“A non-stop sprint to the end… a highly accomplished, confident first novel.” The Times
“The entertainment factor is high in this piece of pure pulp fiction…” The Guardian
“A black comic homage to William S Burroughs.” The Daily Telegraph
“Bonkers as you like and more fun than chasing the dragon with the Happy Mondays.” The List
“Imagine Carl Hiaasen meets Hunter S Thompson – but funnier and with more drugs. Superb.” Front Magazine.
Hitman was published by Hodder & Stoughton (Flame) in January 2000. Almost exactly ten years before, I had started my career in the advertising industry and give or take a couple of extended absences, firstly to travel around India, Thailand and Nepal for six months and secondly to relocate to Capetown for a year with my soon-to-be-wife, I had spent the intervening years planning and buying media on behalf of concert promoters, comedy and theatre producers, record companies and other assorted entertainment industry types. It had been fun but I knew that it wasn’t what I really wanted to do. I wanted to write.
I had written a couple of manuscripts in the first half of the decade. The first was on off-beat rights-of-passage novel set in Ladbroke Grove and the second was a travelogue of my time in Asia but I hadn’t “found my voice” as I was often told one had to do. I read a lot of books in the nineties; many of them were American and written by the “Beats”. I was particularly drawn to the work of William Burroughs. Not only did his writing fascinate me but his life represented the perfect embodiment of the “outlaw writer”. His philosophy on life seemed to be, on the one hand, grotesque and deranged, and on the other, down-to-earth, level-headed and pragmatic. And his thorough rejection of the straight life – in all things – was appealing to a young man who had experienced, as he had, a secure – very straight – middle-class childhood.
J.G. Ballard – another literary hero – described Burroughs as “Hitman for the apocalypse” and there was something about the expression that resonated with me. I had the title of my novel before I even had the story. In May 1995, I sat down at my usual writing table in Capetown Central Library and with no clue as to how the story might progress, I wrote: “I’m doing sixty down Highgate Hill and the Laughy Woman is doing my head in.” I wanted to create a story that sounded like it was being spoken to a close friend about something strange, surreal, slightly Burroughsian. And as with Burroughs’s best writing, I also wanted it to be funny and satirical, in a dark off-kilter sort of way. I’ll let others be the judge of whether I succeeded in any of this.
The book received some strong reviews and one in The Daily Telegraph, that nailed my initial intention. I’m excited that Hitman is going to live again as an e-book (complete with new cover design) and I’ll be interested to hear what people think of it this time around. I might even give it a read myself.