Sunday, 18 October 2015

Freddy Valentine


In a previous life, I used to have a website called Trash Fiction. Well, I still have the  site, but sadly I haven't had the time to update it for, oh, over a decade now. Despite which, I remain a self-proclaimed lover of pulp fiction and, in that capacity, I'd like to recommend a fabulous radio play/audiobook in the shape of David Chaudoir's Freddy Valentine and the Soho Ghoul.

On Trash Fiction I used to start with the blurb on the back of the book. This is the equivalent from iTunes:
Freddie Valentine is a mystery, wrapped in an enigma, coated in a purple paisley veneer. A record producer, a nightclub crooner, the one-time manager of the heavy metal band Satan's Claw, the bastard son of an eccentric aristocrat, a dabbler in the dark arts - some or none of this might be true. It was the year 2013 but the man dressed in a purple safari suit and stack-heeled boots, and his hair was a matted bird's nest of the Jimi Hendrix Experience variety. He spoke like an East End barrow boy, read trashy women's magazines and kept a budgie called Grayson.
Detective Chetwyn has a problem. He believes his chief superintendent might be a vampire. He believes that Valentine might be one as well, and that he's going to be bumped off by Valentine's Polish hard-man Osaki.
This kind of free-wheeling, over-the-top camp fantasy is a tricky act to pull off. It's all too easy for weird to shade into wacky, for humour to come across as smartarse smugness. Happily, Chaudoir gets it right. This is genuine, unadulterated, Grade A pulp writing.

Picture this: Heavy Metal Kid Gary Holton as a decadent cockney fop with a talent for mind-reading; Richard Davies from Please Sir! as a Welsh copper, plagued with irritable bowel syndrome, who feels that his wife and daughters are conspiring to condemn him to premature middle age; and professional wrestler Mal 'King Kong' Kirk as a Polish misfit 'rumoured to have punched Lech Waleska in a bar fight in Gdansk'. All of them appearing in a story written by Arthur Brown (loosely adapted from an Arthur Machen original) and directed by Ken Russell.

Something like that anyway.

The central trio of characters are all splendidly ludicrous, the storyline is excessive without being (too) silly, and there's an unmistakeable intelligence at work. There are some fine turns of phrase: if the literary version of vampires were accurate, then the world would be plunged into a 'Mathusian fanged apocalypse'. And there are some lovely asides: the members of a golf club 'liked to have a senior police officer popping in now and again. It added to their misplaced sense of superiority.' In addition to which, I find it hard to resist a text that laments the state of modern cigarettes and yearns for the good old brands of Piccadilly, Woodbine and Gitane.

As far as I know, this is a home-made production, but it sounds professional enough: the narration and acting are convincing, and there are enough bits of music and sound effects to lift it.

I'd hope that this is the start of a continuing series (in whatever format) featuring the characters, but in the meantime, Freddy Valentine and the Soho Ghoul is available here.

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