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Story reviews his own book Letters to an Intimate Stranger. Taken from the Savoy book Jack on the Box  >> 

Letters to an Intimate Stranger     Jack Trevor Story    Allison & Busby £2.50.

      "Dripping is the staff of life, not bread. It also gets engine black off your hands, stops doors from squeaking and preserves leather. Lanolin for your skin is a form of weather­proof dripping. When you come to think about it, people are made of dripping. When they bury the poet’s ashes in Westminster Abbey they’ve already thrown the best part away."

AND if you like dripping with the black jelly at the bottom the above is a fair and flavoursome sample rendered from Jack Trevor Story’s vitals and presented in a basin as Letters to an Intimate Stranger. Like all artists working for posterity — the “intimate stranger” of the title — Story is unlikely to be around when his public start buying his book and this accounts for his improvident, bread and dripping existence in the film-star belt of Hampstead, NW3. Even well known titles of his like The Trouble With Harry (filmed by Hitchcock) and Live Now Pay Later (also filmed) brought in less money than his girl-friend Maggie earned as a temp.

“I’m glad,” Mr. Story told me, simply. “I would not like to think that people of the seventies understood my work. If you show a dog a mirror and it barks there’s something seriously wrong — either with the dog or the mirror.”

When he says things like that you feel he is really trying to say something else and this gives the clue to his poverty; not enough people will take the trouble to read between the lines. For of course he is not poor at all, he does not live in Hampstead, he has not got a girl called Maggie or a dog named Poodle and that enormous Ford Galaxie convertible is one of several used by himself and his staff gathering material in the creation of the down-and-out mythology so essential to greatness.

“Okay, so I’m rich!” he finally screamed when I caught him throwing cigarette stubs away. “Shakespeare was bloody rich, Dickens was rich, Goethe was bloody rich!” He fell back in his chair, turned it up on one leg then crashed on the floor, his breath rasping asthmatically through his ugly teeth. “I can’t help being rich,” he sobbed. “Why did she leave me, why did she go?” he then sang.

Less rational than most authors, it is perhaps this element that comes out in his writing in the form of a somewhat insanely fragmented style — rather like people who can’t say “and” or “hitherto”. “The perfectly constructed sentence needs no punctuation,” he explained when he’d been quietened down, admitting at the same time that he has not yet written one. “Also if I’m saying one thing and another thing comes into my head, I jump to it — whatever sparked me should spark the reader’s understanding.” I ventured to point out that this is asking a little too much of readers. “I know it is, you silly sod,” he said.

One therefore gets the feeling that whatever Jack Trevor Story is doing in literature is intentional, which makes it harder to forgive. Jealous of better and more successful authors like Harold Robbins, he devotes a chapter to pulling him to pieces, then turns and savages television producers who are trying to keep him reasonably coherent. I fell asleep while he was trying to explain in bad, rambling English with an East Anglian accent, his voice rattling on like a tractor down a long road, the difference between comedy (which he certainly doesn’t write) and humour (which he certainly doesn’t write).

“It has never been sufficiently recognised,” he was quoting from p.65 of his own book when I woke up, “that a humorist is a brain surgeon doing face-lifts.”

“How many of your characters in the Guardian column are real?” I asked him. Most of the pieces in this book appeared in the Saturday Guardian. He doesn’t answer questions like that and went on about his hernia. From the book you may discover that while many of the friends he mentions are part of his real-life scene, the dialogue is written to suit the context and make points. He reserves fictitious names for anything libellous. “She was only going to Brussels for a month,” he kept saying.

“You talk about the Burtons living next door, Mr. Story. Do you actually know them to speak to?”

“When I tried to kiss her mouth she turned her face away,” he said. This is all on the obsessive theme of his girl friend, Maggie.

      We find her in the first chapter, crying over the war graves in Amiens, she snores her way through people like Harry Roy, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, William Saroyan, sleeping on the other side of that home-made screen (One Last Mad Embrace) while jack types through the night; then suddenly like a forgotten firework on a damp night she erupts (he erupts — she just goes) into flaming crescendoes of woe, heartbreak and tears. Facing p. 62, as if producing documentary evidence to a farce, is Maggie’s last love letter to him in facsimile.

“What is the theme of your new novel?” I asked him.

“Women are not sentimental, that’s the trouble,” he said. “You think they are, but they’re not. Men are sentimental. Why, I gave Maggie her first —he groped for a moment— well, something or other. I know it was her first. She said ‘I’ve never had one of these before.’ We were like that.”

It was a relief to get away — from Story, from his book. The publishers have cunningly kept title and author name off the front cover in the hope that somebody will buy it in mistake for the new Samuel Pepys’s diary.


Copyright ©  the estate of Jack Trevor Story 2002. Not for reproduction. Copyright in all work by Jack Trevor Story is the property of the author's heirs. Permission for use of this material can be obtained through Jackie Edwards (Story), Peter Story, Lee Story or Michael Moorcock. Reproduction of copyright material whether in text, visual or audio form by unauthorised sources strictly forbidden.

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