Hello you lovely people and a very warm and squidgy welcome to the Beardy Book Blog for what is Day 26 of #Fahrenbruary.
You may be wondering what delights I have in store for you today, well, you can wonder no more for today I bring to you a Q&A from the king of transgressive noir himself, Mark Ramsden.
Mark is the author of the sexily naughty and spanktastic noir novel ‘Mistress Murder‘. I reviewed this book on Day 25, which, rather conveniently, was also yesterday. You can check out that very review riiiiiiiiiiiiight…….. here!
Well, I bet that got your blood a-pumpin’, eh? I wager that that has got you wondering what kind of person possesses the sort of mind to come up with such a saucy story and wantonly flings words such as ‘rootle’ and ‘bottom’ about in the same sentence, huh?
Well today I hope we can clear up some of the questions you may have as we plunge into the mind of Mark.
Don’t be scared! Join us….
TBBB: Hi Mark and thank you for appearing on the Beardy Book Blogger for #Fahrenbruary 2019 and taking the time to answer my questions.
MR: Great to be here. Thanks for asking.
TBBB: First up, could you tell us a little bit about yourself – who is Mark Ramsden?
MR: I’m a little too anxious. My Native American name would be ‘Skin Too Thin.’ After studying music I worked with Bert Jansch, Roy Harper, Kiki Dee, Tom Robinson, many theatre and show business luminaries, countless less well known jazz musicians, some dance producers and DJs at clubs like Fabric, and finally with no one at all. And even that didn’t work. I’m the only artist who split up with himself due to ‘musical differences’.
I’m the only composer who’s been on daytime radio 3, next to Mozart, (heard by, ooh, dozens of people) and also been filmed being intimate with a glamorous assistant for a Dave Courtney film. (Cutting room floor, thankfully)
I wrote a lot of magazine articles in the 90s then a trilogy for Serpent’s Tail around the millennium before deciding that bipolarity, alcoholism and drug addiction just weren’t enough on their own. It was time for fifteen years heavy use of ‘psychedelic heroin’ and a journey across the entire transgender spectrum (which finished right round the bend.).
TBBB: Mistress Murder is a very funny black comedy featuring fetishism, obsession, transgenderism, alcoholism and drug abuse. In many ways it’s a very modern story, highly pertinent to our times. Was it your intention to highlight these issues when you set out to write it, or were you just thinking that they would make for a rollicking good read (which they do, btw 😅).
MR: Thank you! I didn’t have any choice, having lived it. I try to honestly portray the contradictions but that’s often unpopular. Satirising little cliques among a despised minority isn’t much of a business plan. Reassuring the vast majority would be better, something wholesome and uplifting, and I will get round to that one day. Hopefully before I die.
Incidentally, you don’t have to be a monster of moral turpitude to read it, although it helps. It’s also primarily a murder mystery. Who is the stalker? How can she trap him? It’s for anyone with a toxic parent, difficult relationships, a job that gets on top of you.
TBBB: Were any of the characters in Mistress Murder based on anyone you know?
MR: The real people I knew were crazier than those characters. There was an unconvincing brick outhouse transvestite whose day job had once been torturing the IRA; a Detective who tragically killed himself when he was exposed in the tabloids; an oil business guy who was recruited as a spy; a Deputy Prison Governor who wanted to stay in the same job after transitioning. Although she could in fact ‘pass’ that was perhaps ambitious.
And everyone thought I was nuts, with some justification.
TBBB: How much of Susan Godly is Mark Ramsden, and vice versa?
MR: I’m Northern grammar school as opposed to Southern Public School. We’re both self destructive addicts. Scatty. Most of my adult life was professional music and very little pro-domming. It’s the other way round for her.
TBBB: I am very open minded kinda guy – at least I like to think so at any rate – but the fetish scene has never really appealed to me outside of a genuine curiosity. However I can see its appeal to many; the idea of being something you’re not for a short while, or even the opposite – being able to be the person that you really believe that you are – in a non-judgemental environment. What led you into the scene and what is it, or was it, that appealed to you?
MR: Twenty five years ago I was a sort of Jehovah’s Witness of fetish, making a fool of myself in magazines and thankfully obscure tv programmes. Some of us thought we could make consensual fetish as respectable as gay sex had become, which turned out to be yet another erroneous assumption, along with most of my other core beliefs. What started as writing about the fetish scene eventually ended up as a month spent as a third sex pro-domme. Not the wisest of choices.
I’m no longer involved. It did help some people feel less isolated and we all had a wild time despite not being particularly glamorous. I used to say ‘fetish is swinging for unphotogenic people’.
Nothing is for free. A lot of personal chaos inevitably ensued. However well intentioned people are, polyamory often is like getting divorced in triplicate. Eventually. People aren’t always well intentioned which is still a surprise to me, even as I approach senility.
TBBB: Could you expand upon “third sex pro-domme” a little for those who may not have come across that term before? Don’t worry, this blog can take it!
MR: People say gender fluid now. I just looked better without wigs. More Richard O Brien than luscious t-girl:
That lasted about a month. Thankfully I had the bright idea (not) of living on a houseboat where Charles Dickens grew up. Also where he died. It eventually became impossible to ignore living in a heritage museum which generated “Dread: The Art Of Serial Killing” – a meditation on Dickens and the missing conclusion of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. With plenty of claret.
TBBB: If you could be any character in Mistress Murder who would it be and why?
MR: The ones who don’t speak in the 12 step groups yet still get off booze and chemicals. Which was me, eventually, come to think of it.
TBBB: Throughout the mid 90’s – early 00’s the (in)famous Eurotrash aired on Channel Four, and highlighted many of the excesses of European sub-cultures such as fetishism, body modifications, etc. I loved it because it showed me aspects of life that I had no idea even existed, even if they were skewed towards the more ridiculous, and often presented in the same manner (who can forget the Romeo Cleaners, for instance, or the silly voiceovers when translating the people into English?).
MR: Maria McErlane’s voiceovers were great. She’s brilliant. I always liked Eurotrash – I invented Fetish Morris Dancing that appeared in one episode – although for me it was a hopefully funny magazine bit, a patently ridiculous idea. I never thought people would actually want to meet and rehearse regularly. Then again Morris Dancing is surprisingly popular. And they mean it maan. Some think if they don’t dance there will be no Spring.(TBBB: Sadly I could not find a photo of this historic event ☹️ If anyone has one I’ll gladly slip it in, so to speak!).
TBBB: Do you think that programmes like Eurotrash helped the image at all, or do you feel it just further undermined it and enhanced people’s negative attitudes towards it?
MR: Scene people were a bit sniffy about ‘point and giggle’ shows but maybe its very existence made people more tolerant of diversity. Maybe it eventually helped you eventually cope with Mistress Murder?
TBBB: I certainly think they helped to open my mind to the idea of the subculture and what it may involve. Without it I would probably still be blissfully unaware and that would make for a much duller world view.
TBBB: As a nation the British are famously uptight about sex, at least in public. Behind the scenes I like to think that we are more liberated sexually, and are not afraid to explore sexual boundaries, than many think. Why do you think that we are perceived as such a stuck up nation and hide behind twitching curtains whilst other parts of Europe are not afraid to show it? Why are we so scared of what people get up to legally and consensually in private?
MR: Yes indeed. It even extends to tattooing. I discussed this with Fahrenheit author Russ Day (Needle Song – great plotting, great characters). People get furious about other people’s bodies. Which isn’t their business.
TBBB: Are/were you a leather, pleather, rubber or latex kinda guy? Or do you like to mix and match?
MR: Rubber’s too much like hard work. A lot of maintenance. Not very durable. Men look best in uniforms. Or leather.
TBBB: Is this something that you’re still active in?
MR: No public scene for more than ten years, no drink five years, no party drugs or psychedelics three years.
TBBB: What is your obsession nowadays?
MR: Freshly ground coffee. Green tea. Kale smoothies. Lots of lemon and ginger. Podcasts. Long form television drama.
TBBB: How important are Fahrenheit Press and Fahrenheit 13, or independent presses in general, to you?
MR: Thank heavens for the two Chrisses (TBBB: Chris McVeigh and Chris Black – the Top Bananas at Fahrenheit Press and Fahrenheit 13 respectively), especially courageous publishers. Use ‘UberFahrenFuehrers’ here? Perhaps not… (For future grievance archeologists, this is a play on words not an admission of wrong think.) They brought me back from the dead. I like the punk aesthetic. Novellas as opposed to a doorstep beach read. Ideal for me, now I can barely finish a tweet. Best editing. Best covers. Best bloggers. Very innovative publishing.
An earlier definition of Punk was a passive homosexual prisoner so maybe my slightly depraved tales fit in – or maybe I’ll always be slightly to one side in my Fortress of Solitude. Or Annex of Irrelevance. My only connection with early punk comes from smoking a lot of TV Smith’s dope (Him from the Adverts – Looking Through Gary Gilmore’s Eyes) when he opened for Tom Robinson. (Not in the biblical sense). And someone in one of Malcolm McClaren’s bands told me about the difficulty of getting their weekly retainer out of the old skinflint. ‘What do you want money for?” quipped Malcom. “You’ll only spend it.” Hahaha. Bastard. Well, I’m fond of Malcolm’s lunatic disco/Strauss Waltz mash up album, Waltz with Me – perhaps because I’m always welding together genres and maybe not everyone’s happy with the results. My books are not so much ‘niche’ as ‘crevice’ – not immediately apparent but a possible source of disreputable pleasure.
TBBB: Without F13 do you think that ‘Mistress Murder’ would have been published?
MR: Maybe not in any other Crime Press, maybe nowhere else at all, although I don’t research the market enough. Could be wrong. I generally am.
TBBB: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
MR: If I may customise a joke: how do you make God smile? Tell her you’re going to stick to your outline. I tried but the universe has other plans.
TBBB: Are you a fan of eBooks or do you prefer the feel and look of a physical book?
MR I love reading on a tablet now. More light. Built in dictionary.
TBBB: How do you pronounce ‘Scone” – rhymes with ‘gone’ or ‘stone’? I seem to be in the minority here as I pronounce it as in ‘gone’ (although I have been known to dabble in the odd ‘stone’ variation when the mood takes me). I have an ongoing thing with two fellow bloggers, and ‘stone’ campers, Danielle and Kelly who both, incorrectly as it happens, insist that they are superior to me. Don’t let me down here Mark!
MR: Ha! We both rhyme it with ‘gone’ but Ruth, being slightly Scottish knows it should rhyme with ‘spoon’.
TBBB: Hurrahhhhh, I knew I could rely on you. *happy face* As for rhymes with ‘spoon’, there’s a whole other argument I’ll leave right there 😅
TBBB: Would you be a superhero or a supervillain?
MR: I’d be a supernegotiator trying to start the peace talks, and probably as useless as most politicians, but when reading I always side with the underdogs or the supposedly bad guys. Though I despise the likes of Roger Stone, who got away with it for far too long. It was great taking my son to The Dark Knight Rises at Imax (and my daughter to a lot of Pixar movies and both of them several times to Python musical Spamelot). Raph got me to read ‘Y The Last Man’ which is really good – a series of graphic novels inspired by Mary Shelley.
And with that our Q&A draws to a close. My sincerest and heartfelt thanks to Mark for taking the time to answer my questions and for supporting Fahrenbruary so much.
You can buy both of Mark’s books, ‘Mistress Murder‘ and ‘Dread: The Art Of Serial Killing‘ direct from Fahrenheit Press at the links below: