Very excited that the audiobook version of Run, Run, Run now has a distributor and will be available on iTunes, Audible.com and all good audiobook sites next month. Here's a little extract...
"What would be the point of safety measures? What’s the point of a man balancing on a wire if there’s no risk of his life coming to a premature end? Where’s the danger in that? Where’s the spectacle?”
(Café Insomniac by Mark Capell)
When I was a child I was fascinated by trips to the circus. It wasn't the clowns or the exotic animals that demanded my attention — it was the trapeze artists and high wire walkers. I'd watch them through the gaps between my fingers, convinced they would fall; not wanting it to happen, but unable to look away in case it did.
They were performing with a safety net, but my young mind's imagination didn't believe that flimsy-looking device could catch a fly, never mind a human being.
I still find myself absorbed by these acts of derring-do. One of my favourite films is Man on Wire, a documentary about the perilous exploits of high wire artist Philippe Petit, who in the 1970's slung a cable between the two buildings of the World Trade Center, then the world's tallest buildings. There is little video footage of him carrying out this feat, but the viewer's imagination can't help but fill in the blanks.
Naturally, he had to carry out this feat without a safety net.
In recent years, I had lost interest in the high wire, and I put it down to the ever-present safety net. Like much of modern life, the high wire act has been sanitised. It's difficult to get permission to carry out a performance without taking the necessary safety measures.
Don't get me wrong, I think that's a good thing. But it's a curious aspect of human nature that our admiration of a high wire artist increases if there's nothing between him and the ground. If you want to guarantee a large crowd, take away the net.
But do the crowd want to see somebody die? If you ask them, they'll wave you away, furiously denying that's their motivation. But does it reaffirm our own sense of being alive if somebody else falls to his death? Is there something in our collective psyche that needs that, even if we can't admit to it? Is it related to the way that public executions drew huge crowds in Elizabethan England?
I hope not. I hope there isn't a sadistic psychological undercurrent. I hope it's as simple as admiration for heroic endeavours. But the mind can be a devious, nefarious organ. Don't underestimate its sly ways.
I prefer to believe the expressions of wonderment in people's faces when they watch such feats. I need to believe them. Face creams often claim to make a person look ten years younger. But watch a person's face, looking up at a high wire, and they're back to being a five-year-old. Their eyes bulge, their mouths gape. It's magic they can believe in.
One thing's for sure, as human beings we feel a need to witness these crazy acts of bravery. Maybe, in the end, it's because most people lead relatively quiet lives. Maybe these performers are taunting death on our behalf. And for that we give thanks.
"Life should be lived on the edge of life. You have to exercise rebellion: to refuse to tape yourself to rules, to refuse your own success, to refuse to repeat yourself, to see every day, every year, every idea as a true challenge - and then you are going to live your life on a tightrope." (Phillippe Petit, Man on Wire)
For the next few weeks I am releasing a series of short stories. They will come under the collective title of "A Strange World Short". I've always loved short stories. They often stay with me longer than a novel because they're so concentrated.
A Strange World is a series of short stories that explore the unusual, the unexplained, the space between the rational and the imaginative.
What is the Strange World? The Strange World sounds, smells, and looks just like this one, but things happen that make you think twice. Each story is as entertaining as it is thoughtful.
The stories are sometimes puzzles and sometimes very straightforward, sometimes crimes, sometimes romances, sometimes fantastical and supernatural. But they all belong to this strange world.
The first one to be released is called The Three Marks. Three men in a restaurant have the same name. But what is their connection?
Music can be as important to a story as it can be in our daily lives. As one person once said, they are the soundtrack to our lives.
Before the printing press, before widespread distribution of the written word, songs were used to convey stories, to make them more memorable.
In Café Insomniac, songs are used as clues to what's happening in the characters' minds. Some are played by the house band, called The Bedless. Others are played at the piano by Delilah.
That's How People Grow Up by Morrissey
In Café Insomniac, Justin suffers from chronic insomnia. The reason for this is a matter for conjecture. One possibility is that it's the legacy of a failed relationship. This song from "The Moz" is about the search for happiness through relationships. The video is very funny. It's a live concert during which a succession of people hurl themselves at Moz. Look for the security staff throwing one unfortunate person off the stage like a sack of rubbish.
