their message across with the barest minimum of colour and line. You didn’t catch Banksy using virulent pink, or acres of yellow and green. Banksy was Lenny’s hero; he’d love to meet him some time. They’d have a lot in common, he liked to think, and could swap notes about buildings conquered, walls and bridges scaled. Fat chance of that in reality, though. Lenny knew all about Banksy – how he was a maverick, how nobody knew who he was. It really wasn’t likely that the bloke would give up his anonymity , drop his disguise, just to come and talk to him.

He sighed and added whiskers to his giant rat, then a long and sweeping tail. It was hard to get the details right when he could hardly see the wall. The sun had set nearly an hour ago; dusk was hanging on by its fingernails but the nearest street light was a hundred metres away. Around it, a glowing pool of light. Here in the shadows, gloom. It’s why he’d chosen to place his artwork here – fewer prying eyes. But the rat’s eye was almost certainly too close to the end of its nose.

He pocketed the aerosol and stood back for a better look. Not Banksy’s standard, of course, but it wasn’t bad. It made its point. The rat represented ordinary people everywhere. Around its neck, a leash. Holding the leash, a few two-dimensional paces back, the robot Todd, with metal arms and an antenna on his head. The masses held back by technology. Something he’d been longing to draw ever since he first set eyes on Todd. He made a great subject, even if he was just a glorified chauffeur. A pity the rat wasn’t perfect. But Lenny wasn’t here for the art tonight. As a bonus, it would do.

He peered at his watch, but it was too dark to see the hands. And he’d left his phone at home. Thanks to the cow who’d nicked his van, he was having to make do with a bike, and the mobile dug into his backside when he pedalled his feet up and down. He spat into the litter around his feet. Bloody bitch. It was thanks to her he was here at all. Trying to get Ball off his back, trying to track her down. His usual contacts had been a bunch of useless jerks. He was hoping for better from his mate Jack. The lad worked for some fucker called Symons, who ran a ringing scam. And in order to ring cars, you needed to steal them first. And in order to steal cars, you needed to use people who, well, made a living stealing cars. It wasn’t much to go on, but hopefully Jack could give him a name. Assuming he ever turned up.

“All right, mate.”

Lenny spun and reached for his knife, but it was just Jack. The lad had his hoodie up and pulled around his face, but he’d recognise that hooter anywhere. Like an eagle’s beak, Jack’s mother had always said when they were kids. And I’m pleased to say you took after your dad. Not exactly a ringing vote of confidence, but then Lenny’s own parents had often said worse about him.

“Good to see you, mate. How’s things?”

“Okay. You know.” Jack shrugged.

Lenny did know, only too well. Stuff Jack had told him, coupled with word on the street. Fair enough Symons wasn’t as bad as Ball, because he left the girls and the gambling and the protection rackets alone. Concentrated on cars. But that didn’t make him a softie by any stretch. Word on the street also said he got all his lads hooked on smack so they’d be easier to control. Lenny had never quite dared to ask Jack if it was true, but Jack’s appearance had suffered over the years. He always looked pasty and thin, arms like matches, legs too skinny to hold him up. Like a zombie who never got the chance to eat. Time was when he’d have talked to Jack, questioned him, tried to find out more. Not now. Too long in prison had soured him inside. Leave well alone, that was his mantra now. Don’t go sticking his nose in other people’s business. He’d probably just make things worse. “Want to go for a pint?”

“Better not.” Jack shivered inside his hoodie even though it wasn’t cold. “What did you want?”

“I just needed a word. Your bloke Symons. I heard he’s into nicking cars?”

Jack’s face lost another few shades, going from pasty to pure mercury white. “Not so fucking loud. He’s got ears everywhere.”

“What, here?” Lenny looked round at the scruffy alleyway, the trade waste bins, the squashed cardboard and discarded bags. There was nothing else here except an unpleasant smell.

***

And that’s it for now. But if that helping of gravy tickled your taste buds, you can find the rest of the book on the Down & Out Books store. And thanks for taking the time to read my stuff.

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Banksy hero

banksy_hullA new Banksy artwork appeared recently in Hull – which is appropriate given that it’s currently UK City of Culture. It was stencilled on a bridge in the river which is kept permanently raised, and included a small boy wielding a giant pencil and the message ‘drawing the raised bridge’. Typical Banksy mischief, and a wonderful play on words which really made me smile.

Sadly, not everyone appreciated it. One local councillor demanded that it was ‘destroyed’ (he obviously has no idea how valuable Banksy art can be…), and shortly after that, it was completely painted over with a coat of thick white paint.

Whether those two facts are connected or not I have no idea. But one local chap saw not white but red, and rushed out to help restore the artwork to its former glory. Even better, he’s a window cleaner, so could throw in all the ladders, buckets, cloths and whatever else might be needed to scrub paint off yet more paint. In the end, plain water didn’t work and he had to resort to chemicals, and the underlying mural suffered slightly as a result. Still, as he himself said, better a faded Banksy than no Banksy at all – and now the local council have offered to protect the whole thing with a sheet of Perspex, which is good news all round.

You can read more about the story – and the Banksy hero – in the Guardian’s report here.

Early Christmas pressie

small14-window-loversWell, that was a nice bit of news right before Christmas.  Brand new crime magazine Crime Syndicate has accepted one of my stories to appear in their very first issue.

‘Tuning the Old Joanna’ is a tongue-in-cheek tale of a man, his piano, his wife and her lover and was inspired by the famous Banksy mural of a naked man hanging out of a window (which has always been one of my favourites).

Further details to come soon so keep watching for news of when the magazine (and the story) will be available.

Arse or elbow?

I hesitate to suggest that the good people of New York don’t know one from t’other, but they do seem to have let an incredible opportunity slip.

The other day, as part of street artist Banksy’s month-long residency in the city, prints of his artwork were being sold from a stall in Central Park – for only $60 each. This is amazing value. Not only are Banksy artworks as rare as hen’s teeth, but when they do appear they’re worth several thousand pounds each, and have been known to sell at auction for up to £20,000. So to own one at all, let alone for such a low price, is… well, unheard of.

And clearly the New Yorkers didn’t hear, because only eight prints sold all day, before the stall-holder shut up shop and went home.

All I can say is, some of the folks who missed out must be kicking themselves long and hard. And please Mr Banksy, sir, can you sell your work for the equivalent of $60 in the far north of England, please? Soon? I bet you sell more than eight. And I’ll be the first in line.

My kind of art

I just love the sheer affrontery and tongue-in-cheek wickedness of this, the latest street art from Banksy, who’s currently completing a short ‘residency’ in New York:

_70222444_banksy

It’s the sort of thing you either get or you don’t, you either love or hate. Me, I love it. Love the grit, love the feeling of ‘cocking a snook’ at authority, love the simple cleverness of it all.

Apparently the artwork has already been painted over, which is a crime in itself. Perhaps the authorities in New York need a sense-of-humour transplant… Or a short sharp lesson in how valuable Banksy’s work can be.