Richard Godwin is an outstanding writer from the UK. He got a BA and MA in English and American Literature, he lectured at the King’s College London and he published many novels. He is also a poet and a playwright. Are you ready to get to know some more about him? I totally am.
You often change the setting of your novels and make up creative plots. But your main characters always have many things in common. How much do you recognize yourself in Bertrand Mavers, Dale Helix and Jack?
Well, Frank Castle, the protagonist of Apostle Rising, is a jaded cop, and so is Chief Inspector Jackson Flare in Mr. Glamour, but Rex Allen of One Lost Summer is quite a different breed of protagonist, cooler, and alienated from life apart from in the company of the beautiful Evangeline Glass. Paris Tongue, gigolo and protagonist of Noir City, stands apart, as does Jack in Confessions Of A Hit Man. And Bertrand Mavers and Dale Helix, while both possibly part of an experiment, one therapeutic, the other totalitarian, are different, with Bertrand being the sane killer in an insane world, and Dale arguably sane.
I don’t recognise myself in any of these characters.
Your third novel, One Lost Summer, is about blackmail and harassment. How do you feel about the role women have in our society?
One Lost Summer is about those themes but also identity and the age of voyeurism we inhabit. Your question may refer to the fact that Rex Allen becomes obsessed by Evangeline Glass and blackmails her into playing a game of identity, in which she has to act the part of Coral. Her role in her marriage is to be the show thing for her possessive and domineering husband Harry. And yet despite Rex’s manipulations she discovers a certain freedom with him. That is because he perceives a side to her she cannot express in her marriage and which the role play brings out and allows to breathe. I think the role of a modern woman in England or Italy is quite different to that in say China or Jordan. There are vast differences of equality and cultural perception. I know women still do not get equal pay in many fields, yet they enjoy greater freedoms than two hundred years ago. I suspect patriarchy is not dead, it just smells funny, to paraphrase what Frank Zappa said about jazz.
Apostle Rising is one of the cruellest novels you have ever written. How did you get your inspiration?
Your label of cruelty may refer to the manner of executions carried out by the killer, who is literally crucifying politicians. There is a sub plot in the novel involving a Christian cult and a man named Karl Black who may be responsible for the original Woodland Killings which are being recreated by a copycat. I was inspired by the sense that politicians are universally loathed. The novel has been translated into numerous languages and is being published this year in Slovenian. The publisher there stated they he could not believe no one had thought of a serial killer targeting politicians before, so hated are they in that country. The killer won the hearts and minds of many a disgruntled voter, and is still on the loose. The sequel will be coming out soon.
Seduction has a key role in each of your novels. As concerns Noir City, though, it becomes the centre of everything. How important do you think relationships between the characters of a novel are? Do you build your plots around this key point?
It is true there is a central core of seduction in many of my works. I am interested in desire, since politics as Foucault analysed it, needs to deploy and utilise desire to control the population. He stated that there is no seduction in pornography. Therefore it is important to me as an author that seduction exists in my works. Paris Tongue is an expert at seduction. He uses atmosphere and setting to bed many women. Naturally the relationship between characters in my novels is vital, it is the core to a good story. Characters come first and carry a story, plot is secondary to that. And relationships between characters may involve their own relationship to themselves. In One Lost Summer, Rex and Evangeline are not only involved with one another but in a dig into their own identities, since Rex is suffering from a form of memory loss and Evangeline is discovering her connection to Coral.
Paranoia and The Destiny Programme is shocking; building a new gender sounds upsetting. What do you think about gender identity?
It is a dystopian novel about totalitarianism, paranoia and social engineering in a society where it is impossible to gauge the truth. Dale Helix, the protagonist, is convinced he is being abducted by a shadowy group of rulers called The Assembly. He claims they have programmed him to kill. He may be paranoid or he may be telling the truth. The idea for the novel is that a future totalitarian regime is analysing the links between serial killers and dictators and trying to create the perfect dictator they can control. He would be the face of authoritarianism yet one governed by a group of rulers, an eminence grise. There are parallels to modern political structures here. I am interested in the connections genetically and psychologically between serial killers and dictators. I think a serial killer may be a failed politician or the dictator the politically successful serial killer, getting others to kill for him. I would like to see more novels about female dictators. I do not know of any. If society is structured around a power programme, and I can’t think of a social model that isn’t, then to answer your earlier question further here, in a gender equal society we will see the rise of female dictators. In my novel the programme is creating a new gender. Imagine one gender in society with one set of needs. How easy is it to control that if you are ruling things? I think gender identity as we know it is part biology and part cultural conditioning.
Do you think that the themes of a novel should always be linked to actuality?
Define actuality. Do you mean the news? Fact or fiction that a man was recently arrested for eating a woman’s face in broad daylight on an American street? Fact. It was in the news. If you read about the insanity that occurs on a daily basis then you can write about pretty much anything.
Is there a novel you would have liked to have written?
I don’t think like that but if I did I would mention Dostoyevksy’s Crime And Punishment, since it is a seminal novel of great psychological and cultural depth.
But then I write what I write and I believe it is a mistake to think in those terms since while we all inherit literary history we need to tell the stories we have to tell in our own cultures.
Thank you so much for your kindness and your time. I’m looking forward for your next novel!