Once In A Lifetime by Talking Heads
I love the idea behind this song. It's as if the singer has been asleep for twenty years and suddenly wakes up. He can't work out how he got to where he is:
"And you may tell yourself, that's not my beautiful wife. And you may tell yourself, that's not my beautiful house."
In Café Insomniac, Justin, owing to his insomnia, lives in a half-awake, half-asleep state. Every day holds new experiences that mystify, enchant and bedevil him.
This version of the song is by The Bad Shepherds, which is Adrian Edmondson's band.
We're Not Going To Take It by Twisted Sister
Everybody loves a song of defiance. Defiance is the rock that rock 'n' roll was built on. Defiance was etched on the rocks that were thrown at the established order as the word "teenager" was born, and Bill Haley decided to rock around the clock.
This Twisted Sister song has a fantastic mix of defiance and camp glam-rock.
In Cafe Insomniac, defiance is a theme that runs throughout the story — Justin's defiance of his dad, and Spinner and Juggles's defiance of normality.
Praying For Time by George Michael
In Café Insomniac, this George Michael song is the last one played by the house band The Bedless, and the first time that Justin hears Delilah sing. The band is made up mostly of homeless people, unbowed by their plight — a guitarist with only four strings, a harmonica player with three teeth. Undaunted, and with talent from the gods, they play on.
You'll Never Walk Alone by Johnny Cash
Before it became a football anthem, "You'll Never Walk Alone" was a song in the musical, Carousel. In the musical, it's a song of comfort for Julie, whose husband has committed suicide.
In Café Insomniac, the title is partly ironic. Justin would love to be free of the unexplained images that keep popping up in his life.
This version is by Johnny Cash. He was getting on when this was recorded, shortly before his death. His voice never sounded richer and so full of emotion.
If one painting epitomises night-time in the city, it is Edward Hopper's Nighthawks.
When I began writing Cafe Insomniac, I began to collect the sights and sounds of the city at night, real and artistic. There were two things, in particular, that I wanted by my side: the early poems of T. S. Eliot, especially The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock; and Nighthawks.
When I was a student, I had Nighthawks on my wall, along with a couple of other Edward Hopper paintings.
It's hard to look at it and not think that it was painted to show the loneliness that city life can impose on some people. When questioned about this, Hopper said he was unaware of thinking this at the time, but looking at his paintings later on, he acknowledged that isolation was a recurrent theme.
For a while, I didn't notice one feature of the painting. But when it was pointed out to me, I liked it even more. Look closely at the painting. What is odd about the downtown diner? How would you get in? You can't. There's no door.
These people in the painting are hermetically sealed in that diner. They can't escape. But nor do they look like they want to escape. They look like they've always been there, that they belong in the diner and don't have the need to go anywhere else. In the diner, it's night-time, always has been, and always will be. Like all great paintings, Nighthawks is its own world.
All the characters are intriguing.
The couple facing us first grab our attention. The man has that rigid, awkward stance of somebody who's opening a conversation with a woman he doesn't know. And, much to his chagrin, she looks indifferent to his words; so indifferent that she's more interested in the object she's holding in her hand.
The server looks born to his role, his arched back a sign of servitude. He's looking up at the main characters of the painting, like a Victorian butler.
But the most intriguing character is the solitary man. The man with his back to us. He's shunning us, the viewers, doesn't want to be seen. There is an air of menace about him. He's set apart from the other characters, but we feel that he must be connected, perhaps in a sinister way.
All the characters look like lost souls who have finally found somewhere they are comfortable.
The lighting is dramatic, too. Fluorescent lights had only just been invented when this was painted, and all the characters seem uncomfortable in its indiscriminate glare.
For me, no other painting captures night-time in the city like Nighthawks. Thank you, Edward Hopper.
Nighthawks is at the Art Institute of Chicago. Some of the images that inspired Café Insomniac can be seen on its Pinterest board, which is at http://pinterest.com/markcapell/cafe-insomniac/.
The novel Café Insomniac is available from Amazon and Amazon UK.
It started slowly. I went to bed later and later. My body didn't like that, so it decided to play me at my own game. It decided that if I was going to show contempt for its need to rest, it would retaliate.
It took away my ability to sleep.
And so began my fight with insomnia.
It's difficult to define insomnia. Most people think that between six and eight hours denotes a healthy number of hours for sleep. Everybody needs different amounts. But I knew I was in trouble when I was down to an hour, at most, per night. Sometimes I even went a couple of days without a wink.
Being an insomniac is a surreal experience. When it was at its worst, there was this constant floating feeling. When I stood up to walk, it was as if my feet weren't wholly connected to the floor. My reactions slowed down to a crawl. The daylight always seemed too bright. My eyes watered a lot. It was hard to concentrate on anything for more than a couple of minutes. I walked into things more frequently — doors, corners of furniture — even though I was convinced I'd left enough room to walk round them. Once, I walked straight into the glass door of a restaurant; didn't give it a second glance — full stride, bang.
The less sleep I had, the more the world looked like a very foreign place. When people spoke, they sounded muffled. When I looked at them, they were blurry.
To divert me from the downsides, I tried to have fun with my insomnia. I became interested in lucid dreams. This is a technique whereby you concoct and direct your own dreams. It relies on being in a half-awake, half-asleep state. This is the state people are usually in just before they go to sleep. I seemed to be in it permanently. So I tried it. It helped alleviate the frustrations. I could dream up all sorts of strange places, have conversations with famous people, go on journeys. It didn't help me to sleep. I was awake but with my eyes closed.
The best thing to come out of my experience with insomnia was my novel, Café Insomniac. It takes the idea of somebody not getting any sleep and turns it into a fantastical mystery — twenty-five-year-old insomniac Justin Brooks opens an all-night café, but is soon on a quest to find out how his insomnia is connected to a murder.
Thankfully, the insomnia is now nothing like as bad as it was. But every now and then it pops its head up to remind me it's still lurking in the shadows.
I'm not sure I have any great advice for insomniacs other than what's commonly given. But I think the worst thing you can do is fight it. As Justin says in the novel, "My insomnia is like some mythical beast — a dragon that even St George would have trouble slaying."
At least my dragon is now on a leash.
Mark Capell is the author of the Amazon bestselling Run, Run, Run, and the newly released Café Insomniac. It's available from Amazon and Amazon UK.
Ring the bells, the new book will be out on 4 September. Here are the details...
"The trick is not to fear the shadows but to embrace them… Night-time has become a good friend," says Justin.
But for how long?
Twenty-five-year-old insomniac Justin Brooks opens an all-night café. But soon after the opening, one of his customers is murdered.
The fallout from the murder makes his insomnia worse — much worse. He completely loses his ability to sleep.
Strange things start to happen, things that are hard to explain.
His eyes stream when it rains outside. Another café appears out of the fog, out of nowhere. Footsteps follow him everywhere. The dead person talks to him, though he knows it's not a ghost. And a magician waits for him, perched on a high wire, high up in the night sky.
Strange things indeed. But these strange things can't have anything to do with the murder.
Café Insomniac is a highly imaginative story from a unique voice. Nobody who visits Café Insomniac can ever look at the world in the same way again.
"I don't know what's real and what isn't — and which is most dangerous."
Cafe Insomniac will be available for download from 4 September at Amazon, Kobo, iBookstore.
A new novel is out on 4 September, available on Amazon Kindle, Kobo, iBookstore. Title to be announced.
"I don't know what' real and what isn't. And which is most dangerous."
I’m working on an idea that revolves around a city at night. I’ve always been fascinated by the night. As a periodic insomniac, I spend more time than most with my eyes open.
It’s not a recent thing. I’ve always had a strange relationship with the night-time.
At the moment, I’m in the process of writing a serial. The idea has intrigued me for a while.
I keep hearing people say that serials are an ideal form for the modern reader. Their thinking seems to be based on the idea that reading on phones, tablets and e-readers encourages two things: